These days, it’s all about 3D. New VR headsets are making headlines, virtual reality games are pulling us in from the screen and you pretty much won’t be that excited about going out for a movie – unless it’s 3D was at IMAX. We all understand what the hype is about: 3D gives us full immersion, intensity, brings us along on an adventure and simply gives us a visual experience that can not be compared to seeing the world flat.
What makes us see a car chase come to life in a 3D movie and how come watching a roller coaster ride in a VR headset actually leaves us feeling dizzy as if we were actually there? Is it an illusion? The way our brain works? Or the complicated tech that fills your VR headset?
In order to see things in 3D on your TV or mobile screen, each eye needs to see the image from a slightly different perspective. This is known as stereoscopy. Stereoscopy refers to the way your eyes and brain work together to actually create that impression of things being in 3D. Here’s how it goes. Your eyes are about 2-3 inches apart and, in the real world, each of your eyes, actually, sees the world a bit differently. Not sure what we mean?
See the difference? Sure, the difference is not that big – the images are just slightly offset. But that’s enough. When these two slightly different images enter your brain, it makes up for the disparity, essentially, creating that very 3D effect. This is what all the fancy 3D tech is essentially recreating – feeding each of your eyes a slightly different angle of the same image. While it’s quite natural for your brain to figure out the disparity between the different versions of the image and sync them into that fascinating 3D effect, it not quite that easy for the camera. The hard part is getting those individual images to your eyes without damaging the effect.
There are three main options here: with two cameras, one camera or through computer graphics.
Essentially, to get a 3D recording two versions of the same scene need to be filmed just the way your eyes would be seeing it. Thus, you would need two cameras and a fair amount of fancy footwork to triangulate the difference between them, making sure they are focused on the same object. When you take into consideration that the cameras also need to zoom, track and move at the same speed – you may see how things get complicated.
Close-ups are specifically complicated to capture when recording 3D, as you would need to have the two cameras very close to each other. This is when mirror rigs are used: they film through one lens and the image then bounces off a tiny internal mirror and goes to another camera – where the second version of the scene is recorded. A 3D lens works quite the same way: thanks to an internal mirror, it natively splits the recording into stereoscopic 3D and creates footage instantly ready for watching.
Another way to create a 3D recording – often used in gaming and animation – is to make the image appear 3D on the screen – and not actually filming it in 3D. In this case, animators simply create two versions of the same frame – one for each eye. The same technique applies to gaming – however, it gets more complicated as video games allow players to move around and change perspective.
Merely a few years back, creating 3D content individually – that is, with just your camera at home, would have been pretty much impossible. Luckily, we are entering into an era where each and every one of us can create 3D recordings independently – with our DLSRs, action cams and even smartphones.
This gives us an amazing opportunity to tell our stories in a way that is as immersive as the big screen – this has never been done before. All we need to do is grab our GoPros, snap on a 3D lens and start recording. Recording 3D.