Why Is There So Much Hype About 3D Imaging?

Coverof6SightReportPHOTOGRAPHERS. If you want to better understand why there’s so much hype about 3D imaging, download the November/December, 2010 issue of The 6Sight Report. Most of the content of the 30-page issue is devoted to 3D imaging technology, and explains why it’s definitely not a passing fad. Reading the 6Sight Report will give you some valuable context as you start to see more and more product announcements related to 3D imaging.

Although sales of 3D TVs haven’t taken off as quickly as anticipated, one analyst quoted in the 6Sight Report predicts that, “It’s going to be a gradual development, and in 10 years almost everything will be in 3D. It won’t be a big special effect; it’s going to be how we’re used to seeing everything on television.”

6Sight analysts agree that eventually most photography and video will be in three dimensions, not two. Although we have become comfortable with flat images in print and onscreen, we view the world in 3D through two eyes, instead of one lens. As one expert put it, “All flat photography is just a poor attempt to emulate natural perception.”

Slowly but surely, image capture and display devices are being developed that will make viewing 3D images more natural and enjoyable to view. And 3D imaging on big TV screens will provide an immersive environment that everyone on the family can enjoy together.

Vincent John Vincent, who cofounded the GestureTek company that makes 3D camera-based motion control systems for electronic devices, notes that, “It’s not as if we’re going to get 3D to a certain level and then back off. It will eventually be commonplace to have 3D consumer devices for both photography and video…It’s worth learning about it now and adding one’s own artistic understanding to it.”

Opportunities for Professional Photographers

In the 6Sight Report, Paul Worthington interviews Panasonic senior marketing manager Darin People about the company’s growing line of 3D cameras, camcorders, and displays, including the prospects of using special 3D lens systems on cameras and camcorders.

Darin People notes that some professional wedding and commercial photographers are already starting to see the advantages of being able to not only take still pictures but also 3D pictures for their clients.

For now, wedding photographers can differentiate themselves by being able to shoot 3D video for clients that already own a 3D TV set.  But wedding photographers also need to think long term. In order to shoot images and videos that a couple can fully enjoy for decades to come, wedding photographers should start investigating 3D cameras now.

As 3D photography starts to become ‘point-and-shoot’ simple, more photographers will think of new and interesting ways to use the camera. Darin People says Panasonic will take a close look at what consumers are saying and what highly creative individuals are doing with 3D technology and try to figure out: “What are the new things that people want to do with 3D that maybe we haven’t even thought of yet?”

Content Creation

Although sales of 3D TVs haven’t exactly set sales records, experts agree that one of the main impediments has been the lack of compelling content. But over the next few years, the technology and available content will improve and prices will come down.

A number of companies have already waiting to fill the content void. For example, the website SignOn San Diego recently profiled Legend3D, a company that specializes in converting film scenes from 2D to 3D. The company anticipates that it’s only a matter of time before entire libraries of Hollywood films will be converted from 2D to 3D. Legend3D founder Barry Sandrew is quoted as saying, “The technology semi-automates the process, but there has to be a creative person there watching over it and doing it.” Over the coming year, he expects to hire another 150 workers in San Diego and 300 more in India.

 See 3D Prints at Upcoming Wedding Photography Show

The professional wedding and portait photographers who are planning to attend the WPPI Show Feb. 21-23 in Las Vegas will be able to see 3D prints in the 3DPhotoUS booth. The company will be showcasing some of the personalized 3D wedding and portrait prints that they can now offer to their customers. The prints can be made from uploaded JPEG files; a 3D camera isn’t necessary.

According to the company’s website, you won’t need any glasses to see the 3D effects in the wall prints. Nor will the prints be covered by a grooved, lenticular lens that adds an uneven surface to the print. Instead, the prints have a mirror-like surface that uses backlighting to enhance the 3D effects. The company, which has a showroom in the Los Angeles area, will be using a newly developed process to make the prints in their factories in China and Taiwan.

Don’t Bet Against 3D

Personally, I have seen this cycle play out before. When the first generations of digital cameras were introduced in 1990s, many skeptical experts scoffed that those early-model cameras could never possibly be good enough to replace pro-model film cameras. Yet, look how far digital photography has come since then. And, many journalists who attended Adobe press conference announcing the PDF format were very skeptical that Adobe’s innovation would ever become as widely adopted as Adobe envisioned.  

