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Thursday, June 22, 2006


Although D-Cinema may not be a revenue generator, 3D film might, as the 3D effect cannot be replicated elsewhere (most notably in the home). Around for decades, 3D may get a free ride from the industry's migration to digital. The recently developed D-Cinema Standards include a 48 frame per second format, which is suitable for 3D.

All well and good, but 3D has problems of its own. The ideal would be auto-stereoscopic 3D which doesn't require glasses - but that technology is currently only available on small sized digital displays because of the limited sweet spot (where the viewer must sit in order to get the 3D effect). So, glasses will be required.

There are two types of 3D glasses: LCD shutterglasses or polarized anaglyph glasses. LCD shutterglasses (as their name implies) are synced with the projector to open and close each glass based upon whether the left or right image is on screen. Their drawback - shutterglasses cost between $200 - $300/pair and must be cleaned between viewings so each cinema would require multiple sets per auditorium - commonly at a 3:1 ratio. For example, with a 300 seat auditorium, 900 pairs of glasses are required. On to the second option.

Polarized glasses (those most people are familiar with) put a red lens over one eye and a green over the other to separate the left and right images. Typically with plastic or cardboard frames they are inexpensive and new innovations - such as clear lens and circular polarization - allow viewers to move their head while watching a movie. But these too are cumbersome, inconvenient, and hard to wear, particularly for patrons who wear corrective glasses.

Big proponents of 3D movies are filmmakers James Cameron, George Lucas, and Peter Jackson. They feel 3D may well "save the cinema". In fact, Lucas wants to re-release both Star Wars trilogies in digital 3D. And In-Three, Inc., a California based company, is here to help them. In-Three has perfected a process termed dimensionalization. This process restores depth in films shot in 2D. This 2D-to-3D conversion process works but is extremely labor intense. The human touch is required because too much or too little depth will give viewers a headache (literally). So, currently, it takes six people to judge each converted frame. Cost - about $4.5 million for a feature film (although this can vary greatly depending upon such factors as the film's length and scenic complexities). However, this could be an option for re-releases of older movies or for those currently being shot in 2D.

Although somewhat optimistic 3D may increase boxoffice attendance if the right content is presented. Disney's recent 3D film release of Chicken Little was certainly not a boxoffice smash.