IBC 2010: 3ality’s Schklair Offers Good, Bad, Ugly of Live 3D

The floor of this year’s IBC show is littered with 3D, but not all of it qualifies as good 3D. To help explain some of the differences between good 3D and bad, Steve Schklair, founder/CEO of 3ality Digital, demonstrated some good, some bad, and some terribly ugly content during a live 3D feed running throughout his keynote presentation on Monday.

He opened the keynote by acknowledging that content is indeed still king but added that, unlike the online-content boom, the new “content is king” mantra has some provisos.

“There needs to be a lot of content, but bad 3D content isn’t just bad, it’s actually painful,” Schklair explained. “Content is still king, but it’s got to be good content. If the 3D broadcast is not more compelling than the 2D broadcast, then people will watch for the first 20 minutes for the novelty, but then they’re going to switch back. Creating good content starts with understanding what good 3D technology is and what it has to do.”

To help the audience do just that, he used a live 3D transmission of a table tennis match being played just outside the auditorium. With the help of Grass Valley cameras housed in three beamsplitter rigs and an Alfacam OB van, Schklair was able to show the audience the metrics that he looks for — and tries to avoid — when producing a live 3D show.

“The subtractive view shows us the parallax between the left and right eye,” he explained. “We work within a range of parallax and set up our metrics through an image processor. We’re also cycling through a large number of algorithms to determine the depth of this image. We’re able to measure everything we need to know about a 3D image.”

All of that data can be exported stamped with timecode, so that any postproduced effects can be added to the precise place in the video with the proper settings.

Rather than harp on the success 3ality has had in producing 3D content, Schklair spent the next 30 minutes educating the industry on some of the most common errors in 3D production. Zoom lenses, he explained, do not track perfectly by nature, and zoom mismatch can cause severe eyestrain, especially if a graphic is inserted into the frame.

Vertical misalignment is a problem, as are edge violations, the effect that happens when an object in negative space (coming forward from the screen) is occluded by something behind it, such as the edge of the screen.

Focus mismatch also can cause headaches.

“You can’t fix focus in a box,” Schklair pointed out. “All you can do is make the sharp image softer and make it match the other image, so, if the focus in one of the cameras is dialed out, that’s a problem. Look to make sure that your focus, verticals, and iris are all matched.”

He helped the audience understand how to look for such mismatches and then showed what the “good” 3D version of the proper image looks like.

“As you walk around the show floor, take your glasses off and look at two images,” he said. “Ask yourself, are they lined up? Are they both sharp? As professionals, we need to be educated as to what works and what doesn’t.”