3ality Digital Looks To Automate 3D Convergence, Alignment, and More

The production of 3D content using stereoscopic rigs has, to date, been a people- and work-intensive process requiring not only camera operators but personnel to handle such issues as convergence and alignment. Eliminating that labor overhead could go a long way toward making 3D production economically viable, and, next week at the NAB Show, 3ality Digital is going to do its best to make those cost savings a reality. Two software packages that automate alignment, convergence, and interaxial spacing of the cameras on a 3D rig will be displayed, along with other enhancements related to graphics and image stabilization of a long lens in 3D rigs.

The software applications are called IntelleCal and IntelleCam. The first, IntelleCal, automatically aligns the two cameras on the rig at the push of a button. It does this by profiling and matching lenses and performing alignment on five axes through the entire zoom range.

“No matter what 3D technology is being used,” says 3ality Digital CEO Steve Schklair, “the first thing that needs to be done is aligning the cameras in the rig.”

That process, depending on the rig being used, can take from 20 minutes to upwards of four hours to complete. The 3ality Digital software, he says, can cut that process to five minutes and can be completed without human intervention. The user sets up a target and aligns the lens throughout the zoom range, and then the software does the final tweaking and with more accuracy than humanly possible.

The second piece of software, IntelleCam, automatically controls the convergence and interaxial spacing of the cameras. Traditional 3D operations have required two people to operate each rig: a camera operator and a convergence operator in a production truck who keeps the 3D images from the two cameras properly converged according to the needs of the stereographer who oversees the show. IntelleCam removes the need for a separate convergence puller for each rig, cutting the number of personnel needed by half or more.

“One of the largest OB companies puts the average cost per convergence operator at $10,000 when wages, housing, meals, and transport are factored in,” says Schklair. “And then there is the need to find space in the compound for them to operate.”

He points out that convergence puller is not a creative position and, therefore, software can be relied on to ensure that the depth budget of a shot is within acceptable limits. BSkyB is expected to begin testing the new technologies to see how they perform in real-world scenarios.

“The stereographer can define the depth budget, and then every camera can be set to be consistent within that budget,” says Schklair, referring to the amount a 3D element will jump off or go inside of a screen. More impressive, he adds, is the ability for the system to change not only the interaxial spacing between the two lenses but also the convergence without having to be manually adjusted.

Both software applications are used in conjunction with 3ality Digital’s processing units and 3flex S3D camera rigs. IntelleCal also uses the 3ality Digital Stereo Image Processor (SIP) and requires an as-yet-unnamed additional processing unit.

Schklair says the move to 3D is in a funny period. With the technology proved out for live 3D sports and other productions, “it’s now down to the business case, and we can help eliminate a serious expense when we can get the number of personnel from 12 to four,” he says. “When these tools can shave $80,000 off of the cost of a shoot and conserve space and [eliminate] the cost for park and power of a second unit we can help make 3D more economical.”