The Foundry has announced the development of Ocula, a unique collection of plug-ins providing an armoury of tools that solve common problems with 3D stereoscopic imagery, boost productivity in post production, and ultimately help to deliver a more rewarding 3D-stereo viewing experience.

The new plug-ins, previewed at NAB 2008, are designed to take the headache out of 3D stereo post production by automatically replicating key processes on left and right channels, and to remove headaches from the final viewing experience by providing tools that help artists to polish and refine 3D-stereo material.

The Ocula tools are based on brand new disparity-mapping algorithms, created by The Foundry’s Academy Award-winning R&D team. Disparity maps track and correlate the differences in positional space and movement between corresponding pixels in the left and right cameras, and then deliver pixel-level control over images. Knowing where disparities occur, Ocula tools apply corrections by warping, stretching and squeezing only those areas of an image that require treatment. Image manipulation using disparity maps is different to the X, Y or Z-axis shifting of images, where only whole image planes are being shifted.

Eye, eye

Ocula plug-ins allow artists to apply a multitude of adjustments to stereo image pairs. All corrections can be made to the left and right eye channels either together or separately, and the results of these corrections ultimately help to minimise or eliminate discomfort from the 3D viewing experience.

Users can correct horizontal alignment issues with Ocula’s Interocular Distance Shifter. Using disparity map data, a new ‘virtual’ view is created between the original left and right eye positions, with the result being that objects of different fore, mid and background depths are resolved more accurately for the viewer. This is different to an X-axis shift where only the image plane is moved.

Ocula’s Vertical Aligner will automatically attempt to vertically align corresponding image features in each view, to minimize or eliminate the effect known as ‘key-stoning’. This is not a single Y-shift for the whole image – with disparity mapping the correction varies across the entire image.

A key feature of Ocula plug-ins is the dramatic reduction in the amount of manual labour required when artists undertake rotoscoping work, paint effects or other operations dependent on image locality. Many position-dependent image manipulations can now be applied to just one eye with paint strokes, keyframed roto masks, and the like being automatically generated for the other eye, substantially improving productivity.

Nuke 5 is currently the only visual effects compositing system with an embedded 3D stereoscopic workflow, where left and right eye channels can be manipulated separately or together. Ocula plug-ins will be available for the next point release of Nuke, version 5.1, expected to be July 2008.