The film industry has been a cornerstone of entertainment in this country, and truly around the world, for around one hundred years now. While storytelling hasn’t changed that much since the time of “The Iliad”, the methods of bringing those stories to an audience has varied wildly as technology improves. The addition of sound completely transformed the movie-going experience, as did the appearance of color. Special effects and computer generated images have taken away most of the boundaries of filmmaking, and have generally been accepted as a welcome addition to the storyteller’s toolkit. But one technological advancement has created as much controversy as enjoyment, and that is 3D. 3D technology has been around for decades now, and has significantly improved in recent years. But debates rage on about whether 3D actually improves a film, or distracts the director and cinematographer from what they should be focusing on. Well, for those fans of 3D out there, it seems like the next iteration of that technology is right around the corner, and should improve things significantly.
One of the issues people have with 3D at the movie theater, and at home, now that we have native 3D HDTVs in the living room, is the requirement of wearing glasses to make the image work. They can be uncomfortable and silly looking, and can cause headaches and eye strain if they aren’t properly constructed. The glasses have until now been a key aspect of the process. At the theater, the film travels to the screen from two completely separate projectors. Those projectors are playing different versions of the film, one for your left eye and one for your right. The glasses marry those images into one, creating the incredible depth of the 3D experience.
So how can you forgo the glasses? Most experts thought that while possible, it was impractical for the theatrical experience, as it would require mounting an additional projector behind the screen. That would be prohibitively costly for most theaters, essentially making it impossible. However, a team of researchers working in South Korea has been attempting to find a solution to this issue, and they’re getting quite close.
According to a recent report on their experimentation, the new method they are creating would use a sort of optical technology that already exists. The theater would keep the two projectors where they are in the booth, but add a unique array in front of each projector. The array would polarize the projected light. Then a slatted filter would be placed over the theater screen. Your naked eye would see parts of the screen as blocked, until the projectors are turned on. Then the projector would show the film with a different structure than current 3D. The images designed for each individual eye are layered in a column, as if the projectors are constructing a sandwich of digital information. The light that projects clearly to your left eye would contain the content for the left side projector, and the same goes for the right eye and right projector.
It would take a much different processing of the finished film to make it work, but perhaps losing the required glasses would push 3D filmmaking over the top, truly making it the norm instead of the curiosity that it still is. And movie-goers who wear glasses would no longer have to deal with those clunky 3D frames over the top of their own. It’s an interesting theory, and should certainly get a great deal of attention in Hollywood once the technology hits American shores.