JVC’s Converter Box Turns 2D Into 3D, in Real Time

The arrival of new 3D channels will mean a leap in the demand for 3D content, and JVC has answered that call with a 2D-to-3D converter box. The IF-2D3D1 Stereoscopic Image Processor works in real time to convert 2D material — such as stock background shots or archival footage — into 3D content that can be used alongside original 3D video. For Discovery 3D, ESPN 3D, and the other new 3D networks on the horizon, this box may be the easiest way to hit the ground running with 3D material.

“This product evaluates the image, makes some decisions about what should be further in the background and what should be in the foreground, and then creates two stereoscopic images out of that, left eye and right eye,” explains Dave Walton, assistant VP of marketing and communications for JVC. “Then, you watch it on a 3D monitor, and the images are put together.”

Real-Time Conversion
The IF-2D3D1 offers four 3D mixed formats: line-by-line, side-by-side-half, above-below, and checkerboard. Housed in a 1RU metal cabinet, the box works in real time, thereby automating the process that stereographers must use to convert content frame-by-frame.

“They look at shapes, colors, and objects, and they will try to then create a depth map from that,” Walton says of the job of a stereographer. “It’s very slow and time-consuming to convert 2D to 3D. This blows through that process in real time, and then the stereographer can work on the portions of the film that need to be tweaked or adjusted.”

The unit allows for manual modifications for depth and parallax (image displacement), which gives operators the opportunity to change the intensity of the 3D output.

“There are going to be errors and things that are misplaced; we know that,” Walton says. “Some scenes are much easier to convert than others. But, if you’re doing 2D-3D conversion of archival or stock footage, it can give you a real head start, and then you save yourself from having to fly to some location to get a background shot.”

Adding to the 3D Camera Arsenal
The applications for live sports production are even more enticing, as long as the operator understands the limitations of the box. For a game with blimp coverage, for example, if the blimp is not equipped with a stereo camera rig, the blimp shot can be run through the converter and integrated into the 3D production.

“If you do some testing ahead of time and the director already knows what’s going to work and not work, then you can save your stereo camera rigs for the main shots that people are going to be watching throughout the production,” Walton says. “I would not suggest that you could convert an entire NFL game into 3D using the box; it doesn’t replace the process of shooting stereo cameras, but it can be a very valuable tool in the process.”

Tools Beyond Conversion
The converter box can also output left and right signals via HD-SDI or HDMI for dual projection or editing, and it can combine the left- and right-eye images for real-time monitoring on location. A built-in HD-SDI frame synchronizer provides sync for two cameras that lack external sync, and anaglyph and sequential viewing modes provide multiple ways to watch the 3D content.

“If you don’t have a true 3D monitor,” Walton points out, “it will output anaglyph, which will get you by if you just want to do a quick check of the 3D effect and you don’t have access to a 3D monitor.”

The IF-2D3D1’s Scope feature provides a waveform monitor and vectorscope for comparing live video streams side by side. That allows the operator to speed up the process of matching camera settings, such as exposure and white balance. The Split feature combines two video streams on one screen with a moveable boundary for instant left/right comparison.

“It’s not just a converter,” Walton says. “It’s a tool that technical people on the set can use in the process of shooting a 3D piece.”

No Magic in This Box
While Walton, of course, wants his product to sell, he prefers to direct his comments to professional stereographers, rather than 3D investors. The converter, he stresses, is not magical: pushing 2D into the box to create 10 different channels of 3D content is not realistic.

“I might sell 10 boxes that way, but I don’t think it will be the kind of 3D that people want to watch,” he says. “As a tool, I think it does an outstanding job, and it’s better than any 2D-3D real-time conversion that we’ve seen. With a professional that really knows 3D, who knows where you can use it and knows its limitations, the results will be phenomenal.”

The IF-2D3D1 will be available in March of this year, priced around $30,000.