Friday, December 28, 2012

Queen Elizabeth II First 3-D Christmas Message: A Royal Keeping Up With the Jones’s?

It may be a “mere” icing on the cake of HRH Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee PR blitz, but is the queen’s 2012 Christmas message a sign of the traditional House of Windsor adapting to modernity?

By: Ringo Bones

Of all the annual Christmas messages being broadcasted on TV since her reign, the 2012 Christmas Message broadcast by HRH Queen Elizabeth II will be more special compared to her previous ones, not only because this year is the queen’s Diamond Jubilee, but also it will be the first time it will be seen on 3-D. Is this a sure sign that previously conservatively traditional institutions like the Royal House of Windsor is keeping up with the times?

It seems that a number of previously “conservative” traditional institutions have jumped on to the contemporary tech bandwagon. Even the Vatican had joined in as Pope Benedict XVI just started his own Twitter account a few weeks ago and attracted a million followers within the first 24 hours of opening. So why wouldn’t the British Royal Family be free in “Keeping Up with The Jones’s” like the rest of us?

 Well, at least the Queen’s 3-D Christmas Message for 2012 is more than just an empty hi-tech whiz-bang extravaganza. She did manage to hail the triumphant show of skill of both Olympic and Paralympic athletes during the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic games, and the army of volunteers that made the games and her Diamond Jubilee a success. Given that the world’s TV and movie audience at large seems to be distracted away from 3-D and instead being currently seduced by 8K ultra high definition TV, the British Royal Family sticking with tried and true 3-D TV broadcasts that needs 3-D glasses / goggles to be viewed correctly is somewhat good news for the future of an imaging system that caters to us enthusiasts who still give a damn about true-blue binocular vision. Well, at least the 2012 London Olympics was broadcasted in 3-D. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Ronald Reagan 3D Hologram: Latest Political Campaign Gimmick?

Slated to be unveiled in the 2012 Tampa Republican Party National Convention before it was “upstaged” by Hurricane Isaac, is the Ronald Reagan 3D hologram nothing more than the latest political campaign gimmick? 

By: Ringo Bones 

Rumor has it that the Ronald Reagan 3D hologram wasn’t used in the 2012 Tampa Republican Party National Convention because the GOP top brass are afraid it might “upstage” a “one-dimensional” Mitt Romney or there was also a rumor that the GOP top brass never got time to obtain insurance for the “high tech” equipment to be used to run the Ronald Reagan 3D hologram during the Republican Convention in Tampa. Some US Republican Party insiders even say that the more “moderate” members of the GOP top brass are afraid that the Ronald Reagan hologram could be used for partisan purposes. But anyway, does the Ronald Reagan 3D hologram truly represent the latest in the somewhat arrested development of 3D holography technology – or nothing more than mere “political campaign gimmickry”? 

To older folks closely following development trends in 3D video technology, some of them might be mistaken that the Ronald Reagan 3D hologram could be the cutting edge in the still young science 3D holography because back in May 24, 1991, NASA first tried out its newly developed 3D laser scanning technology on Ronald Reagan – who was then happily retiring in his Santa Barbara, California home, making him the first ever US President to get a 3D holographic portrait. Whether the 3D data obtained by NASA back in 1991 was used on the 2012 3D hologram of Ronald Reagan the GOP top brass didn’t say. But an article in the New Scientist magazine says that the technology behind the 3D hologram of Ronald Reagan to be used in Tampa was the very same one used on the posthumous Tupac 3D hologram featured in the Coachella show. 

Both the Tupac and Reagan 3D holograms used a technique called Pepper’s Ghost projection technology – a holographic imaging technique which was already around since the 1800s. Both CGI and live footage mix were used by the 3D holography technicians at Digital Domain – James Cameron’s visual effects company – to create the Tupac posthumous concert 3D hologram and the posthumous “live action” 3D hologram of Ronald Reagan. Pepper’s Ghost technology works by partially reflecting light off a piece of glass from a hidden room. This kind of 3D projection technique only works well in convention halls or exhibition spaces that are not too brightly lit by ambient sunlight; although 3D holograms of some current controversial politicians are probably going to be frequently used as a crutch to steer the public away from their one-dimensional nature. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The London 2012 Olympics: First 3-D Olympics?

