How Pseudo Stereo can ruin the 3D@home TV experience.

Depth perception cues

What is Pseudo Stereoscopic 3D?

There’s many forms of pseudo stereo, some can say that 2D images converted to represent stereoscopically captured 3D, is pseudo 3d, but in context to this article, we take a look at a far more damaging incarnation of Pseudo Stereo.

As an analogy, (which might not be the best example) take a look at the image above, although it’s an optical illusion, it adequately demonstrates what Pseudo Stereoscopic 3D looks like in a 3D movie. Can we establish from the picture above, what was meant to be in front? the Pillar like “heads” column, while the side skulls form the background? or is it the other way around? Are the two side skull like faces supposed to be in front and the head pillar at the back?

The next time you watch a Stereo 3D movie, invert the 3D glasses and view for a couple of minutes. Chances are you will still see the scene in 3D, and may find nothing unusual, but something seems to nag the brain that the scene “looks” wrong. Of course an experienced stereographer will instantly within the matter of a second know that the stereo has been inverted. This is not so apparent to end viewers, and even some artists currently working on stereoscopic 3D movies themselves.

After I noticed and pointed out some pseudo stereo scenes in a few recent Hollywood movies, the whole issue of pseudo stereo and 3D televisions came to mind.

Depending on a scene, things may just look “right”, but on closer observation you will notice some parts of far away objects protruding in front, for example distant branches of trees being pulled forward, or a mountain peak poking through when it should not be.

Just Don’t press it!

3D TVs with Pseudo 2D to 3D buttons:

The biggest mistake, I feel that consumer manufacturers of Stereoscopic 3DTVs are making today is putting in a 2D to 3D “button” on the television sets. Un-suspecting audiences, from everyday consumers, to even media professionals do not know that there is currently NO way as of today to automatically convert 2D material to 3D.

While there are arguments that “advanced algorithms” are at work to do all the conversion in realtime and these have now been embedded in silicon chips, some facts below should help question the marketing gimmick-like approach that realtime conversion technology is being sold today.

1) If 3DTVs can currently convert any 2D material to supposedly “watchable” 3D, how come Hollywood 2D to 3D movie conversions cost in excess of a few million US Dollars per movie?

2) So called “professional 2D to 3D” real time converters are even being employed at high profile live events. Below are a few screen grabs from this 3D output as recently employed during the FiFa Worldcup. You be the judge of the 3D ‘effectiveness’.

Flat 2D to 3D realtime conversion (Anaglyph glasses needed. Click for larger)

3) Just as there is human intelligence involved in 2D to 3D conversion of movies currently, there is no denying that computers can speed up repetitive tasks in the field of conversion.

Automated 2D to 3D converters are built on algorithms and programmed to follow rules in realtime to ascertain facts and employ techniques such as the time parallax (Pulfrich effect) to extract a 3D view from a 2D scene with movement. Other logic programmed in, is that if something is moving at a faster speed it is assumed to be in front of other things, yet other logic built into automated 2D to 3D realtime conversion technology takes a look at Luminosity of a scene, geometric mapping to simulate “roundness” and give the scene a 3D like “feel”.

Wrong depth assigned to objects by realtime 2D to 3D conversion (click for larger)

The image above shows an example of how even this can fall flat. This conversion is from a 2D version of the Avatar movie trailer. You can see how the helicopter has Pseudo 3D depth compared to the mountains.

This is what would happen in an automated 2D to 3D conversion if the 2D-to-3D “button” was pressed on a 3D Television. There is no way for the computer to know at what depth the helicopter should be composited at in relationship to the scene. Thus the helicopter would be wrongly composited in 3D behind the big mountain, when it should be in front.

Why equip 3DTelevisions with a Pseudo 3D Button?

It’s no secret why a 2D to 3D button exists on today’s 3D Television sets, as well as why even some Set top boxes are coming onto market claiming 2D to 3D real-time capability.  The top most reason is to entice people to buy 3DTVs even though content is not in abundance today.

The plea we would like to make, is instead of producing and feeding people pseudo stereo content, do away with the current “exclusive deals” for 3D Blue Ray bundles for only certain 3D TVs, and open up the market to fair practices. This will spread the early adoption of 3D Televisions.

User driven content in 3D will feed the need for 3D content, with a myriad number of consumer 3D Cameras now out from mainstream manufacturers such as the Sony 3D Prosumer cameras, models from JVC, Pansonic, Fuji and more.

Depth and motor skill mismatch by Pseudo Stereo vision

The Damage that Pseudo Stereo is capable of:

While manufacturers may not be concerned about things like Pseudo Stereo 3D, and the only warnings that they do issue are about Shutter glasses capable of triggering epileptic seizures in some individuals, and to not use the 3D glasses as sunglasses… one thing worth considering, no matter how far fetched the thought may be, is this:

What if a child is exposed to long durations of Pseudo Stereo 3D Television generated content, where there is bad differentiation between foreground and background elements in a scene, could this way of depth processing of binocular stereoscopic 3D cues by the brain follow through to real life?

Consider this child at a real life location, say in a mall, with a steep exposed ledge, and depending on his/her field of view, visually processing pseudo 3D cues and concluding that a barrier/banister  on the far side and across the ledge, is actually closer to him and thereby walking over to the edge of such a ledge.

As mentioned, this may be a far fetched thought, but I won’t be convinced that i’m wrong in my thinking until a study proves me so.