Wide-eyed Wonder: an artist's musings on three-dimensional vision

Some are color blind. I am stereo blind.

Archive for January 2013

Life of 3.1415926535 8979323846 2643383279 etc.

with 2 comments

… that would be Pi

I’d read so much about the artistic use of 3D technology in Ang Lee’s film Life of Pi, I decided it was worth a strabismic test. If I did not see palpable space, with things jumping off the screen towards me, at least I would see art: imagery that would move me and delight my eyes and heart.

I learned something even before seeing the movie: I’m probably the last person on the planet to arrive at a 3D movie only to discover the theater is playing a 2D version! I’d read so much about the artful use of 3D by Ang Lee, that I completely ruled out anyone wanting to see the movie any other way. And so our first trip to the nearest theater in the next town was self-defeating. We went grocery shopping instead.

But, almost two weeks later, Pi resurfaced (with the necessary “3D” listed in the title) in the next town over. (I had given up on Pi and was looking for the Hobbit. But Middle Earth can wait.)

It was good timing for taking in a matinee today, as I had exactly one week to adjust to my new bi-focal lenses with base-right prism (but that’s another story.)

As the film began, the hummingbirds in flight brought an audible thrill to the folks to my left. Ah, but they were too quick for me! And then a short conversation began between my husband and I: “Did you see that? says he. “No” says I. After a few more similar exchanges I said “If I see something, I’ll squeeze your hand.” I believe he got one hesitant squeeze as the monkeys rushed through the trees.

Then I forgot all about how I was seeing as I became immersed in the story.

It was a delightful story with visible layers of foreground, middle-ground and background all moving on their own planes, however if only within the screen for me. More delightful were the even more layers of meaning. Naturally it is easier to take the layers of meaning with me, and enjoy them in my mind long after the visual effects fade away. Ang Lee was masterful in using the concrete layers of the story to enhance the abstract and philosophical.

I had popped sinus medication and ginger pills before the trip, and the seas did get rough! But my stomach did not once drop out from under me. (Suppression has it’s advantages.) I also did not turn green around the gills when the seas turned calm with endless random bobbing. No ginger pills needed, unlike the many times I’ve been becalmed on Lake Erie in my father’s sailboat!

But the “float” stayed with me after the movie.

When everything is floating for two and a half hours, my guess is it does open one’s brain to recognize “float” in the real world.
Dr. Susan Barry describes her experience with “float”, saying “Knowing that objects are separated by volumes of space and perceiving those empty volumes are very different experiences. ”

My first thing to pop out toward me was not the whale in the movie, but my coat, hanging in front of me on a hook in the bathroom stall. It billowed towards me. (My first “sighting” since getting the new lenses.) The bathroom sink faucet took on the familiar forward projection, and doorways and all things moving in my periphery as I walked through the lobby swam in kinetic motion-parallax. A trip to Lowe’s afterwards revealed noticeable depth in the layers of paint chip racks. Empty racks of all sorts reached out toward me, and a small stand of Ohio State banners swam towards me as I walked by, like a school of fish.

I’m floating still.

Links to layers of meaning
Life of Pi: A Novel by Yann Martel By Phoebe Kate Foster http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/life-of-pi/

‘Life of Pi’ Ending Explained by Ben Kendrick http://screenrant.com/life-of-pi-movie-ending-spoilers/

Links to layers of 3D
Life Of Pi’s Visual Effects Are Extraordinary. Here’s Why by Brendon Connelly
http://www.bleedingcool.com/2012/12/19/life-of-pis-cg-secrets-fx-supervisor-bill-westenhofer-on-tigers-magical-skies-and-more/

How did they bring the ‘unfilmable’ Life of Pi to our screens? by Nick Clark
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/how-did-they-bring-the-unfilmable-life-of-pi-to-our-screens-8393738.html

Ang Lee On The Filmmaking Journey Of “Life of Pi” By: Scott Pierce
http://www.fastcocreate.com/1682021/ang-lee-on-the-filmmaking-journey-of-life-of-pi

How 3D in film is improving, especially for the stereoblind

with 2 comments

Several months ago, I was encouraged by the BBC story  of a stereoblind man who gained binocular vision simply by watching a 3D movie.

In February 2012, neuroscientist Bruce Bridgeman went with his wife to see Hugo,  a masterfully crafted 3D movie by Martin Scorese. Bridgmen recounts in an email to Oliver Sacks  “my wife and I paid a surcharge for 3D glasses, which I thought were a waste of money for me – having been exotropic since childhood, I was nearly stereo-blind. But I took the polarizing glasses to avoid seeing annoying fringes in the film.

To my great surprise, I immediately experienced the film in vivid stereo. I was enthralled.

“But perhaps the filmmakers exaggerated the stereo disparities in the film to enhance the value of the 3D technology … Hugo’s VFX supervisor Ben Grossmann said ‘We checked and checked: We were four to six times bigger than any other 3D movie.’ But everything looked amazing …

Image

“When the movie ended we turned in our polarized glasses and walked out into the street. I was astonished to see a lamppost standing out from the background. Trees, cars, even people were in relief more vivid than I had ever experienced. Clearly the disparities weren’t amped up on the street. Did a few hours of enhanced disparity wake up long-neglected binocular neurons in my visual cortex?”

