If you took a good look at the cover of Computer Graphics World, you may have rubbed your eyes a bit or blinked a few times to make sure your vision was in check. Your eyes are fine. The reason why the image appears somewhat distorted is because it is rendered for 3D viewing. That’s right. CGW has printed its very first stereoscopic cover, and what better time to do so than now—in time for NAB.
During the past year, stereo has taken on a life of its own. At last year’s NAB, stereo had become far more than a buzzword; it was the hot topic. The Content Theater featured a day of stereoscopic topics and offered a look at two 3D projects. This year, the Content Theater has expanded its stereo focus. Last summer, the SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival devoted two days to stereoscopic research, applications, and entertainment, curated by Rob Engle of Sony Pictures Imageworks.
As CGW contributing editor Barbara Robertson pointed out in her feature article “Rethinking Moviemaking” (November 2008), the proponents of stereo films believe that the move to stereoscopic 3D is just as profound as the introduction of sound and color. And indeed, the revolution is well on its way.
A few years ago, stereo was mainly used in theme-park attractions, which used special equipment to project stereo images. Movie theaters were another story. But once companies like RealD got onboard, stereo took off quickly…and in a big way. As early as 2007, stereo 3D was still a novelty. Today, we can expect several 3D movies, including Pixar’s Up, Fox/Blue Sky’s Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Imageworks’ G-Force—and that’s before the fall season begins. By the end of the year, the number of 3D screens is expected to double, just in time for the highly anticipated 3D live-action Avatar. In fact, starting with Monsters vs. Aliens—released at the end of last month on an estimated 2000 3D screens nationwide—all DreamWorks Animation’s films will be authored in stereo 3D.
Stereo 3D is also moving into other media with the same swiftness. It has already captured the concert crowd. And this past February, television viewers who tuned in to watch the Super Bowl were treated to a stereo 3D extravaganza. Prior to the game, viewers were urged to pick up their stereo glasses at local retailers where Pepsi and PepsiCo’s SoBe are sold. Just a few hours before kickoff, I ran to the local grocery store to get several pair. Then, at halftime, we were told to don the glasses. First, we were treated to a Monsters vs. Aliens trailer in 3D, where the colorful creatures really popped. The stereo continued with the 60-second commercial “Lizard Lake,” featuring the very cool SoBe lizards from last year, only this year they were leaping off the screen. In fact, this month’s cover image is from that commercial. (For more about the making of the spot, see “Super Sunday’s Best,” pg. 10.) The stereo event culminated the following evening with a 3D viewing of the television series Chuck.
With stereo invading theaters at such an aggressive pace, will it soon be knocking at your own door? The answer is “yes.” Three-dimensional gaming is already taking hold, as vendors, such as iZ3D, offer affordable monitors that work with passive polarized glasses to turn favorite interactive 2D titles into 3D adventures. Among others, Nvidia is getting into the home stereo game with an HD 3D solution that works with a number of monitors and projectors (see “Game-Changing Technology,” March 2009).
So are films, games, and television shows more exciting in stereo? Yes. Filmmakers and others are recognizing that stereo is no longer a gag; it’s a tool to enhance the storytelling experience, and they are using stereo for just that purpose. So sit back and enjoy your trips to the next dimension.