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

Some are color blind. I am stereo blind.

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

 

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Written by Lynda Rimke

January 10, 2013 at 12:15 am

2 Responses

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  1. AH! I wish G rated movies were this dramatically 3D so I could take Stella! Maybe since she’s so little and has experience with seeing in 3D, she might get enough out of a standard 3D movie? This is just fascinating. Thanks for sharing.

    amberhj

    January 10, 2013 at 12:21 am

    • Amber, I know the second-run theater near me is running Finding Nemo 3D … might be too scary though and PG. Do they even make G rated movies any more? Toy Story was redone in 3D I think …

      Hmmm … we can hope for a 3D redo of Mary Poppins (my favorite early childhood movie memory.) Wouldn’t that be something? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGCmVDl46rY

      On Thu, Jan 10, 2013 at 12:21 AM, Wide-eyed Wonder: an artist's musings

      Lynda Rimke

      January 10, 2013 at 9:47 pm


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