Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Consumer 3D Experience Lab

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Here is the description of the Lab and program I am building at USC.

The Consumer 3D Experience Lab at the Entertainment Technology Center is a neutral forum for learning about and discussing the latest resources available for delivering a 3D viewing experience to consumers in the home, on personal devices, and in public spaces.  Three dimensional viewing technologies have come a long way since the blue and red paper glasses used to view 3D in the 1950’s.  The recent increase in theatrical 3D releases has proven to be extremely popular among consumers, and so it only makes sense for the creative industries to team with product and service providers to develop ways to move that experience into other environments, enabling the consumer to enjoy 3D experiences anytime and anywhere.

The Consumer 3D Experience Lab showcases the wide range of 3D technical approaches and viewing experiences currently available to consumers.  The Lab is a platform for bringing experts together to discuss the creative and technical issues that will define an enjoyable, long-duration 3D viewing experience.  The goal of the Lab is to accelerate the convergence of ideas, so that consumers looking for 3D content, products, and services will have a consistent, enjoyable purchasing and viewing experience.

The facility consists of a 3D Living Room for focus groups and private meetings, a 3D Home Theatre containing a consumer-grade 3D projection system, and a 3D Sandbox where all the major consumer 3D content, encoding, and display options are demonstrated.

Gameworld: Hollywood sends 3D home — in videogames

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Disney’s G-Force for the X-Box and Playstation 3, and Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story Midway Mania for the Wii will both be released in 3D that uses red/green anaglyph glasses.  While the studios are releasing 3D games and the lesser 3D movie titles in anaglyph (Hannah Montana, Journey to the Center of the Earth), they have not released A-list animated films in 3D for the consumer market.  They are working with CE and media distribution companies to encourage the adoption of a better quality 3D stereoscopic viewing experience at a reasonable price point.   

 Ubisoft has developed a proprietary stereoscopic 3D technology for game platforms that “James Cameron’s Avatar” game will incorporate when it is released this Holiday season.   It reportedly relies on a polarizing display and polarized glasses.  Unlike anaglyph glasses, which strip out some of the red and green (or blue) spectrum in order to create the 3D effect, polarized glasses retain most of the original color.  It is a much higher quality viewing experience.  

James Cameron is quoted in this Reuter’s article as saying ”You just stick your head into the monitor and the world wraps around you. It’s the first time in a videogame that I was afraid…when the hammerhead enemies attack. It’s very frightening.”    

Gamers have an established record of buying peripherals that enhance the gaming experience and/or make new gaming experiences possible.  Both polarized glass and shutter-glass displays provide a far superior 3D viewing experience to anaglyph.  Both are available to consumers today (Japan is currently the main market).  As long as the consumer’s STB/console processor can handle the encoding format for the left-eye/right-eye data, the same content can be displayed on either the polarized or the shutter-glass display.

As I and many others have said before, it is quite possible that 3D movies and 3D televison programs will move into consumer’s homes and onto their devices by following a path blazed by gamers.

Albert Brooks “Real Life” 3D movie trailer

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Albert Brooks created a trailer for his 1979 movie Real Life that is a parody of a 3D movie.  It is sort of blue/red anaglyph, but it is just as good without the glasses.

3D TV Panel for The Caucus

Monday, June 15th, 2009


Last Friday night I moderated a panel on 3D TV for The Caucus, an organization of senior level television producers, directors, and writers.

Ray Hannisian, the stereographer on U2 3D, explained the emerging role of the stereographer as someone who manages the dimensionality of the image, and presents it in a way that blends with the overall intent of the writer and director. Ideally, the stereographer is involved in preproduction discussions, on-location activity, and in post. Ray has been working in construction for over a decade, developing his stereography skills on the side, in preparation for this day when 3D appears to be emerging as a key tool on Hollywood’s creative pallet.

Robert Duncan McNeill is the co-executive producer of Chuck. He directed the 3D episode of Chuck that was broadcast the day after the 2009 Superbowl. He also directed a 3D episode of Medium five years ago. He noted that five years ago the 3D camera rig was kluged together and had to often be mechanically realigned. The 3ality 3D camera rig that he used for Chuck had internal checks and adjustments to automatically maintain alignment. Any problem that was missed during capture could be fixed using software in post. 3ality has also developed small 3D handheld rig for shots in tight places.

Ted Kenney has produced a number of live 3D sports events, including the BCS final and some regular season NFL games. He noted that 3D shots at or near field level put the audience right in the action. He uses eight 3D rigs in various locations and holds shots longer than a normal twenty rig 2D sports shoot. Software in the truck allows for smooth live transitions among the 3D cameras.

