Thursday, January 21, 2010

3-D Cinema witout digital?

As I've written before, 3-D has come to be seen as the savior of the theatrical motion picture business, and potentially, the consumer electronics business as well. When you go into a movie theater to watch a 3-D movie, it's being projected by a digital projector. Digital projectors have a lot of advantages in picture quality (especially maintaining picture quality over time vs. a deteriorating film print), but they're very expensive (up to $150,000 for the highest resolution and most powerful projectors.) Meanwhile, there are tens of thousands of perfectly usable 35mm film projectors out there that are useless for 3-D. According to EE Times, Oculus3D is trying to rescue those analog projectors from premature retirement.

The Oculus3D system was co-developed by Lenny Lipton, the former Chief Technical Officer of RealD, the leader in theater 3-D projection systems. The Oculus3D system requires special processing of the final digital intermediates prior to creating the master negative for striking positive motion picture prints. Once that's done, the film is processed and handled identically to any other 35mm print.

Movies made with Oculus3D are printed with the left-eye view rotated 90 degrees in the left side of the 35mm frame and the right-eye view rotated 270 degrees in the right side of the frame. The Oculus3D system rotates the two images to zero degrees, polarizes and overlaps them so that they can be viewed properly with 3-D glasses. The Oculus3D projector lens will cost around $25,000. Inexpensive passive 3-D lenses are used with the system, and obviously, motion picture exhibitors can charge the same premium for tickets with the Oculus3D system that they charge today for 3-D from digital projectors. However, the equipment cost can be paid back five times faster with Oculus3D.

If Oculus3D performs competitively to digital projection systems, not only could 3-D be viable in far more theaters, but new life could be breathed into the film manufacturing and processing industries.

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