Last fall, I attended a Canon Expo in New York, in which the company’s engineers and scientists demonstrated some of the mixed-reality and immersive 3D imaging technologies that are being developed.  As I wandered through these mind-blowing “Future of Imaging” exhibits, three thoughts kept crossing my mind:

  • The engineers and scientists who develop the technology are just as proud and passionate about their work as photographers, designers, artists, and writers.
  • Even if new imaging technologies don’t get adopted as quickly as analysts and manufacturers might predict, the researchers will find ways to overcome the obstacles to widespread adoption.  
  • I can’t wait to see what will happen when photographers, designers, visual artists, and content creators start dreaming up creative new ways to fully use these 3D-imaging technologies.

LINK

6Sight Report: November/December, 2010 issue

Google Art Project Lets You Visit Museums in Nine Countries

ARTISTS. On Feb. 1, Google unveiled the Art Project. It enables people around the world to discover and view more than 1,000 artworks online in extraordinary detail. For example, the image shown below is a close-up of Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” as you can view it on the Art Project page for the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). When you visit the page, you can also see a MoMA-produced video featuring visitors’ comments on the paintings.

Google Art Project Close Up of Van Gogh's

MoMA is one of the 17 art museums from nine countries that have collaborated with Google over the past 18 months to launch the Art Project. The project will enable anyone around the world to take virtual tours inside the museums’ galleries and learn about the history and artists behind many of the world’s most valuable works.  

I’m writing about the Google Art Project here, because it’s further evidence of how advances in imaging technology are changing the way art will be viewed and shared in the future. This introductory project just hints at what will be possible in the years ahead.  

Some imaging professionals have already established new careers for themselves by helping museums create very detailed, high-resolution, color-accurate scans of valuable artworks for their archives. 

 By using the latest image-capture and assembly tools, the Google Art Project is going one step further. The project gives us online access to images with super-high ‘gigapixel’ resolutions. Some images of the artworks contain around 7 billion pixels, which is why you can pan around some paintings and zoom in to see brushstroke-level detail from a vantage point that was previously only seen by art restorers.  

To get started, go to the Google Art Project home page (www.googleartproject.com) and choose which museum you’d like to “visit.” Then, choose either the “Explore the Museum” or “View Artwork” option.

The 17 participating museums are located in 11 cities in 9 countries:

  • The Frick Collection (New York)
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York)
  • The Museum of Modern Art (New York)
  • Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian (Washington, DC)
  • National Gallery (London, UK)
  • Tate Britain (London, UK)
  • Museo Reina Sofia (Madrid, Spain)
  • Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (Madrid, Spain)
  • Alte Nationalgalerie (Berlin, Germany)
  • Gemaldegalerie (Berlin, Germany)
  • Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
  • Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) 
  • The State Hermitage Museum (St. Petersburg, Russia)
  • State Tretyakov Gallery (Moscow, Russia)
  • Palace of Versailles (France)
  • Uffizi Gallery (Florence, Italy)
  • Museum Kampa (Prague, Czech Republic)

 

Explore
The “Explore” option uses Google Street View technology to let you explore a museum gallery the way you would use the Street View in Google Maps.  A specially designed Street View “trolley” (below) took 360-degree images of the interiors of 385 selected galleries within the museums.

These images were then stitched together into “panoramas” that enable smooth navigation of each room.  Some paintings on the walls appear blurred. In most cases, that’s because the museum does not own the copyright to those images. 

View and Learn
Each of the 17 museums selected one artwork to be photographed at super-high resolution with ‘gigapixel’ photo-capturing technology. The captures are so detailed, you can study details of the brushwork and patina beyond what is possible with the naked eye.

In addition, the museums provided high-resolution images for more than 1,000 works of art. When used with the Google Art Project’s custom-built zoom viewer, you can discover minute aspects of paintings you might never have seen up close before, such as the miniaturized people in the river of El Greco’s “View of Toledo” or individual dots in Seurat’s “Grandcamp Evening.”  

You can learn more about each art work through the Google Scholar, Google Docs, and YouTube video links provided with each sidebar info panel.  

Each museum chose which collections to feature and what type of information to share about each piece. They also recommended which angles should be used during the image-capture process.

Collect and Share
If you have a Google account, you can save specific views of any of the artworks to build your collections. Comments can be added to each painting and the whole collection can then be shared with friends, family, or fellow art students. The integrated Goog.gl URL shortener can be used to share unique links to your collections via email or other web services.  

What’s Next?
Now that the project has been introduced, it will be interesting to gauge the public’s reaction. According to Google, “The project you see today is the very first incarnation, and we may well add more artworks and new rooms in the future.”

