First, props to Fuji for putting this little camera on the market. Almost any venture into the third dimension is a good move in our books, and the price point will surely entice more consumers to delve into this exciting new realm.
But from a technical standpoint, much like the Panasonic AG-3DA1 we tested a few weeks back, the Fuji W3 3D camera just doesn’t compare to the quality we can get from using a two-camera system on either a side-by-side or beam-splitter rig … yet.
Like the Panasonic, I suspect this will improve with time.
But there’s another huge dealbreaker: the Fuji W3 3D buffer only allows you to shoot 12 seconds of video at the highest quality settings – completely inadequate for any professional video applications.
In today’s market I expect a camera that not only shoots high-quality stills, but video as well. So, in the end, we ended up taking the camera back. Even if Fuji increases the image quality, we won’t even consider buying another one until the video recording capacity also increases … drastically.
The bottom line – props to Panasonic and Fuji for blazing some trails … but in the high-end 3D filmmaking world, two is still better than one.
Here’s a more thorough rundown of the camera’s functions, including still photos, courtesy of Sean:
It’s pretty cool that there’s even something like this available for less than $500. Having 3D stills and video in a point-and-shoot, the ability to adjust the convergence, see it instantly on an autostereoscopic display AND fit the whole thing in your pocket is impressive indeed.
However, the quality of the images doesn’t match up to the quality of today’s best 2D compact cameras. Still, I believe this is a major leap forward in terms of making 3D accessible to the masses. The stills quality is definitely acceptable for personal use and web. The autostereoscopic screen is actually quite sharp and effective once you find the sweet spot. The technology is designed so the separate left and right eyes are seen at the same time without any glasses but only from a certain viewing distance and angle.
In this case, the best view is directly in line with the screen, about 30-50cm away. What’s really great about this camera is how it makes 3D believers out of folks not accustomed to watching 3D a lot. At a recent film festival, we shot some pics of guests and we were able to explain the basics of 3D photography with instant results in the users hands. Lots of “wows” and “do that again”. Very cool.
On a technical note, the 75mm inter-axial distance is fine for most average shots but be careful not to get any closer than about 2-3m to your nearest subject or the background will “explode” (Aka: massive divergence). There’s an adapter that use mirrors to effectively reduce the interaxial to about 25mm but we haven’t tried it yet – check it out.
On the downside, the video only shoots 720, not 1080, which is fine for the web but unfortunately the video quality again is not as good as other 2D compact cameras out there. The big heart breaker was that the buffer in the camera only allows a maximum of 12 seconds video when recording at the highest settings. Lame.
Also, there’s no software support for Macintosh which is what we’re all using so I haven’t had a chance to perform any post-production functions. The camera does connect fine to a 3D monitor however it won’t display the saved converged files so you’re not really seeing the proper 3D shots.
I applaud Fuji for packing this all together, especially with the autostereoscopic screen but the video quality, video buffer and interface tools need to be improved big time.
-Your eyes should focus easily and naturally when viewing in stereo. If you are getting headaches or your eyes cannot focus, improper alignment is the cause (DCR tip: Take off your glasses and try to spot an area of high contrast. You may see that a bright spot is a little higher for one eye than the other.)
-When items on screen are glowing or have an unnatural sheen it is due to exposure differences between the two cameras. It could be unmatched exposure or reflection issues with the beam splitter rig.
-Keep an eye open for bright objects. Glints, lens flares and spotlights create more technical issues that have to be considered during stereo capture. Glints off of metal objects can be messy and appear to be a different shape in each eye. Lens flares will “invert” and pull away from the viewer, which can be visually confusing. Spotlights can create star patterns that rotate differently in each eye making it uncomfortable to view.
-Try to determine if there is too much depth onscreen. Some say it is perfectly acceptable for backgrounds to be out of focus. Others maintain that if the viewer cannot easy focus on distant objects there is too much divergence. (DCR tip: Look for distant objects like mountains or spotlights; If the doubled-image of the mountain appears separated by many inches or feet the background is probably too far away.)
And this time they’ll have the chance to actually see it in 3D.
It’s an obvious step – if you’re paying for 3D content chances are you’ll want to check it out at some point before you sign off on the show.
But with this emerging technology, even obvious steps are rarely easy.
