image (c) (modified)

Why Stereoscopic 3D is important to your Media Career:

Unless you’ve been living in a media cocoon for the past 3 years, chances are you will have noticed that “3D” is rapidly becoming a household name (as it was in the 50s and 80’s).

The difference is, that this time around, Technology has become better and more affordable to make it a widespread reality. There is no denying that the primary motivation for pushing 3D is business! Business for the Cinemas, business for TV manufacturers and Business for the whole Professional and Consumer electronics eco-system (Cameras, 3D gaming consoles, Homevideos, cell phones).

If almost every aspect of electronic visual communication (media) is, or soon going to be in 3D, isn’t it time that the stalwarts in the media industry start to learn this new medium of visual communication?

The Big Question: WHY 3D?

The short answer: We see with our eyes, in stereoscopic 3D. Therefore shouldn’t the world be represented visually in electronic form, in S3D?

A more realistic answer would be, that by capturing images (photos, videos) the same way as our eyes see the real world, we are future proofing the content, even if, for such time when 3D TV systems are glasses free and no one has to wear those 3d glasses. 3D could even be in the form of Holography or some other such technology. By capturing with two electronic “eyes” we are then free to extract dimensional information and adapt it to any of the foreseeable display technologies that may come.

Will everything be in 3D? Certainly not. 3D is best enjoyed in short doses. Do we watch 2D TV all day?

Future Proofing your Media Career with Stereoscopic 3D:

1) AD Agencies and Brand Marketers:

Consider this; People go to watch a 3D movie in a Cinema, and before the movie starts there are at least 5 ad films/promos playing in 3D. That’s approx 3 to 5 minutes of “branded” 3D that the audience is watching. What happens if these AD films are badly made by production houses that have just jumped on the 3D bandwagon? It is the duty of the AD agency creative department to know bad from good S3D.

After all, a badly done 2D ad film is just a badly done 2D film. An S3D version may lead to physical audience sickness and be damaging to the brand!

2) Film and Video Editors:

After sleeping on the subject for a while, most Video Editing software now has support for stereoscopic 3D editing. Yet it seems many Editors are still lagging behind with “2D thinking” and thus not able to cope with 3D workflows. A good deal of new learning has to be done, and should be done, when editing 3D material. With technology becoming faster and affordable, the whole concept of offline/online editing needs a re-visit.

For instance, doing a “rough cut” of 3D material in 2D is a complete waste of time, as the sequences may not fit together when viewed in S3D (3D Jump cuts, extreme parallax etc) Techniques such as Depth ramping, geometry correction and more are what video editors need to get up to speed with. This ensures that they are sought after in the new media production world.


3) Art Department and Set Designers:

Color, light and Texture play an important role in production of S3D content. For instance, choosing the right texture for the suit of an actor is important. In the movie Transformers 3D, there is a noticeable “sheen” on the black suits of the actors. This is due to the peculiarities of the 3D mirror-rig used. Planning for hi-contrast scenes with a clued in Art Department will ensure that careers in this field are secured and in high demand for at least a few years more.

4) Colorists and Graphic Designers:

A good colorist can sometimes save a Stereoscopic 3D scene that would otherwise be unusable for various reasons (too much background parallax, retinal rivalry etc). These are terms and concepts that no doubt a 2D colorist will be un-familiar with. Yet when grading stereoscopic 3D material, these procedures and workflows are very much the order of the day. To future proof a career as a colorist, it makes sense to update one’s knowledge to include an understanding of stereoscopic 3D grading.

Graphic Designers need to know the concepts of Depth budget, pseudo stereo3D, color and contrast that may affect 3D presentation and what negative and positive parallax is.

5) Animators, Compositors and VFX artists:

Some of the best Stereoscopic 3D content is CGI (computer generated imagery). This is no doubt because of the infinite control available to the creator/animator over all aspects from camera, lighting to art design. Yet many institutions teaching 3D animation and Cell animation are still lagging behind with no modules on stereoscopic 3D production.

All the rules and guidelines for live action S3D production hold true for Animation.

Compositors and VFX artists need to learn workflows for rotoscopy in S3D. Why is this somewhat different? because in S3D a rotomask will have a different perspective for left and right eye etc. New compositing and VFX software help in this regard, however these software and algorithms are in a constant state of evolution.

The professional who keeps up to date, and does not shy away from experimentation is the person who will be future proofing his/her career.

6) Live Broadcast Production Department:

Does an online editor/executive producer at the helm of an 8 camera live setup know how to switch between camera feeds in S3D? The pressure of Live production gets a bit more when dealing with an S3D setup. Learning the ropes in stereoscopic 3D live production is well worth the effort (depth matching between cameras, issuing instructions to “B” unit to get ready to go live, while suggesting a convergence value etc. This takes practice, but with more live events being recorded and broadcast in 3D (Olympics, Football, Concerts)…. this is one career that can be future proofed.

Camera operators and “convergence pullers” should update themselves on what “framing for 3D” is. Typical rules of frame composition while looking good in the 2D viewfinder or onboard camera monitor can yield a S3D “frame” with window violations, excessive positive parallax and more.

In 3D it’s not called a frame anymore, but more a “window” and a “volume” that’s being captured.


So who is this article aimed at? Primarily at professionals who are jaded with years of “Standardized” workflows in media production, and who find it hard to come to terms with the new converged world of Broadcast TV, Cinema and Handheld Televisions (cellphones).

Meanwhile, the new fresh breed of media professionals graduating from media institutions, by default already use and are familiar with such platforms.

More importantly the new generation of media professionals are used to sifting thru and distilling HUGE amounts of information at their finger-tips. They do not shy away from using a combination of technology and creativity. They already have 3d cameras in phones, in their gaming devices and in Schools. Their exposure to 3D is at foundation level.

The ageing (read 35+) group of media professionals can use S3D the same way as Manufacturers and Cinemas have… As a new MEDIA BUSINESS opportunity…

Remember: When you learn a new skill…you CREATE the market for it.