Though high-definition 3-D TV sporting events broadcasts is already a technical – and commercial – reality as far back as 2009, will the London 2012 Olympics be the first summer Olympiad to be broadcasted in high-definition 3-D?

By: Ringo Bones

3-D enthusiasts – especially high-definition or HD 3-D enthusiasts – seem barely able to contain their excitement when NBC and Panasonic announced back in July 20, 2012 that they’ll be offering the “infrastructure” to broadcast the London 2012 Olympics in high-definition 3-D. Though HD 3-D broadcasts of top billed sporting events are already a technical – and commercial – reality as far back as 2009, if you can afford to buy one of those top-dollar HD 3-D ready large flat-screen TVs that are more at home in a dedicated home theater set-up than in your typically modest living room, the popularity of broadcasting live events – like top billed sporting events – seems to coincide with the visually stunning success of James Cameron’s 3-D sci-fi epic called Avatar back in 2009. Big league sporting events broadcasters - like ESPN – have billed their HD 3-D broadcasts as “just like being there in the middle of the action” in terms of video quality. But does the reality live up to the hype?

Well, the BBC has a dedicated HD 3-D Olympic channel given that the 2012 summer Olympiad is taking place on their home turf. And so does NBC and ESPN and 22 other that I currently seen so far. On what I’ve seen so far – thanks to our local electronics goods store who used the BBC’s HD 3-D Olympic broadcasts to test out their new batch of large-format HD 3-D ready flat screen TVs. The BBC 3-D broadcasts of the London 2012 opening ceremonies had a nice depth portrayal in them and really make you feel as if you are in the middle of the ceremony – even for a somewhat jaded 3-D movie enthusiast like me. Though, the level of “you-are-there” is only up to a point, given that it is still the main HD 3-D camera’s perspective. Another caveat worth mentioning is the continual swapping to 2-D cameras and the 2-D footage which spoils it a bit.

Given what I’ve seen so far, it seems there is a visually discernable – albeit incrementally - progress in HD 3-D image quality. The HD 3-D London 2012 Olympic broadcasts could be a benchmark of the technical progress made of HD 3-D broadcasts since they became a regular part of atypical up-market satellite dish package back in 2009. The so-called “diorama effect” is now minimal – like swapping from 150 US dollar Mainland Chinese made binoculars to 6,000 US dollar binoculars with Carl Zeiss equipped optics.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Can We Make A 3-D Movie From A 2-D Movie?

It’s not quite easy and it can cost a bit of money and yet an upstart post-production company managed to gain press attention for doing the seemingly impossible back in July, 2011 – will making 3-D movies from 2-D movies be the wave of the future?

By: Ringo Bones

Whether you love them or not, 3-D movies released by big-wig Hollywood movie studios are still a rarity despite of the runaway success of James Cameron’s epic 3-D science fiction extravaganza called Avatar back in 2009. And yet a rather upstart post-production company based in Los Angeles with branches in London and India managed to do the seemingly impossible of converting 2-D movies originally shot with a 2-D camera into a full-fledged 3-D movie. And even managed to gain mainstream press attention as far back as July, 2011.

A post-production company called Prime Focus managed to gain fame after it has successfully done the “impossible” of turning a 2-D movie originally shot with 2-D cameras into a bona-fide 3-D movie as good as one shot with dedicated 3-D movie cameras. But for all intents and purposes, the proprietary process – which has been kept a closely-guarded secret by Prime Focus – of converting 2-D movies into 3-D is no easy feat. It takes on average hundreds of CGI technicians eight months to convert a feature length 2-D movie – which average length of 90-minutes to 2-hours – into a full-fledged 3-D cinematographic masterpiece.

According to Matthew Bristowe of Prime Focus, their proprietary method of converting 2-D to 3-D had first been successfully tried on James Cameron’s 1998 epic remake of Titanic. On converting Titanic to 3-D, “negative reframing” was done to prevent visual artifacts that cause eyestrain to viewers when converting 2-D movies originally shot with 2-D cameras into 3-D. If it becomes commonplace, Prime Focus’ proprietary post-production techniques of converting 2-D movies to 3-D could increase the number of the still limited catalogue of 3-D movies already out on the market today.