Let’s Talk About 3D!

3D - Graphic - Jesse Slomowitz

Graphic created by Jesse Benjamin Slomowitz (’13)

- Written by Jesse Benjamin Slomowitz (’13)

       Hello there! If you are looking at this article, it means you can see. And if you can see, you see this article is some distance from your face. And if there is distance, well, hooray! Welcome to the world of 3D. Of course, you have lived your whole life in the 3D world since objects are either above/below you, on either side of you, or in front/behind you. Thus the physical universe is composed of three dimensions in which things can go. In graphical terms, there are three variables: x,y, and z.

       When it comes to drawing, every point has a coordinate of x and y (left/right and up/down.) For example, the slope x=y means a point is moving left/right and up/down, as the graph below demonstrates.


X-Y Graph.

X-Y Graph.

       In 3D Images, every point has a z-value, in addition to x and y, to determine how far away the object is from the viewer. If the slope is x+y=z, the point is going to be closer to the viewer or farther away from the viewer without it moving in the other two directions. It has not moved up/down or left/right to the perspective of the viewer. Hence, forward/backward is what makes the third dimension.

X-Y-Z Graph.

X-Y-Z Graph.

       The attentive consumer will now realize, “Hey, a lot of movies have 3D these days!” That is extremely true. However, two concerns arise. First: the 3D is just to provide the studios with more money. Second: the 3D is just a gimmick. A movie-goer might think, after seeing a 3D movie, that the 3D was terrible because nothing came out of the screen, but that viewer’s perception of 3D is not fully correct. 3D is not about coming out of the screen. 3D is about depth. That is what the third dimension brings. In the case of 3D movies, even if the movie doesn’t have insane, out-of-the-screen 3D action, anything that shows depth is still 3D. The whole movie can just have 3D in which the objects are father away from the screen. In that case, when watching a 3D movie, the best scenes are those that have objects at different depths, which usually involves the outdoors. This brings us to the second complaint of 3D, that it is just a gimmick. Yes, there are studios that throw the third dimension in the movie in post-production and turn the film into a pile of garbage (ahem-hem “Clash of the Titans”), but then 3D can enhance the movie also. Think about the movie Avatar. As stated before, the scenes usually take place outdoors and really bring the viewers into the world of Pandora. James Cameron did not abuse the power of 3D, but instead utilized it to bring a movie into a 3D masterpiece. In fact, the 3D in the movie was so good (and helped rack in so much money) that it helped create the 3D boom that is going on today.

       One great 3D experience is in The Amazing Spider-Man Ride in Island of Adventures. The 3D there helps the riders feel they are a part of Spider-Man’s dangerous and intense battles; the pinnacle of the 3D usage is the drop off of a New York building. While a screen itself can give the person the impression they are really moving around (like in the Forbidden Journey in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, another amusement park adventure), the 3D gives off the feeling that the rider really is falling to their doom (but thanks to the Amazing Spider-Man, the riders are saved).

To demonstrate the aspects of 3D, here is an informative video:

       You may ask, “We know we wear glasses to see the 3D, but there are apparently different types of glasses. How do the glasses work and what is the difference between them?” Good questions – seems like you’re already looking at the world in a whole new dimension! Let’s start off simple. The first image that comes to mind about 3D glasses is the prototypical “red and blue” glasses. Two specifications are necessary. First off, the colors are in fact red and cyan. Why does it matter that it is specified as cyan? The reason why is because cyan is the inverse of red. Try it out on your computer. Here is the Wikipedia page with an image of cyan: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyan, and here is the Wikipedia page for blue: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue. When you see the colored boxes, go to your computer’s settings and invert the colors of your screen. (For Mountain Lion OSX, go into System Preferences, then go to Accessibility, then click on Display, then check the Invert box. For other OS X users, press Control-Option-Command-8). If done successfully, you will see the blue page does not turn out red (although one box does sort of go semi-red.) Invert cyan and you will see the color red appear.

       Secondly, this version of 3D glasses is called Anaglyph 3D. In Anaglyph 3D, the composited image with a layer of red and a layer of blue are together sent to both eyes. With both eyes receiving both images, the image becomes an integrated stereoscopic image. Next, the visual cortex of the brain, which is responsible for processing visual information, fuses stereoscopic image into a image with a perception of depth. However these days, Anaglyph 3D is used for images that do not have a 3D display. Since many electronic devices are implementing 3D displays today, there are two glasses that come into play, polarized (passive) and active shutter 3D. Polarized 3D has the glasses most commonly used in theaters due to their low cost. The polarized glasses have different polarized filters for each eye that intake only similar polarized light coming from the two images superimposed onto the screen. The better, but more expensive 3D, is the one used in 3DTVs these days, called active shutter 3D. The glasses the viewer wears perform a similar function to when a person looks at an object with one eye open at a time. The glasses will block one lens off for a certain amount of time; the lens will subsequently open. Meanwhile, the opposite lens is doing the opposite action. Since the speed of the two switching is faster than the eye can detect, it looks like both are always open and the viewer sees both images simultaneously forming the 3D image.


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