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SIGGRAPH, Los Angeles California, August 11-15 2008 is a premiere event in the computing arts programme with more than 30,000 attendees. Terri Dentry went along to see what was new this year and found the stand out programme to literally be standing out of the screen – in stereoscopic 3D that is.
Header images: "l'homme tete de poule" Annabel Sebag, "Mauvais Role" Frederic Fourier, "Fighting Infection by Clonal Infection" Etsuko Uno, "Oktopodi" Eric Riewer, "Wanderlust" Damijan Saccio
Original publication: Desktop Magazine 2008
Republished with permission
If SIGGRAPH’s mantle is to serve up the best and brightest in CG innovation then it didn’t disappoint with the addition of a Stereoscopic (S-3D) selection in this year’s Computer Animation Festival (CAF) line up. With little recognition of this explosion in the industry other than a table or two in the exhibition hall last year, this year CAF handed over a full two day programme to S-3D including presentations and screenings delivered to full house auditoriums with estimated numbers of 1000 and up at each session.

Real-D partnered with SIGGRAPH to provide the technology used to accompany all the presentations included in the S-3D track, which included a half day of 3D primer presentations, some fascinating topics on 3D usage in science and research, a 3D gaming exploration, and a look into the future with 3D TV.

The showpiece of the programme was the 3D Screenings session: A Visual Odyssey, which brought together nearly 2 hours of demonstration pieces of S-3D footage either in production or recent release from the major studios. The surprise of the night was just how many studio’s were represented – Disney, Dreamworks, Pixar, National Geographic, New Line Cinema, and Sony were all there, together with the new powerhouse 3D studios like 3ality. A total 22 studios at my count (scribbled in the dark with 3D glasses on), with at least double that number of productions on show. The stand out was Laika’s new stop motion animated feature “Coraline”. Having now seen several minutes of this production in both 2D and 3D I have to say that while the 2D version is both beautiful and mesmorising, it’s the 3D version that is an incredible piece of cinematic mastery. A must see when it releases in April 09.

Although stereoscopic cinema actually began in 1838, the first two generations of 3D cinema are attributed to the release of Arch Oboler's African adventure film, Bwana Devil in 1952, filmed in "Natural Vision" 3-D (horizontally and vertically polarised filters), and the anaglyph 3D format we all know from childhood that uses the red and blue (green) specs, still being developed as Dolby vision.

These two generations of 3D movies have had little impact on moviegoers. The technology is plagued with problems such as ghosting and the subsequent heavy eyewear developed to try to combat this problem, which led to eye fatigue and headaches. Then in early 2007 a seachange took place. The animated feature “Chicken Little” caught the industry by surprise. It played on 2D screens and 3D screens at the same time. The 3D version cost 25% more to see, yet it made almost 200% more money. “What made the difference this time around is the technology in projectors and glasses. The projectors no longer use film, and the glasses no longer use red and green lenses.” says Richard Heart, Next Step 3D.

The new age digital projectors use a single lens to alternate between the left and right image. So registration is perfect. You still need special glasses, but those can be featherweight with no need for batteries, because a digital projector can play with polarization and colors.

Real-D (technology) and 3ality (content) teamed up to produce one of this years phenomenal success stories of the 3D stage – U2 3D –a documentary of the band’s live performance on their 2006 Vertigo tour, which also screened at the Siggraph showcase. Catherine Owen, one of the co-directors, provided some insight into the making of this virtual reality concert in her keynote presentation. You don’t have to be a U2 fan to appreciate the change this phenomenon will make to major touring performances. The 3D presentation was more immersive than any concert goer could hope for, with the audience believing they are up on stage with Bono and The Edge while the mosh pit beats in rhythmic waves before you. A trip to IMAX seals the deal on this one, with the wrap around screens taking you even further into the concert reality.

Topping off the 3D session was the first ever demonstration of true 3D gaming on professional Real-D projection equipment using LLC stereoscopic drivers jointly presented by Neil Schneider, CEO of Meant to be Seen and Mark Rein, VP and Co-Founder of Epic Games. Lenny Lipton, CTO of Real-D, said after the demonstration “"Stereoscopic gaming is inevitable. It's not so much a question of added realism or emersion, terms that I find too nebulous to define. Stereoscopic 3D gaming is more fun - that's why it's here to stay."

Terri Dentry is an independent film journalist, animation producer, and the Director of thinkRED film & media in Melbourne, Australia.

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Chin Chang, Taiwan, "Heavy Duty"
Tina Ohrmacht, Germany, "Family Portrait"
Frederic Foureir, France, "Mauvais Role"
Annabel Sebag, France, "l'homme a tete de poule"
Oren Robaskin, USA, "Now look at what you did"
Keith Huggins, USA, "Team Fortress 2: Meet the Engineer"
Makoto Yabuki, Japan, "Confine(s)"
Ken Anjyo, Japan, "One Pair"
Damijan Saccio, USA, "Wunderlust" Music and Video for Bjork
Eric Riewer, France, "Oktapodi"
Etsuko Uno, Australia, "Fighting Infection by Clonal Infection"
Annabel Sebag, France, "Quand revient la mousson"