3D Vision Blog

A normal user's look into the world of 3D Stereo Technologies

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About the 3D Sweep Panorama Mode in Some Sony Digital Cameras

October 20th, 2010 · 7 Comments · Shooting in 3D

By now you probably know that Sony still does not have a consumer digital camera that can take 3D pictures, for example like the Fujifilm’s Real 3D W1/W3 cameras, but instead has opted out for a somewhat creative approach until they are ready to release such full fledged 3D-capable product. Sony’s engineers have further advanced the Sweep Panorama mode available in some of their digital cameras in order for the user to be able to easily take 3D photos and have ingeniously called the new mode 3D Sweep Panorama. At the moment there are number of Sony products that do have support for that mode and these include both digital cameras from the CyberShot and Alpha series and to be more specific here is a list: Sony CyberShot WX5 and TX9, Sony Alpha NEX-3 and NEX-5, Sony Alpha 33 and Alpha 55, Sony Alpha 560 and Alpha 580. If you have any of these digital cameras you will be able to take advantage of the 3D Sweep Panorama to take 3D panoramic photos as the name of the function suggests, but let me take a bit more detailed look in what exactly you get and can do with that special mode…

First let me start with the fact that the name 3D Sweep Panorama is a bit misleading and actually creates some confusion among most of the users, making them believe that this mode can only be used to take stereoscopic 3D panorama photos. However you can also use the 3D Sweep Panorama mode in order to take non-panoramic 3D photos that don’t span across wide viewing angles, but are more like a normal 3D photo you can take with a 3D digital camera. However if you ask some general people that have heard about this mode, even some Sony guys that are not very familiar with this specific function and surprisingly enough even some people that do have a 3D Sweep Panorama capable camera you may get mixed results and most likely quite a lot of them will be unaware of the fact that the cameras can also take 3D pictures that are not in the form of a panorama. The reason for that is first the fact that the name is a bit misleading, the fact that all the press materials about the availability of the function are only talking about panoramic 3D capabilities and the not so intuitive implementation you have in order to change the mode. In order to be able to shoot stereo 3D photos you will have to switch to the 3D Sweep Panorama mode and from the Image Size menu select 16:9 mode instead of Normal or Wide panorama…

Of course if you read the manual carefully you should be aware of that function, but who reads the full manual of any product nowadays. The other option is to play for a while with a 3D Sweep Panorama-capable digital camera and try different things in order for you to discover the presence of that mode by yourself. Last weekend I had the chance to play with some of the Sony digital cameras that do support the 3D Sweep Panorama mode and I myself have discovered the availability of the 16:9 mode for shooting 3D photos instead of wide 3D panoramas. And then I’ve also checked the electronic manuals to confirm it and I can say that I’m pretty knowledgeable in the area of 3D technology, not to mention that I do try to follow all 3D-related product and service announcements. And I was aware of the mode, what it does and how it is working, but apparently not well enough to know about the 16:9 3D photo mode and I’m pretty sure that a lot of the general public is also not aware about that too.

But anyway, the positive result form tinkering for a while with the 3D Sweep Panorama mode on the Sony cameras you will see here on the blog pretty soon… I’m talking about replicating the same results with a camera that does not support that mode from Sony or form another manufacturer. Being able to make 3D photos and 3D panoramas with a plain 2D digital camera is not a hard task, provided that you follow some simple rules and do some quick and easy processing with the 2D photos you take. I’ll get back with more details about that in another post of course and now let me return to the 3D Sweep Panorama mode.

As you should know taking a 3D photo requires you to shoot the same scene twice with a bit of a horizontal offset between each photo, so if you have a camera with two separate sensors you can automate the process and do it with at the same time. However you you need to replicate that with a 2D camera that has just one sensor you can just move the camera a bit on the left/right after you take the first photo and then take the second one. But thanks to the consecutive shooting modes available in almost all modern digital cameras you are able to shoot photos with a speed of a few frames per second, and if you add a horizontal movement of the camera to left/right while you hold the button to shoot multiple photos on the camera you can pretty much automate that process. Add a bit of processing after that of the photos that were taken and you pretty much get the basic functionality of the 3D Sweep Panorama mode, of course Sony has packaged that into a nice and simple to use mode for pretty much anyone that can use a digital camera.

And while with a little practice you can learn to get pretty good results with the 3D Sweep Panorama mode, you should be aware that it is not a true replacement for a 3D camera as it does have its own limitations and specifics. For example it is not applicable for use with moving objects as you take multiple photos for a few seconds and then they are being combined into a single 3D photo and if something has changed its position between two different frames it will not look very good when stitched and watched in stereo 3D mode. Another specific is that you usually get flatter looking 3D photos and you generally can’t shoot objects that are too close or too far from you, although you can still achieve some very nice looking results and by adding a bit of 3D theory and with some practice it is not a feature to have for making 3D photos. And with a Sony Alpha you can get much less noise on a 3D photo if you compare to Fuji’s W1 and probably W3 results… ;)

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PlayStation 3 Now Also Supports Blu-ray 3D Movie Playback

September 21st, 2010 · 7 Comments · Other S3D Tech

Today is an interesting “updates day” for everyone into stereo 3D as Sony has officially released a new version 3.50 firmware for all PlayStation 3 users that brings the much anticipated Blu-ray 3D support to the game console. This is actually the second 3D related firmware update that Sony is releasing after the addition of stereoscopic 3D gaming support in firmware 3.30, so the PS3 is now more functional and can not only be used to play games in stereo 3D mode (still just a few titles), but can also replace the need for a standalone Blu-ray 3D player. So go and update your console to firmware 3.50 if you still haven’t done so, you should however be aware that there are some limitations to what features the PS3 supports in terms of Blu-ray 3D movies…

Limitations on Blu-ray 3D disc playback

– The 3D display of some elements such as menus and subtitles may be different on the PS3 system than on other 3D playback devices (appear in 2D instead of 3D).
– Depending on the content, some BD-J (Blu-ray Disc Java) features such as BONUSVIEW and BD-Live may not play in 3D or may not function properly on the PS3 system.
– When Dolby TrueHD is selected as the audio format, audio will be output in Dolby Digital during playback of Blu-ray 3D content.
– When DTS-HD is selected as the audio format, audio will be output in DTS during playback of Blu-ray 3D content.

