January 10, 2009

Make Your Own 3D Movies At Home

3D films may no longer be the privilege of wealthy movie studios.  During this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, two companies unveiled new ways for home users to produce 3D films of their own. 

One technology involves the use of a webcam with two lenses that mimic human sight, converting images into 3D footage.  Another firm makes software aimed to allow home users to show 3D movies on a variety of screen types.

Manchester-based PDT's Minoru webcam has two lenses set about the same distance apart as human eyes.  The lenses come with software that turns the two images into something known as an anaglyph. To view the resultant footage in 3D, viewers must wear the traditional 3D glasses with red and blue lenses.  This guarantees that only one of the two images displayed is actually seen by each eye, forcing the brain to convert them into a moving 3D image.  The technology means that home 3D movies shot with the Minoru can be shared on YouTube.

Additionally, the webcam can be used as a more traditional 2D image grabber or as a video conferencing tool using Skype, Windows Live, AOL and others.

David Holder, Minoru's creator, said he was inspired to build the new device by his children.

"I took my kids to Disney World two years ago and they loved the 3D attractions there," he told BBC News.

"They just loved the idea of things coming out of the screen, even though they had to wear the glasses."

"If someone gave you an iPod with one earpiece you would think they were nuts," he said, explaining why he set forth to create the camera.

"I've never made anything that's grabbed so much attention."

TD Vision also touted its wares during the event, demonstrating its software codec that simplifies the showing of 3D movies on many different screen types.

Spokesman Ethan Shur said the company had also developed a prototype 3D camcorder to work alongside the software that would convert footage into 3D films.  The software would allow users to store information about the anaglyphic characteristics of each scene separately from the standard images to make sure the film can be played back on different screens.

The new product breaks new ground in delivering a cost-effective way of storing only information about the parts of each frame that change to create the 3D effect.

"The magic is in the method of how it compares the left and right view," Shur said.

"It takes only the differences, the delta, the changes."

Storing the 3D information separately means that the footage can be replayed as 2D on a normal television or as 3D on compatible screens. While the company is initially working with broadcasters and DVD makers, it plans to address the consumer market in the future, Shur said.


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