The blogger who posted Bruce Bridgeman’s email is non other than Barry B. Sandrew, Ph.D., stereographer and founder of Legend3D, which worked with Scorese on Hugo and Director Ang Lee on Life of Pi.  Like Scorese and Lee, Sandrew is more interested in how 3D technology can enhance a story to make it more life-like, instead of pushing bizarre 3D experiences on an audience. Thankfully, the trend has shifted towards creating depth scripts to enhance drama: “The actors become like a moving sculpture,” Mr. Scorsese says. “This brings it out, particularly in the faces of the actors, the drama.” 1

I am of the opinion that well-crafted, life-experience-enhancing 3D movies will provide the most powerful “handle” for my stereoblind brain to understand stereopsis. Morgan Peck, the BBC blogger, adds that breakthrough comes, according to Dr. Laurie Wilcox of York University “when the person finally figures out what to look for.”

Peck backs the idea of stereo cognition via monocular depth cues  with the experimental research of Dr. Dennis Levi, where in 2011 five stereoblind adults learned to see 3D.  “Levi found that his subjects were most likely to have a breakthrough if the stereoscopic images were reinforced by monocular cues like relative size and shading. This could explain why Bridgeman’s experience was so dramatic.” 2

Peck adds final affirmation from Dr. Sandrew “It’s intuitive that monocular cues, which partially stereoblind people rely on every day are essential to the quality of their 3D experience. My mantra is to incorporate monocular cues wherever possible.”

I just checked: I can still catch Life of Pi in my area. There’s still time to see Sandrew’s mantra in action. I’m onto it!

Further reading:
A Visionary Director’s Sumptuous ‘Pi’ by Joe Morgenstern Wall Street Journal
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323713104578132912697702772.html

“Life of Pi” Director Ang Lee to Receive Harold Lloyd Award at International 3D Society Creative Arts Awards, February 6, 2013
http://online.wsj.com/article/PR-CO-20121203-902307.html?mod=crnews

The Godfathers of Film Take On 3-D* (include Scorese’s thoughts on the application of 3D in Hugo)
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903918104576502090225620336.html

 

Written by Lynda Rimke

January 10, 2013 at 12:15 am

Sightings in 2012

leave a comment »

SIGHTINGS in 2012

Dr. Leonard Press, in his blog Vision Helps states that

“stereopsis is a quale of binocular vision that immeasurably enriches our daily lives.”

Throughout 2012, I recorded my own 3D qualia in scribbles in notebooks and texts to my iPhone and iPad, and on my homesteading album:

120129qualebush

January 29
“I delight over the extruding branches of the two, snow covered honeysuckles in the evening light. I am so entranced I walk around each bush two times.”

February 5th
On my homesteading album, I wrote “I appreciate how I can use the balance board while doing dishes. It combines a core work-out with vision-therapy-enhanced ability to see 3D, as both sides of my brain are working at balance and therefore work more readily at bringing both eyes into play. Yes, I’m still leaving flatland. I never saw the hollow insides of soap bubbles before!

February 8th
Felt my eyes coming together on an apricot as I held it about 8″ from my nose. It was highly defined and inhabiting space. Later, as I rinsed a pan, the front edge appeared to be 3D.”

March 21st
In my homesteading album, I wrote “A very 3D bramble reaches out to me this morning.”

bramble120321

April 4th
I practiced physiological diplopia with the doorstop that is in the middle of the bathroom wall at Hennis, and “while looking at my fully extended finger, I continued to see two doorstops.

“Then, as I was washing my hands, I almost fell into the sink— it was so deep and the faucet so high!”

May 11th in my garden
“I bend to smell dames rocket. Then the onions pop!

September 2nd
“In the Hennis bathroom, I discover I can ‘hold’ the door bumper double image and track my finger with both eyes from 6” to arm’s length at intervals and see the distance between the double doorstop image widen and narrow. Then … I did it smoothly, like a trombone! No big stereo faucet pop after, probably because I was consciously looking for it.”

September 7th with one of our dogs
“Onslo’s nose becomes very long and 3D while we are relaxing on the couch.”

September 28th at Paint Oglebay
“After painting and lunch I tiredly hike up the hill feeling brain-drained and empty-headed, and thought ‘This is how I feel when I see 3D.’ Suddenly all the dead leaves popped out in sculpted beauty and the fronds of undergrowth along the path were moving independently and dancing in their individual spaces as I walked through, very very slowly, like a queen in fairy land.

December 30th
“While in the kitchen pouring, it feels like two eyes see. This is happening more often with space-intensive kitchen tasks.

Later, the folds of the shower curtain fill the space in front of me while I am seated as usual. This is the second or third time the curtain has taken on volume in the semi darkness of the light from an electric candle, just before bedtime.”

December 31st
“In the morning, as I approach the seating area around the wood burner, the angles of the furniture look strange and abnormal. Patrick seems further away and his feet appear larger … Foreshortened more.”

As an artist trained to draw the human figure, foreshortening of arms or legs is rather formulaic for me:closer is drawn bigger and farther away is rendered smaller than the way I see it. However, two or three times this last year, I actually SAW it. When viewed with two eyes, the approaching hand becomes much larger and the receding feet much much smaller.

It’s an apparent exaggeration of what I consider to be reality, from my normal, monocular point of view.

—–

It could be that these sightings are merely “monocular depth perception cues.” I have described many monocular cues here, and even more cues and an excellent post on how they contribute to the “quale” of stereopsis can be discovered at Vision Helps with an awesome link to a computer rendition of kinetic depth cues added to a 2D image here:

However, the fact that these brief glimpses stop me in my tracks and cause me to grope for words to describe what I am seeing is evidence enough that something exceptional is going on, something beyond my normal monocular depth perception cues, something extraordinary, however esoteric it may be.

“… to experience a quale is to know one experiences a quale, and to know all there is to know about that quale.” —wiki