On a side note, as I get a lot of questions if any of the 3D DLP projectors can be used together with a PS3 console to output games or movies in stereo 3D, the answer to this question is NO. The reason for that is due to the fact that the PS3’s S3D support relies on the stereoscopic 3D specifications defined in the HDMI 1.4 standard, so the output from the console is based on the frame packing format at 60Hz defined in that standard and on the other hand the format used by 3D DLP projectors is frame sequential at 120Hz. So unless somebody releases an adapter box that converts from one to the other format or builds a 3D DLP projector with such capabilities you will not be able to use your PlayStation 3 for stereoscopic 3D output. This means that you will be either sticking to Sony’s 3D Bravia HDTVs or actually any other brand that has 3D-capable HDTVs using HDMI 1.4(a) as input format for 3D video content input. An alternative would be a 3D DLP HDTV from Mitsubishi and/or maybe Samsung along with a special adapters that are already available that will convert the frame packed content coming from the PS3 to the DLP checkerboard format used by these TVs. So PS3 in stereo 3D and a 3D projectors are still a no go!

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Sony With a Consumer 1080p 3D Projector and 3D Laptops in 2011

September 2nd, 2010 · 9 Comments · General 3D News

Sony has just announced its plans to have 3D-capable VAIO laptops available early next year with actual working 16-inch prototypes being available on display during the IFA 2010 trade show that will be open for visitors from September 3rd to 8th in Berlin, Germany. Apparently Sony plans to follow the lead of other companies like Acer, Asus, HP, Toshiba and others that are already offering or plan to also soon introduce mobile 3D-capable solutions with the 3D VAIOs probably available as early as the spring next year. Of course like most other such solutions the 3D VAIO laptops are also using frame sequential high refresh rate LCD screen with LED backlight and a pair of shutter glasses, like the ones available for the 3D BRAVIA Sony HDTVs. The specifications and details are quite vague for the moment, especially considering the fact that we are still talking about a prototype and that the final product may or may not be using different hardware. According to Sony these 3D VAIO laptops are using “200Hz high frame rate technology and LED backlight”, however this does not make it completely clear if the LCD display can actually function at 200Hz (240Hz) refresh rate or it is at 100Hz (120Hz) like on the 3D TVs, but also uses some sort of internal algorithm to interpolate the frames to achieve smoother movement. Apparently Sony is only demonstrating 3D video content and not 3D gaming and this raises a big question, because if this is a completely sony based solution they will also need some sort of additional software in order to convert the 3D games for PC into stereoscopic 3D just like Nvidia does with the 3D Vision, iZ3D’s Driver or the DDD’s TriDef Ignition. But more details will probably become available as we are getting closer to the actual release of the products on the market…

Another interesting 3D-capable product that Sony has announced is a 3D home projector, the Sony VPL-VW90ES, which is capable of projecting Full HD video with a 1080p resolution. Unlike most other projectors that are using DLP technology, this one is using Sony’s Silicon X-tal Reflective Display (SXRD) panel that is also used int he professional 2K and 4K 3D-capable Sony projectors used in movie theaters for example. Details about the projector’s specifications are still not very clear, besides the fact that it will be 1920×1080 native resolution, will offer 150000:1 dynamic contrast, will be also capable of taking 2D video and simulating 3D images (2D to 3D conversion), and very silent with a cooling fan noise of up to 22 Db. It is interesting to also note the fact that the projector will also be using the same active shutter glasses that Sony uses in its line of 3D-capable Bravia HDTVs, so you will have some interoperability if you get a 3D Vaio, 3D Bravia and VPL-VW90ES 3D projector. We can also pretty much assume that this projector will be equipped with HDMI 1.4(a) input, so you will most likely be able to also connect the Sony PS3 and play games in stereo 3D mode. But then again the PC gaming part in stereo 3D leaves a lot of questions, however maybe Nvidia’s 3DTV Play software can be the right answer for people willing to play PC games in stereo 3D with these new 3D-capable Sony products. There is still no word on pricing, but projector should be available in November 2010.

Other things that Sony has announced regarding their 3D-capable products are for example that the firmware update bringing Blu-ray 3D Movie playback to the PlayStation 3 consoles should be available in October, and not in September as previously expected. An upcoming Blu-ray 3D movie release scheduled for international release on September 25th and called “Lang Lang live in Vienna” featuring music by Beethoven, Prokofiev, Albeniz and Chopin played by the world renowned pianist Lang Lang. As well as the fact that Sony is planning to launch a 24/7 3D TV channel in USA early next year showing different 3D content in the form of movies, natural history, children’s programming, space, science, technology etc. As well as the fact that Sony Pictures is working on several 3D movies with “Resident Evil Afterlife” expected to hit the movie theaters very soon with an official premiere in most countries planned for September 10th.

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