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Introduction to 3D & 3D Technology

Think back. Can you remember as a child (or for some of us maybe even as an adult) your first experience of 3D with those old cardboard glasses? You can almost taste that feeling of anticipation when you found them in a comic or magazine, and the let down feeling when the experience didn’t hit the heights you expected.

Fortunately the 3D of today has improved to the point where it truly does give the immersive experience we expected back then, with the last couple of years seeing an explosion of products such as 3D TVs and 3D Blu Ray players which have been designed to deliver high quality entertainment in 3 dimensions.

And while 3D technology has a myriad of potential uses, for most of us it really is all about entertainment. From the visual experience of watching stunning 3D content on 3D TVs or movie at the cinema, to the active involvement of playing the latest 3D games, through to the impact on our senses of art such as 3D graphics. It’s all designed to entertain us. That’s what is driving that recent explosion of new 3D products on to the consumer market - and how well we remain entertained will be the key determining factor in the successful future of 3D products and services.

So, how did we get to where we are today with 3D entertainment?

Most of the early development of 3D was focussed on film-making. The Wikipedia article on 3D film covers the history in detail, taking us from the first 3D movies of the 1950’s - using those old anaglyph cardboard glasses - through to the movies of the 1980s and then upwards to the present day. Those old attempts at delivering 3D movies were disappointing, and it’s only been since the introduction of polarized technology in the 21st century that 3D has begun to come of age.

The last couple of years has seen 3D take centre stage as an entertainment medium. The movie Avatar - widely acclaimed as the best example to date of 3D cinematography - can take a lot of credit for bringing this transformation from what was once seen as a gimmick, to a technology that stands poised to become a focal part of our everyday lives.

Understanding 3D

To fully appreciate the entertainment possibilities that the various new products give us, it’s a good idea to understand how we see in 3 dimensions naturally, and how that concept is used in technology to let our eyes and brains ‘see’ artificially created 3D images.

1. What is 3D?

The 3D imaging we know in visual media is based on our natural ability to view the world in 3D (stereoscopic vision). This has been incorporated in 3D glasses, TVs, displays, projection systems, and visual content like design and animation too.

3D stands for three dimensions.  But it’s actually much more than that.  It’s the experience of living in, feeling, seeing, hearing, and touching everything around you.  It’s the experience that drives creators to make televisions, video games, and even books.  In this sense, 3D is an attempt to recreate an experience, or more specifically, to recreate the ‘perception’ of that experience.

Read more on what Is 3D?...

2. What's 3D Perspective

“3D Perspective” is “what an individual sees.”  It means that two people looking at the same thing can see it very differently.  For these two people, there could be a lot of real differences or they might just be interpreting the same things differently.  A person can certainly see a huge ball in the distance and say, “It’s a small ball up close” without really being wrong about their own experience.  It is this individual experience that matters to us most.  Even so, we still want to know the actual size of the ball.  That’s where 3D display technology comes into play.  Dual-image 3D displays send a different image to each of our eyes and enhance our 3D perspective, an important step in the quest to ‘find the real size of the ball,’ or to “see what’s really there.”

Read more on 3D perspective...

3. 3D and Other Senses

The term “3D” almost always means “visually 3D.”  Our eyes use lenses and receptor cells to focus and record light from many directions at once.  We can see in millions of shades and colors and discriminate details with exceptional resolution.  The end result is that the sense of vision is extremely complex and really taxes our brains (you can tell, because the visual cortex is a relatively large part of the brain compared to the areas reserved for other senses).

All of our other senses combined probably don’t use as much brain power as vision.  Still, they can tell us things that vision cannot.  If you hear a sound behind you, smell a dangerous, but colorless gas, or sit on something hot, you’ll know more about what’s around you than just what you can see.....Read more on 3D and other senses...

The Unlimited Potential of 3D

Modern 3D technology has largely focused on giving everyone an improved sense of 3D.  There are a number of different ways to do this, but almost all of them involve sending two different images to every person.
But does it seem like there should be more to 3D?  Do you really feel like you’re part of the environment just because things pop out at you more?  The answer is both yes and no for most people.  You do indeed feel like you are part of the environment because you have a renewed sense of depth and it feels closer to what you’re used to seeing in real life.  On the other hand, you can’t move around the environment and focus on things properly, and if you look at it from a steep angle, the 3D looks weirdly skewed because it’s actually still on a flat surface.  These gripes aren’t just conditional, they are part a fundamental gap between 3D technology and real life. 

Our article on the unlimited potential of 3D starts to look at the potential future of 3D technology, and ways to deliver a 'real' experience over and above that currently possible.

3D Technology

Detailed articles explaining how 3D works and how our eyes and brains 'see' in 3D

1. Stereoscopy - How We See In 3D

2. 3D Computer Graphics & Software

3D Art - Creating 3D Images

The are multiple ways to create 3D images, ranging from the more expensive and specialist methods used in movie filming through to those which take specialist skills including animation, graphic design, and modelling, and onwards to those intended for the general public consumer market photography and home video.

3D art is therefore a huge subject. Here on 3DGuide.org we've tried to break this down into the different 3D creation methods starting with two in depth articles which begin to look at the subject in greater detail.....read more on 3D art

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What Is 3D?

3D Perspective

3D & Other Senses

Sterescopy - How We See in 3D

3D Computer Graphics

3D Art

Unlimited Potential - The Future of 3D Technology