Briefly, about 50 years ago, Hollywood thought that 3D movies would be the norm. Aside from some gimmicks with glasses, it didn't happen--but it might be an option today with DVD.
DDD Group PLC has released the TriDef DVD Player, with software that purports to turn any DVD into a 3D movie. (DDD stands for Dynamic Digital Depth). This WinDVD add-on will convert conventional, two-dimensional video into 3D on the fly. DDD won't sell the software itself, but hopes to license it to manufacturers of 3D notebooks - specifically 3D notebooks that don't require special glasses.
Only Sharp currently sells such a notebook in the UK. The company's Actius RD3D avoids requiring users to wear the glasses usually associated with 3D presentations by employing what it calls a "parallel barrier" to angle each image appropriately to each eye.
License for Depth
Sharp and NEC (which sells a 3D display of its own, but exclusively in Japan) already license DDD software for showing 3D DVDs, primarily from NWave Pictures, a producer of Imax and other special-venue films.
DDD is negotiating with other vendors and hopes that 3D notebooks will start shipping with the TriDef DVD Player as early as the end of this year.
The new player, which DDD hopes to license to Sharp, NEC, and other companies, doesn't require the movie to be filmed in 3D to show it that way. The software examines the picture, assigns a depth level to each pixel, and creates left and right video streams. DDD has offered this technology before, but only recently has hardware performance improved enough to make it practical in a real-time situation.
Work in Progress
How well does it work? According to chief technology officer Phil Harman, "The initial reaction of most customers when they see the results...is to remove the [disc] and check that it really is a store-bought DVD."
But the result isn't quite like viewing something truly filmed in 3D. Most of the 3D effects are "from the screen backwards, (with) no off-the-screen effects," Harman says. This could be a disappointment to aficionados of 1950s guilty-pleasure flicks, who know that the whole point of watching a 3D movie is to see various objects (mostly monsters) popping out of the screen.
Of course, as Ted Turner discovered with colorization, adding something to a movie that wasn't there to begin with can be tricky. Even if it works well, some folks may consider artificial 3D undesirable.
This isn't DDD's first foray into 3D technology. In 2001 it introduced the OpticBoom 3D browser plug-in, which did rely on 3D glasses to turn Web-based QuickTime movies into three-dimensional ones.