Sandy Climan, CEO of 3ality Digital, LLC, described how 3ality is both an equipment and a creative talent company. Working with CEO of 3ality Digital Systems and long-time 3D technology expert Steve Schklair, 3ality is developing camera equipment with the features and software tools necessary for any situation.

Eisuke Tsuyuzaki, VP of Corporate Development and GM, Panasonic Research, projected that, out of the 5 distinct and non-interoperable 3D technologies in the consumer market today, polarized lens and active-shutter are the two most likely to succeed in the marketplace. They are the two that are most acceptable to all three key stakeholders; the content community, display manufacturers, and the public.

The evening panel was recorded for Emerson College, Boston. I have asked The Caucus for a copy of the video.

3D-to-2D conversion

Monday, May 18th, 2009

3D content that is properly mastered from both a technical and artistic viewpoint can be a seamless experience. It becomes part of the storyteller’s pallet. Part of the baseline experience of watching moving images on a screen.

If you think about it for a moment, you’ll realize that film and television are ‘3D to 2D’ conversions of the real world. The image has no depth. It has depth cues and visual techniques, such as creative use of depth of field, that the filmmakers have developed into a language and mastered through trial and error, and that the audience has internalized through regular viewing and familiarity with the convention.

Phil McNally recently noted that no one worried that too much television viewing would damage the development of depth perception in young people.

There has been concern voiced recently that 3D movies could negatively impact the development of visual perception in young people. There is ongoing research in this area, and more is needed.

But I am also reminded to the Alan Kay comment that technology is what was invented after you were born. Concerns about the impact of viewing properly mastered 3D content may fade through familiarity and generational change.

BigChampagne, The Long Tail, philosophy versus data

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

According to PaidContent , BigChampagne is about to release a study that shows that, far from driving the Long Tail, P2P file trading echoes the legal marketplace. What is popular in the legal marketplace is also popular in the “unencumbered” marketplace. PaidContent reporter Robert Andrews says that BigChampagne will claim that their data “refutes” the Long Tail. Mr. Andrews uses the study’s results to counter that position. Whilst the most popular tracks in this study were downloaded over 14 million times in a year, more than 13 million individual tracks were also swapped at least once – that sure sounds like a long tail, albeit a virtually inconsequential one…” He also correctly notes that the Long Tail took the entire web into account. It did not distinguish between legal and illegal opportunities to discover content.

“Inconsequential” and misleading. The Long Tail concept misses the key curve that (not surprisingly) invalidates it as a positive concept for inspiring and aspiring artists. While the curve illustrates that even obscure content may be found over a long period of time, it neglects to include the curve that shows that the amount of content available for discovery is increasing much faster than the curve declines. That means that while even ‘obscure’ music as a category has a long life, the odds of any particular song being found, and any particular artist benefiting from the discovery, decreases more rapidly over time than The Long Tail curve itself. Chris Anderson , who controls the major media whose audience cares about this concept (Wired and related sites/communities) may be able to propagate and sustain the idea that the Long Tail is good for individual artists, but the basic trends readily observable on the web don’t bear him out.

Fox, glasses, and the 3D value proposition

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Fox executives have recently said that they are against paying the cost of the glasses handed out to ticket buyes for their theatrical 3D features. They argue that they have been down this route before and won’t get burned again.

They took part in the negotiations that designed the national digital transition from analog to digital broadcasting. They absorbed the cost of converting their production, post production, and distribution infrastructure. Consumer electronics companies sold lots of digital TVs and peripherals. But Fox did not earn one extra penny, they say, as a result of the huge investment.

Their position is that they will create 3D content for theatrical release. And they will license it at a higher rate to cover the added cost of production as well as to receive fair compensation for the added value of the 3D experience. But this time they expect the player that benefits from their product, the exhibitor, to absorb the cost of the portion of the 3D rollout that they control; the glasses that make viewing the content in their theatres a destination experience.

I am old enough to remember when airlines charged a fee to watch the inflight movie. In the beginning the headphones were hollow tubes that channeled the sound from the seat armrest to your ear. The attendants showed a preview then came down the aisle and collected cash from anyone who wanted to hear the movie. Everyone could see the movie, so there was a second buying frenzy once the feature began. The headphones were pretty useless for anything other than inflight use, so few people bothered to steal them.

When airlines converted their cabins to electric headphones, some of them used the same jacks/plugs in their armrests that were used in consumer electronics devices. Some people soon discovered that they could use their own headsets. This added a policing component to the flight attendants’ job for a while. They would walk up and down the aisles looking for people who were watching the movie without paying.

Soon the language and perception changed from ‘would you like to watch the movie’ to ‘would you like to rent headphones.’ The airline attendants gave up on enforcement. A growing percentage of people brought their own headsets. The movie became part of the in-flight experience purchased with the ticket. The airlines continued to collect extra cash from passengers for drinks, and more recently, food.

