Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

AVATAR AS THE JAZZ SINGER

June 19, 2010

The popular myth of the coming of the sound cinema is that The Jazz Singer was the decisive film.  It may have been an important moment, but if you read The Speed of Sound by Scott Eyman you will see that the story is more nuanced.  Today we have a candidate for the 3-D Jazz SingerAvatar.  (more…)

RECLAIMING 3-D

June 19, 2010

In 1980 or thereabouts, a change occurred to computer graphics technology.  It was an important one for me personally and for my company StereoGraphics because it allowed us to create stereoscopic displays based on raster graphics so useful for industry and science. Prior to that time high-end applications for computers outputted images that looked like wire frames or line drawings.  These were variously known as calligraphic, stroke or vector displays.  I remember playing an arcade game in 1981.  It was called “Tank Command,” and cast and crew on the set of Rottweiler Dogs of Hell at EO Studios in Shelby South Carolina got quite involved with it.  Between takes we played “Tank Command,” with its eerie green lines against a stygian background.  The farther away the object was, the dimmer were the lines – that was how depth was conveyed – that and perspective and relative size.   These displays had an electron beam that was steered to write lines on the inside of a green phosphored cathode ray tube and it built up an image that perceptually added up to one that didn’t flicker and appeared to be integral even though portions of it were written at different times.   (more…)

CLASH OF THE 3-D MOVIES

April 27, 2010

Five years ago when Disney decided to release Chicken Little in 3-D, they had to be thinking about a couple of things:  One, as a tactic, taking a movie like Chicken Little and releasing it in 3-D might be a good marketing approach.  It gave the studio something to talk about, and 3-D might create buzz.  Two, strategically, it was a way for the studio to further the cause of digital projection.  The studio hoped to accomplish two things:  Anti-piracy might be better enabled with digital; and digital distribution could reduce print cost.   (more…)

THE BIG BRIGHT 3-D SCREEN

April 14, 2010

A third of theatrical release revenues since the opening of Avatar in December have come from a handful of 3-D films and when you consider that 125 features have been released in the same timeframe I’d say it’s all over but the shouting for 2-D. Call me bullish but the same pattern emerged when sound was introduced. Given that as background let us consider that the biggest source of revenue comes from the largest theaters with the biggest screens. So let’s consider the subject of the biggest 3-D screens.  (more…)

Converted to Conversion, I

April 5, 2010

The idea of taking a two-dimensional image and turning it into a stereoscopic image is not a new one.  The idea of being able to pull this off for a motion picture sounds like a fantasy.  There are two extant techniques – conversion on-the-fly and conversion I supposed one would classify as off-line, requiring some considerable effort.  I am not going to consider on-the-fly technology because the state of the art is abysmally abysmal.  (more…)

Dark Cinema

March 29, 2010

This morning, after having driven my three kids to two schools in the San Fernando Valley, I was heading west on Ventura Boulevard when a man in a tank-like black SUV raced toward me on my side of the road.  With moments to spare, I swerved out of the way, and you know what?  The guy smiled at me and gave me a friendly wave; a grey haired demon, refusing to take responsibility, or just the angel of death trying to do his job? I came home and told Julie what had happened, shouting in outrage.  Did it do any good to get excited?  Why can’t I view existence with equanimity? I am far from a perfect driver – so live and let live…right? But that’s not who I am and so I move on to the next outrage: a threat to my beloved stereoscopic cinema.  (more…)

THE SHAPE OF SCREENS TO COME

March 25, 2010

When Edison and Eastman came up with 35mm film – the design of the perforations and the frame — they didn’t make any provision for soundtrack.  It’s obvious why –movies were silent in 1895.  They came up with a frame aspect ratio whose shape was pretty close to a square – between 1.3:1 and 1.40:1.  If I had to guess I’d say they did it because they knew that of any rectangular shape that would fit into the round image created by a lens, a square would make the most effective utilization of the lens’s coverage and 1.3.7 (or whatever it was) was pretty close to square.  But 1.37 is, after all, close to a square but a little bit horizontally extended, and people are used to looking at most pictures in what today we call the “landscape mode.”  I think most paintings and most photographs are painted or taken in the landscape mode – probably because our eyes are side by side and their field of view favors horizontality. (more…)

UPDATE: BRIGHTEST STEREOSCOPIC PROJECTION

March 24, 2010

I have been working on a new stereoscopic projection method, the Oculus3D™ system, using 35mm projectors and specially formatted film.  From a business perspective there is a strong demand for a product like this since there are not enough digital projectors, the usual platform for 3D projection, in the United States, North America, or the rest of the world, for that matter.  There are theatrical features, mostly adventure fantasy films, shot in 2D, that are being converted so that they can be shown in 3D. And there are 3D movies in the pipeline that were planned to be in 3D — something like two features a month for this year. A studio executive is probably making a good decision to convert assets to maximize attendance and profits after the robust success of Avatar and Alice, which are financial successes that have given a boost to the stereoscopic medium.  We are seeing steps toward the ubiquity of the stereoscopic cinema on a genre by genre basis – first kids’ animation, then horror date movies, and now action, science fiction, and adventure films. The 3D films that are getting made are, with the passage of time, for older and older audiences. Now it would seem that all tent-pole movies are likely candidates for 3D.  (more…)

How Shuttering Eyewear Came To Be

March 18, 2010

Field-sequential electro-stereoscopic displays require a selection device to alternately occlude and transmit successive fields to each eye.  A sequence of images is  written  using  a technique  which  is  similar to that used for  planar  video  or electronic  displays. Today such displays are typically produced by DLP projectors or fast LCDs that are part of TV sets now arriving in retail stores. For a flickerless stereoscopic system, the images  need  to  be  written  at  twice  the  usual  planar   60 fields/second  refresh  rate, because  each  eye,  independently, needs  to see 60 fields/second.  Therefore, in most stereoscopic video or computer graphics systems the refresh rate is about 120 fields/second.  (more…)

THE PATENT SYSTEM

February 26, 2010

Thomas Jefferson was the first United States patent examiner, and this is what he must have thought about the creation of our patent system:  His was an agrarian country that might gain commercial advantage with superior farming techniques and implements.  He undoubtedly looked at the British intellectual property system and decided that it would be wise to adopt something like it for the United States.  His new country had been an agricultural crown colony but as a new republic it was free from the domination of a distant power.  It was now able to control its destiny; and especially important, its commercial destiny which at that time was envisioned to be primarily agricultural — Jefferson and many of the founding fathers were farmers.  At that time most devices were made of brass, iron, steel, copper and wood.  Such machines had gears, wheels and levers, and to our modern eyes these devices may seem quaint, but to Jefferson’s eyes they were the essence of technology.  In his time they were the work of individual inventors, not of industrial corporations, which would not exist for many years.  The inventors, maybe they could be thought of as clever tinkerers for the most part, were furthering the American economy by making it easier to farm and engage in 18th-century industrial activities that could lead to more productivity and wealth for the American states.  (more…)