3D Movies Now a Huge Trend

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2009-06-04

Alioscopy Unveils 3D Video Without the Glasses

SAN FRANCISCO-It's pretty hard to get people-busy New Yorkers, in particular-to stop in their tracks on the sidewalk to look at an advertising display. Let's face it, much of New York City is an advertising opportunity.

Yet a single 42-inch LED display screen in the window of an unoccupied retail store on Seventh Avenue and 50th Street in Manhattan is causing groups of people to stop, look and wonder.

The display shows looped videos of a rotating Snickers bar and a moving Intel logo. What makes this different is it is a three-dimensional display that doesn't require viewers to wear those annoying red-and-blue glasses to see the 3D effect.

It really looks like the Snickers bar is being handed to you through the screen, and as if you can reach out and touch the Intel logo. The experience is like looking through a window.

The company that has spent 13 years developing this technology, Alioscopy, has finally come to the point where its R&D can be used in prime time. It's called autostereoscopic 3D display, and-as witnessed by a growing number of other observers-it works very well.

Autostereoscopic 3D is best viewed from a distance of 10 to 30 feet. The moving images consist of an unlimited number of layers; they are rendered on a regular high-resolution screen from eight different horizontal points of view and photographed in a half-circle at equidistant intervals, using the Alioscopy technology. A special proprietary lenticular lens attached to the LCD display completes the autostereoscopic effect.

When viewing autostereoscopic 3D, there are so-called "sweet spots" for the viewer, where he or she sees very clear 3D images. In between the sweet spots, viewers see the stereoscopic image appear to morph from one place on the screen to another in the film sequence. However, it is not enough to degrade the experience. Once one becomes accustomed to autostereoscopic 3D, it is a huge improvement over regular stereoscopic 3D-and even over high-definition video.

Autostereoscopic 3D is starting to open new markets for digital signage, advertising, medical and design visualization, gaming, concerts, and trade shows and events-and could even be a way for cinemas to promote upcoming stereoscopic 3D films in their lobbies without having to issue 3D glasses.

3D Movies Now a Huge Trend

Stereoscopic 3D movies that require red-and-blue glasses are all the rage right now. Disney Pixar's first such production, "Up," premiered on May 29; about two dozen more from other producers are scheduled for release by major studios in 2009 and 2010.

But Alioscopy's product is not stereoscopic 3D. Autostereoscopic 3D is a completely different technology, but it's not nearly ready for movies or television prime time yet. The entire ecosystem of the movie and television industries would have to be upgraded-not unlike weaning the world off oil for transportation purposes.

"Display advertising definitely is the first step for us," Alioscopy CEO Philippe Roche told eWEEK during a presentation at the Autodesk Gallery at the 1 Market Street building here in downtown San Francisco. "We have some good early adopters that have come up with some creative ideas on how to expose signage tools, using our technology."

Alioscopy demonstrated its 42-inch LCD autostereoscopic 3D display, which is now a part of the design collection, in the Autodesk Gallery.

"The next step might be movie theater communication [display screens in movie theater lobbies, airports or on the street] using our technology. It would be the best promotion tool to attract people to see movies. What better way to promote 3D movies than using 3D displays in the windows?" Roche said. "They could be placed anywhere people can take a few minutes and enjoy 3D effects."

Roche said Alioscopy also has a number of potential customers who want to add autostereoscopic 3D to medical imaging, so as to enable doctors to see the full 3D environment of a patient's physical condition.

"Hopefully by the end of the year we'll have some deals in this sector to report," Roche said.

Building a New Developer Network

Alioscopy is also trying to build a global network of video engineers and designers who use Alioscopy partner Autodesk's videographic tools to create template-type autostereoscopic 3D clips, such as backgrounds and other stock footage, which can be marketed to film producers.
"We are in the process of building a community of preferred content developers who can extend their 3D skills via our Customizable Template program, offering multipurpose templates that can be used and reused for highly differentiated, immersive and attention-getting autostereoscopic content," Roche said.

One of those Autodesk tools is Toxik, which compiles all the variously angled images into one usable rending for an LCD display.

"One of the cool things about Toxik is that you can actually connect a stereoscopic monitor to Toxik, and while you're working on things, you can see it live on the monitor," Vincent Brisebois, Autodesk product designer for Toxik, told eWEEK. "So you can color-correct something and develop stereo work as you see it live in 3D."

Toxik doesn't directly support the Alioscopy monitor just yet-this is still in development. "But it's easy to do because it has a built-in programming language that assembles your eight images together. You could have it directly connected to the monitor, too," Brisebois said.

Brisebois said Autodesk has several large computer-generated movie companies, such as Disney Pixar, which are using Toxik in production.

"It's a relatively new product-we're at its fourth version, which is generally where a product starts becoming useful," Brisebois said. "So it's still a bit early, but there are some large clients using it."

A lot of people thought that stereoscopic movies were going to be a fad, Brisebois said, but it hasn't turned out that way.

"But all the people with money, who want to finance movies, like to buy into the stereoscopic ones," Brisebois said. "No. 1, they make a lot of money, and two, you can't pirate them. That's another good reason people are putting their money there."

Through what hoops must 3D movie pirates jump?

"You have to have two cameras, and a filter on one camera to show it-it would be really complicated [to watch it]," Brisebois said. "And there really isn't a home distribution method yet. Dolby and RealD have solutions, but they haven't been rolled out. This all makes it a lot safer for them [investors]."

The next big markets for autostereoscopic 3D videos are expected to be movies in theaters and video games, Brisebois said.

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