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Visual Holidays
by Juan C. Dürsteler [message nº 53]

3D cinema gives an idea of the advances, but also the limitations of current technology.

I'm experiencing a very visual holiday. Maybe due to the fact that holidays are themselves a time to see unknown things or places still not visited. Or perhaps because the professional deformation that grips me makes me "visualise" things instead of seeing them. 

The question is that, besides attending the 5th Conference on Information Visualisation (we'll speak about it in forthcoming issues), I've had the opportunity, during my summer tour of several theme parks, to see and experience some of Europe's most advanced entertainment visualisation and 3D simulators

The biggest concentration of them is probably that of Futuroscope located in Poitiers (France). This theme park is based around Image and has 22 attractions, a good deal of which are large projection rooms with all the variants of IMAX technology:

  • IMAX: A giant screen that occupies practically all the visual field

  • Omnimax: The screen has the shape of a hemispherical dome of up to 30m in diameter. The images surround the audience.

  • IMAX 3D: in each of the two flavours: stereoscopic images viewable in 3D through polarising goggles or with synchronic shutter glasses

  • Simulators: Hidraulic systems that move the platform where the audience is according to the image shown in order to create the sensation of movement

On of the most impressing attractions is a 3D simulator, that combines movement with 3D images to obtain greater realism.

There's also a 360º cinema obtained through the simultaneous proyection of nine takes on nine screens that cover all the angles of vision around us. You can see what happens in front, at the rear and at the sides of the camera.

Most of these technologies give a great sensation of reality. Nevertheless the films are short (around half an hour) and the sessions in the simulators are even shorter, typically 5 minutes.

The stereoscopic projections, which present a slightly different perspective to each eye, corresponding to the one that it would have in reality, pose a series of problems that include double vision in some areas of the image and ocular strain in case of prolonged use. Current technology is unable to create the depth illusion taking into account all the psychophysical factors at once.

Nevertheless one of the most interesting films in 3D that I saw was Cyberworld, a gallery of high quality animations converted to 3D cinema (polarised goggles were needed to see it) that reveal the advances but also the limitations that exist in today's computer graphics technology.

Among others, you can find the bar scene of Antz , (1998 Dreamworks SKG/PDI, USA); Monkey Brain Sushi from Sony Pictures Imageworks, USA; Flipbook/Waterfall City (Satoshi Kitahara, JAPAN e Inertia_Pictures, USA) seen SIGGRAPH'98; The clip of Pet Shop Boys "Liberation" (Pet Shop Boys Partnership/Eye-Developments) and other animations linked by the endeavours of Phig a cybernetic being fighting against three bugs that are literally eating the program she tries to show.

  • The good thing: The huge creativity and imagination behind all the productions. The clarity and perfection of the conversion to 3D.

  • The not so good thing. Technology doesn't stop Phig seeming weightless, with some non-natural movements. The waterfalls in Waterfall City behave like a strange viscous liquid and the fantastic marine animals of Krakken (Exmachina, France) appear to lack the muscular power to move their huge bodies in the elegant way they do. The unresolved problems of 3D cinema.

  • The doubt: what does the conversion to 3D contribute, apart from the entertainment and novelty of seeing these excellent clips in a different format?

But, Ok, we will continue enjoying the holidays…

Some critical comments on the film Cyberworld 

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