December 19, 2007 Irish supergroup U2 has followed film-maker James Cameron’s lead in embracing state-of-the-art digital 3D technology with plans for a concert to be filmed live in 3D and then streamed in real time to digital cinemas around the world.
In what is claimed to be world first for the video streaming of a live concert, the plans could see U2 witnessed live in glorious 3D thanks to groundbreaking digital stereoscopic 3D projection streamed via satellite. Cinema patrons see in 3D with the aid of polarizing glasses – which are very light, comfortable and easy on the eyes by the way.
Put on the drawing board by REAL D, who for thirty years have built a reputation for inventing and providing key stereoscopic technologies used in science, manufacturing, marketing, and other industries, the news follows “U23D”, a film of U2 on tour produced by 3ality Digital Systems. 3ality claim U23D is the first digital 3D, multi-camera, real-time production entirely in 3D and will have a 3D digital cinema release scheduled for early 2008.
One of the leading industry exponents of 3D cinema development, Oscar winning director James Cameron of Terminator and Titanic fame, has vowed to only make 3D films from now on. His current film, Avatar, is a SciFi thriller using both live action and CGI, and is due for release only in 3D in 2009. With the aid of a light pair of polarizing glasses no bigger than your Ray Bans viewers in selected cinemas will experience full 3D live action that puts them in the picture in a way that’s never been possible before.
Everyone is probably aware of the early attempts at 3D on the cinema screen using the flimsy cardboard goggles with the red and blue plastic lenses for each eye. This, while being a valid execution of the stereoscopic principle that is necessary to create the illusion of three-dimensional perspective, was disappointing in the actual viewing experience. It was monochromatic, uncomfortable and only really of curiosity value.
The experience of 3D on the big screen when it’s done right, however, is absolutely gob-smacking.
The effect is not only of watching an image unfold in glorious, full color and detail, but goes one further and puts you in the action. Instead of watching you are participating. And that adds a level of intimacy, excitement and immersion that is just not possible with boring old 2D projection.
If you have been lucky enough to see one of the 3D releases at an imax cinema over the last couple of years, you’ll know the impact it has over the conventional movie-going experience. The imax cinemas have understood the value of 3D and over the past decade or so have tried a number of different techniques from the concurrent use of two overlapping projectors, interleaved frames synced to occluding pulsed goggles, and polarized projection lenses.
The reason we are now able to bring technically suitable 3D cinema to the mass market is (surprise surprise!) digital technology. It’s taken until now for the roll out of digital projection to suburban cinemas, and with it, the means to distribute effective 3D to the masses.
While the methods of encoding stereoscopic images for projection are as varied as every other digital technology that tries to make the better mousetrap, the bottom line is that a critical mass has been reached and we will now start to see an explosion of 3D content hitting the market that will make the advent of sound in films look like baby steps.