When you think of 3D Video, you may recall days of paying for extra-expensive movie tickets and wearing uncomfortable plastic glasses for hours on end, only to have the movie you’re seeing make use of the 3D technology for one gimmick and never again. I share your frustration there. But luckily, there’s about to be another show in town. 3D Video capability is rapidly being introduced to smartphones and other devices so that we may soon be seeing ultra-realistic YouTube videos and Vines in all three dimensions, or even R2D2 style 3D projections!
Just this week, Facebook unveiled a prototype of a 360 degree 3D video camera at a conference for developers. The device, looking like something straight out of Star Trek, incorporates 17 meticulously even spaced cameras that fan out in a complete circle. They are housed in a plastic casing that can be attached to a rolling stand. The still images and video produced by the device seem to be of a high quality at least on par with other HD devices. This prototype was made from off-the-shelf materials that cost about $30,000 in total.
But Facebook isn’t planning to switch gears and start churning out video equipment. It made this prototype merely to prove that it was possible, and is now giving away the plans for it for free. Tim Bajarin, the President of Market Research at Creative Strategies has said that the people at Facebook “want to give developers to make as much content as possible. They need to get tools like this in front of developers to expand the market.”
And let’s not forget about YouTube’s new 360° Videos, videos that allow you to literally look around in all directions just by dragging the mouse. There are even apps that allow you to attach your phone to a headset and look around inside a video just by moving your head. It’s very close to virtual reality.
With tech giants like Facebook and YouTube so invested in the future of 3D video, it seems almost inevitable that new innovations will bring it into the public eye very soon. After all, they’re doing a lot more than just sitting around wishing someone would pick up the ball and run with it- they’re actively contributing to the advancement of the field, investing large sums of money just to produce an example that other developers can work off of. Presumably, Facebook has some big ideas planned that depend on the advancement of 3D video technology, but only time will tell.
In the meantime, filmmakers, tech junkies, and app developers have all been having a field day discovering new and varied uses for 3D video. One of the most anticipated arenas for this innovation is the virtual reality industry. High definition, extremely realistic 3D video is the lifeblood of VR. As the technology advances, more and more doors are opened to developers, and more and more consumer experiences can be crafted.
We are standing on the edge of the virtual reality takeover, with systems like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR all due for release before the end of this year. A lot of the attention is focused on the high-tech headsets, but just as much work goes into the cameras that capture all the content, like the sleek but alien-esque Nokia Ozo designed to be the exact size of the average human skull or the small and cute LucidCam that strives to see the world exactly as you do. These two cameras in particular represent two different sides of the market, with the Ozo retailing at $60,000 while the LucidCam costs just $399.
Smartphones could soon be getting in on the action as well, like the new Huawei P9 and P9 Plus which both incorporate dual camera lenses. Though the last iPhone model incorporated something called 3D Touch, we’ve never seen anything quite like this before. Right now, the double lens functionality is being used to differentiate between capturing color and capturing fine details in monochrome, but it’s easy to see potential 3D video uses in the near future.
You may be wondering how two simple lenses could produce a 3D effect. If so, let me introduce to you the concept of stereoscopy. Stereograms are not only fun little puzzles in children’s activity books, but also the basis of how satellite imaging services like Google Earth produce 3D images. Essentially, two photos of the same thing are taken at the same time from slightly different angles, mimicking the way our eyes work and allowing us to see depth. In this way, two (or more) camera lenses can act as your eyes, and theoretically allow devices to capture images or video in 3D.
With the introduction of something as simple as an additional camera lens (and some capable software, of course), we could all be walking around with 3D video cameras in our pockets, ready to record something awesome at a moment’s notice. Imagine the kind of videos you could film with 3D lenses and this smartphone-powered quadcopter! You could even make livestreaming mundane activities like family gatherings more interesting by recording them in three dimensional, 360-degree detail. It’s not a matter of if we will be getting 3D recording capabilities, but a matter of when it will be practical for both the consumer and artist.