The Art Project was initiated by a group of Google employees who were passionate about making art more accessible online.  Amit Sood, the Google employee who heads the Art Project, believes they have created “what we hope will be a fascinating resource for art lovers, students, and casual museum-goers alike—inspiring them to one day visit the real thing.”

Many of the participating museums feel the same way. As Thomas Campbell, director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art puts it, “The Google Art Project coincides with a variety of Met initiatives that demystify the museum through digital means by sharing our collections and ongoing work with a broader online public around the world. Most important, these projects encourage people to visit museums and come face-to-face with great works of art.”

Dr. Nicholas Penny, director of the National Gallery, believes, “The Google Art Project is a powerful example of how digital technology can help art institutions work in partnership to reach out globally to new audiences and enable works of art to be explored in depth and with stunning clarity.”

LINK

www.googleartproject.com

VIDEO

The Google Art Project

Tablet Computers Are Here to Stay

More than 80 suppliers introduced tablet computers at the 2010 Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Illustration: SF Chronicle

For some reason, I like reading statistics that predict how fast certain markets for various types of technology will grow. With all of the media hype that surrounds hot-selling new products such as the iPad, it’s easy to lose sight of how long it might actually take for significant disruptive shifts in to occur in the market.

As creative professionals, the question we need to consider is: How long will it take for this hot new technology to “cross the chasm” from the relatively small pool of early adopters and evangelists to the large bulk of mainstream users?

According to a Content Insider report I received from PR pro Andy Marken, tablet computers will indeed be everywhere in the years ahead. He describes tablets as “the third screen” for business and personal computing, effectively filling a gap that supposedly was going to be filled by the heavily hyped netbook computers.

At the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Andy reports that more than 80 new tablet computers were introduced. With a few exceptions, he says most looked like flimsy knock-offs. Plus, the tablets all featured different mixes of functionality.

Although prices for non-Apple tablets are expected to fall below $500 by the end of the first quarter of 2011, the challenge for consumers who want to buy a tablet right now will be to determine which companies will survive the inevitable consolidation. Although the market for media tablets is expected to grow quickly, it probably won’t be nearly big enough to support so many different models.

Here are a few other clarifying tidbits gleaned from Andy’s report.

  • Tablets fill the gap between smartphones, which have 4-inch screens, and notebook computers that have 13 to 15-inch screens.
  • Tablets are not a new category. They have been around for awhile (either as tablet PCs or eReaders), but Apple caused interest in tablets to soar by introducing a new type of tablet computer, called the “media tablet.”
  • Media tablets are distinguished by their color displays (5- to 14-inch screens), touchscreen interfaces, mobile operating systems, longer battery life, and WiFi or cellular connectivity.
  • In 2010, 82.6% of the media tablets sold used Apple’s iOS. The others used Android. Analysts expect that the operating system spectrum will grow this year, but that Apple will continue to dominate.
  • In 2010, 581.5 million portable devices were sold worldwide. Of these, 52% were smart phones, 38.9% were notebook computers, and 3.2% were media tablets. The other 5.9% were other types of connected devices.
  • All of the mobile device categories will expand over the next few years. By 2014, analysts at IDC expect 1.07 billion portable devices to be sold worldwide, with media tablets accounting for 10.4% of that number compared to 49.2% for smart phones and 36.7% for notebooks.
  • Initial buyers of media tablets are encountering issues similar to those experienced by the first buyers of netbook computers: they can’t do everything you need for daily work. For example, media tablets may be great for web surfing, showing photos and presentations, or taking notes at meetings. But media tablets aren’t your best choice for producing PowerPoint presentations, editing photos, typing documents, making calls, reading books, or holding large volumes of materials needed for business or school.
  • The media tablet won’t replace other devices, but will become one more device you carry and use regularly. For example, in your backpack, you find yourself toting around four devices: a smart phone, media tablet, notebook computer, and eReader.
  • Have you noticed? People use media tablets differently than other portable devices. Most of us keep our smartphones close, even when showing photos or videos. Notebook users also hold onto their devices, even when turning it around to show you a PowerPoint presentation or slideshow. But people will gladly shove their media tablet into your hands so you can hold it yourself while browsing through photos, playing a game, or watching a video.

Thanks, Andy for sharing your insights through The Content Insider reports. I met Andy Marken at the Seybold San Francisco Conferences in the late 1990s when the dot.com boom was in full swing. So many wild, new technology concepts were being introduced at those conferences, it made my head spin. As a specialist in PR for technology firms, Andy always understood the value of providing clarity and perspective first.

Chart showing growth of media tablets, tablet PCs, and mini-notebooks
IDC’s growth projections for media and tablet PCs are attracting a slew of device manufacturers.