So how did we get a cut out for the broadcasters to experience a full color 3DHD explosive demolition from the comfort of their plush office chairs?
First of all, our editor Brian Mann had to make sure all the shots in the cut were 3D legal and correct any colour discrepancies between the two eyes.
To create a comfortable 3D viewing experience, we also monitored the LR convergence throughout the edit.
This made for more work – dealing with issues that either didn’t exist before (converging shots) or that would have been tackled further along in the editing process (for example colour correction after picture lock).
To send this 3D version of the show to our broadcasters, we opted for two different delivery formats: a side-by side 3DHD version of the show on Blu-ray disc and a digital anaglyph SD version.
To create the Blue-ray disc we exported the CineForm 3D file from Final Cut Pro, burned it onto the Blu-ray disc via Adobe Encore that, unlike FCP exporting functions, allowed us to create more professional customized menus and shipped via courier.
Now all you need to view this form is any Blu-ray player (doesn’t have to be 3D) and a 3D-enabled monitor.
The anaglyph version was exported as a .mov file straight from FCP and then uploaded onto our server. It’s a seriously inferior experience, but will still give those who are unfortunate enough to not have a 3DTV handy a way to see it in some version of 3D.
Though you might want to get on that, dear readers. I’d hate to see you live in the flatlands of 2D when the 3D world is just within your reach.
As for the broadcasters … maybe someone should warn them— cause they’re in for quite a ride.
But after seeing the same footage in stereoscopic 3D I just wasn’t satisfied – I wanted to give people with 3D-enabled devices the chance to not only experience the stuff we shot, but to judge its quality for themselves.
So I had my editing team upload a side-by-side version of interior shoot selects to YouTube:
It seemed like a simple plan – put the videos on and set them to 3D.
We managed to get anaglpyh playback working fine, with the correct aspect ratio and eye orientation. We then pushed forward to see if modern stereoscopic 3D methods worked.
They didn’t. When we tried to play the clips using half-width, side-by-side, 3D they were a no go on our JVC GD-463D10U monitor. We tried using both a MacBook Pro with DVI to HDMI and a PS3 with HDMI to HDMI.
We also tried to play three other 3D-enabled videos on YouTube that were uploaded by other people and came up against the same issue. I’ve embedded these at the end of the post if you’ve got 3D-enables gear and would like to give them a go.
What’s going wrong?
From what my team can tell, the problem seems to be that YouTube does not map the pixels properly for TV playback.
A huge caveat – and my call out to the 3D-enabled – this is not to say the YouTube 3D function definitely doesn’t work. It just doesn’t seem to work on the equipment that we have access to – a Mac computer, a PS3, and a passive filter 3DTV.
More equipment than 99.999999 per cent of the world has … but still. Our tests were not exhaustive.
The next move
This setback has put me in a difficult position. YouTube has the potential to offer a free 3D online playback solution that’s more comprehensive than anything else. And I really want to get our stuff on there so people can check it out – especially since more and more consumers are buying 3D-enabled viewing devices.
But YouTube just isn’t working for us. So where do I go from here?
We could host future 3D content on our own web server or perhaps on another web video community like Vimeo, but doing so would seriously cripple our reach. Missing out on YouTube is clearly a doozy when it comes to exposure … it’s one of the top-searched sites in the world.
And there’s another downside: neither our web server or Vimeo offer the ability to toggle between different 3D delivery formats that YouTube (in theory) could. This means we would have to render out and upload many different versions of the same video – more work for my team.
We can do further YouTube tests, and see if we can work around the issues we’ve encountered so far. But this means potentially re-encoding and uploading new videos. It will probably require a great deal of time to invent workarounds, render new files, and upload the new tests – especially since my edit crew also has to meet the demands of film projects that are currently in production.
Also, further testing at this point feels like it could be a gamble. As far as we can tell Google has very limited support for the feature, so our only option is try, and try some more, to see if there is something undocumented that works, or try, and try some more, only to discover that it really doesn’t work after all – at least not yet.
The other option is to abandon YouTube. That means abandoning any desire or investment to attain any of the benefit of having our 3D content on the mega site – at least until the 3D feature becomes more mainstream and (hopefully) functional.
Or finally, the wild card option: you, dear reader, have successfully watched this type of footage on YouTube, have the magic solution to this seriously irritating problem, and can’t wait to share it with us …
There were some hiccups when we first got the software, but we worked out the kinks and it’s been pretty solid ever since.