Today many groups, including my Consumer 3D Experience Lab at USC’s Entertainment Technology Center, are working to establish a pleasant purchasing and viewing experience for 3D in the home, on personal devices, and in public spaces. Consumers can already buy their own glasses for many of the 3D projection technologies used in theatres today. As designers come on board, these glasses may become trendy and cool.

Fox wants the exhibitors to absorb the cost of the glasses. They expect to maintain a higher licensing fee for 3D content over 2D content.

Has anyone done consumer research into what parts of the in-theatre 3D experience consumers feel is worth the extra price?

In all of my discussions with people at studios and networks, they assume that people value the 3D experience. I wonder what percentage of theatergoers think that the added cost covers the price of the glasses? Is that percentage growing? Do consumers feel that if they bring their own glasses to the theatre, they should pay a lower ticket price – say the price of the 2D movie showing in on the next screen in the multiplex?

On the flip side, is anyone organizing a marketing campaign to link the higher ticket price to the added value of the 3D experience? Is anything being done to bolster the studios’ position during content licensing negotiations that the added cost of production translates into added value for the exhibitor?

Or will consumers start bringing their own glasses to the theatres. Will ticket buyers begin requesting a discounted ticket price because they are saving the exhibitor money by not taking the theatre’s glasses.

Is Fox’s perfectly reasonable position something that will turn into something worse than their HDTV experience, because they had a chance to understand and shape the value proposition and didn’t?

If there is market research out there on this topic, could someone please point me to it via a comment to this blog?

The wisdom of a game developer

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Bernie Yee, the head of game development at The Electric Sheep Company and a brilliant strategic thinking in the videogame industry, made three really interesting points at the recent Digital Hollywood conference.

He said to think about the “utility” of the game as you develop it; what do players really want to do, rather than what else can you develop to sell. His developers spend 90% of their time developing cosmetic aspects of their games that have no impact on game play, such as costumes and props. But that 90% supports the social dynamics that keep people invested in the game.

Social Networks play on all of the seven deadly sins (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride), as well as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

The business of game development has four drivers; competition, commerce, creativity, and community. Successful games find a balance that works for all four drivers for an audience sizeable enough to make a profit and grow.

Controlling piracy the consumer-friendly and artist-friendly way

Friday, March 7th, 2008

A digital watermark is a small amount of data that is embedded in a known manner into digital video, audio, image, text, or other file type.  The mark is embedded in a manner that allows it to be detected, read, or extracted later when the file is accessed.  The more successful watermark technologies embed watermarks that are undetectable to most humans, yet can be still be detected by a digital processor after the file in which is resides has been manipulated and distorted to a point just short of being rendered useless for its original use.  The data in the watermark can be an instruction to do or to not do something.  If a watermark detector is present when the digital file is played or accessed, then the detector will read those instructions and pass the instructions on to the device it resides in.  If a watermark detector is not present when the digital file is played or accessed, then the watermark goes unnoticed.  It effects nothing.  The file is treated as if the watermark is not there at all.Tools like watermarks and DRM have been demonized in part because they were deployed to trigger restrictions without offering a clear consumer benefit that outweighed the impact of those restrictions.  They were implemented as an antipiracy tool and in some cases also as a means to limit the way the content could be used.  Without a counteracting benefit, all consumers saw was a restriction to be counterbalanced by their own self-selected and self-administered desired benefits; which most often was the ability to move, copy, remix, and share the content.  With that purely negative consumer proposition that the content provider offered, the paying audience had no incentive to not remove the DRM or prevent the watermark application from working properly. 

But the same watermark technology that can trigger an application to not do something can also trigger an application to do something.  A watermark can trigger access to bonus material, admission to an online community, delivery of a discount coupon, and any number of value-added activities that a consumer might want.  If these benefits are valued by the consumer and are regularly updated, then for a measurable number of people the desire to access those benefits will outweigh the desire to disable the same watermark technology because it is triggering other, undesired actions.  If the balance is struck effectively, the audience will seek out the content with the watermark along with the devices that respond to the watermark, helping the value-add content sources and devices attract and retain an audience for traditional and additional monetization opportunities.

Up until recently, watermark technology vendors have been marketing their technology primarily to the antipiracy market because they thought that market was where the revenue opportunities were.  But more recently the broader view of watermark technology described above has begun to be pitched by a number of the leading vendors  and associations .  As content companies explore this value-balancing approach to content management, I predict that the revenue potential of legitimately distributed content will increase, and the battle over content protection will retreat from the forefront of the debate over the future of digital content, fair use, etc. and slide into the background noise of an emerging marketplace.