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December 2014
Issue: December 1, 2013

Outlook: 3D in 2014 - Legend 3D

Dr. Barry Sandrew
Founder, CCO, CTO
Legend 3D
Carlsbad, CA
http://legend3d.com

WHAT TECHNOLOGY ADVANCEMENTS ARE ON THE HORIZON FOR 2014 & HOW IT WILL SHAPE 3D

In 2014 we will see 3D progress beyond the notable traction it made in 2013. Not only because of the improved quality and continued success of 3D feature film releases, but because state-of-the-art innovations in display devices will make a more compelling and immersive viewing experience — in the home and in the theater. 

4K RESOLUTION VS. MORE DYNAMIC RANGE

SMPTE is currently pondering the relative merits of 4K resolution as the future of UHTV, comparing the technology to 2K images delivered with greater bit depth, frame rate and expanded color gamut to display devices that can then extract the 4K data. Sufficient evidence from focus groups suggest the latter is a better return on the investment, not only because of the reduced requirement for bandwidth, but because it produces a far superior 2D and 3D image than that achieved via 4K spatial resolution alone. Never the less, expect to see 4K UHD TVs, tablets and laptops in consumer electronics stores at affordable prices in 2014. 

4K UHD TVs AND 3D

Though you may have heard the chorus of “3D is Dead, Long Live 4K,” it’s important to understand that 4K UHD and 3D are not mutually exclusive. In fact, 3D will become the killer app that will make 4K UHD a commercial success and vice versa. In passive 3D HDTV, the HD resolution is cut in half because alternate lines of the image are sent to the left and right eye respectively. However, in a 3D UHD TV, full HD resolution to each eye is achieved. 

GLASSES FREE 3D DEVICES

In 2014, autostereo or glasses-free 3D will be successful in single person displays such as tablets, cellphones and laptops. More specifically, single-user devices that adjust the position of the sweet spot relative to the position of the viewer via eye tracking will be the autostereo systems that will be worth the price.  

LASER PROJECTORS

It’s important to be aware of the growth we’re seeing for laser projectors. Their lower operating costs and lower power consumption, coupled with an increased lifespan — not to mention the significantly improved, brighter viewing experience — gives us a convincing financial argument for upgrading from traditional xenon arc lamps that have been the staple of theatrical exhibition for decades.

We’ll see 3D laser projectors installed in theme parks and theaters across the globe. With orders for more than 20 theatrical installations, IMAX is expected to integrate laser projector systems in Hollywood; New York City; Sydney, Australia, as well as in the three Smithsonian theaters in Washington, DC. Latin America and China are also primed for an increase in laser projector installations.

3D FEATURE FILM PRODUCTION

On the feature film production side, 2014 will see advances in single lens cameras that can accurately create depth maps either algorithmically via several strategies, including inferred light field approximations or direct light field measurements. These advances will ultimately prove to be a huge benefit in the art and production of 3D conversion. In fact, these cameras will remove much of the labor-intensive image segmentation or rotoscoping that currently drives up the cost of 3D conversion. By manipulating depth masks generated from these cameras, conversion stereographers will be able to achieve the creative vision of the filmmaker in less time and at a lower cost.

CONCLUSION

There’s little doubt that 2014 will become a pivotal year for 3D. With technological advances in stereo displays from head tracking, glasses-free mobile devices, UHD TV and theatrical laser projection, the current direction of display technology will make 3D a staple in the hands and homes of the consumer while bringing a more optimized viewing experience to the theater.