Now our compositor has added the program to his arsenal – and it’s paying off once again.
Before incorporating CineForm, our VFX team gave our editor ProRes videos. They would then to be transcoded into CineForm files and muxed – two extra steps for our editor for each video every single time.
Now, he can read, write and export CineForm 3D files in Adobe After Effects, and deliver them – already muxed – directly to the editor.
I’ve come across an interesting experiment that captured consumer reaction to the 3DTV experience.
I’ve come across an interesting experiment that captured consumer reaction to the 3DTV experience.
The Nielsen Company invited consumers in Las Vegas, Nevada to watch a 30-minute 3D reel featuring sports, nature, comedy, a music concert, movies and video games and then weigh in on the content.
No surprise – the majority said it was better than 2D. But what’s really interesting is why. They didn’t only like what they saw … they liked how the 3DTV experience made them feel.
Here’s what they found:
-6 out of 10 participants agreed the 3D content was better than their current 2DTV viewing
-48% found 3DTV more engaging
-57% found 3DTV made them ‘feel like they were part of the action’
-48% felt ‘closer to the characters’
These reactions speak to the immersive nature of 3D television. The journey into the third dimension is not only visual – it’s emotional.
For example, our editor Brian Mann and I were checking out a 3D stock footage demo of a waterfall a week or so ago. As I sat in my chair and watched the water flow over the rocks, it was like I was sitting in the middle of a forest right next to it, about to toss a rock into the stream.
I’ve seen a lot of waterfall B roll in my life … but I’ve never felt like that.
More and more people are demanding this superior experience from their home entertainment.
Here’s what the Las Vegas participants wanted to see more of:
Nielsen study: participants were exposed to 30 minutes of 3D content in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Another Nielson survey asked 27,000 online consumers from across 53 countries if they currently owned or will purchase a 3DTV in the next 12 months.
The good news for 3DTV:
-15% ‘probably will purchase’
-9% ‘definitely will purchase’
-4% already own a 3DTV
But there’s a ways to go:
-21% are still undecided
-19% ‘probably won’t purchase’
-33% ‘will definitely not purchase’
Many consumers are still skeptical about 3DTV. It’s a fact. And it’s a fact that we shouldn’t ignore.
But look at how far we’ve come in just a year.
Last January it would have been next to impossible to purchase a 3D TV for your home. Fast forward to the 2010 holiday season, when 3D home entertainment systems popped up in every major electronics store.
And availability isn’t the only thing that’s improving: the technology out there is getting better and cheaper.
What the future holds…
As 3DTV evolution and accessibility continues to grow, so does the opportunity for great storytelling in a whole new dimension.
And the more people who experience how meaningful this experience is, the more momentum 3DTV will gain.
Our editor, Brian Mann, recently came across Artbeats, an online source for royalty-free stock footage in high quality stereoscopic 3D. This type of footage could allow us to fill visual gaps and transition between scenes while keeping the show as 3D as possible.
We tested Artbeats free download of a waterfall in S3D. It looked fantastic and lived up to their promise of high quality 3D stock footage.
Still image of Artbeats waterfall download. View with Red/Cyan glasses for full 3D effect.
3D stock options:
Artbeats’ clips are available in S3D HD and S3D 4K formats. Predominantly, their footage has been shot on RED ONE or RED MS using a stereo rig. There is not an extensive range of categories… yet. Mostly they feature aerials, animals and nature.
On the upside, new content is added monthly and will soon include pyrotechnic, new city scene, establishment, winter scene and additional aerial collections shot on RED Epic cameras using a beam splitter rig.
Metadata provided by Artbeats:
– positive parallax percentage (the customer has the option to position and crop to set convergence)
– interocular separation measurements
– maximum screen display size (anywhere from 42” televisions to 42’ movie screens)
– frame rate (24p, 25p and most in 30p)
– clip length (5-60+ seconds)
What it will cost you:
Prices range from $449-$799 USD for left/right and side-by-side formats. Some rights managed clips have a higher sticker price, so be sure to check the fine print. They also sell the RAW (.R3D) file of a RED clip for an extra $100.
Artbeats is right on the pulse of 3D accessibility. We haven’t purchased anything yet, but we will certainly keep them in mind as we move forward.