Dr. Of Machinima

A blog By Dr. Nemesis following the progress of Binary Picture Show's work, as well as other Machinima.

Machinima’s missing child


This week I’ve somewhat bombarded my brain with the details of many potential new Machinima engines/environments that Binary Picture Show could be using in the future.
This weekend I decided to chill out, but I’ve taken a short break from downloading porn to write something I’ve been meaning to write for almost three years now.
No, I’m not listing all the people I would like to kill with my bare hands, thats for another day. I’m talking about a certain great potential that Machinima has always had, but has never really been explored; 3D.

I see some of you scratching your heads with an imaginary finger, but yes, I said 3D.
Not exactly the kind of 3D that comes to mind when you think “First Person Shooter” but TRUE 3D.

The Science/History:
Indeed as many of you smart people should already know, while most modern computer games are played in a virtual 3 dimensional space, we the audience still see a 2D representation of these 3D worlds via our monitors. For an example of what I mean compare your experience in a traditional cinema or watching TV , with an experience in an IMAX cinema (when you wear the goofy glasses). Naturally we view the world from two slightly different positions since most of us have two eyes which sit next to each other. Our brain composites the two flat images into one 3D image with which we can better judge depth: how far or near one object is behind or infront of another. This is important because when you normally watch TV, or play a 3D game, you are seeing an image that literally came from just one ‘eye’.

For donkey’s years now, people have been able to experience true 3D from the comfort of their own homes. I don’t think theres anyone in the modern world who doesn’t know of anaglyph 3D glasses, the red and green suckas that were popular in the 60’s (actually I read that the ‘two colour’ 3D technique is over 140 years old :-0).
In the real world, when you want to make a film for true 3D viewing you need to film each shot with TWO cameras, placed next to eachother somewhat similar to a pair of eyes. As you can imagine this is not always practical in terms of finance and logistics so the normal way of shooting films is using one camera per shot. It’s also sometimes possible to fake it, and use various tricks to split a 2D picture and make it look 3D, though the results are often not very good. Now if you have anaglyph glasses at home heres the part where you get to join in!

In this picture the sense of depth can only come from the fact that Mona is sitting infront of the landscape, occluding it from our vision, and of course shadow and highlight help suggest perspective. But if you view the picture with anaglyph glasses you will see that there now appears to be a litteral ‘space’ between her and the landscape in the background, a space that couldn’t be seen previously. This can also be seen in the ‘tea party’ picture. Try and look at the layers of people and it feels like you are much more aware of all the space between them (more images available here).

Of course this way of looking at 3D is crap. It’s tedious, and everything is in a wierd red-blue/green colour. Surely I’m not suggesting that we all get our anaglyph glasses out so we can take this supposedly deeper look at Machinima! You’re right. For some time now there have been techniques to view 3D images in colour, like in the IMAX but not everyone knows that 3D images can be seen in colour using devives such as e-dimensional’s 3d shutter glasses made for the PC and TV. With these you can view 3D images in colour (not anaglyph images, thats a different technique) and it looks amazing. Now, How does this apply to Machinima, dammit? You should atleast have some idea of that already.

This is important in Machinima You say?

Hell yes! In the real world to make a genuine 3D image you need to film in stereo, with two cameras placed next to eachother like I stated eariler, or with a special stereo camera. If you know anyone who has this I think you’re in the minority, but of course in Machinima the cameras are virtual.

One of the biggest uses of these shutter glasses is to play 3D games since all the information needed to make the composite 3D image is available. Typically what you do is download stereo drivers for your graphics card (they work alongside the card’s normal drivers so are usually provided in your card manufacturer’s driver downloads section). Then when activated the fun begins. The players perspective now has information from two ‘eyes’. This is flickered onto the monitor and the glasses help your brain combine it into a picture that makes genuine 3D sense, and like the Matrix you really can’t be told about it. You have to see it for yourself.

Of course without the glasses you just see two overlapped perspectives, like this:
(link to the image’s source)

I first bought my glasses on ebay for £30 almost three years ago. Certain games where simply breathtaking. Being the big fan of Startopia that I am, it was too good to be true, and probably as close to standing on the deck of my space station as I’ll ever get. Meanwhile in Battlefield 1942 I kept getting the living hell blown out of me cause I was too busy gazing at the beautiful trees instead of looking out for those pesky Nazis… and then of course it hit me…
what of Machinima in true 3D?

E-dimensional sells 3D films from their site that are used in conjunction with the glasses to give a sort of IMAX experience at home. However these films don’t generally seem very good, are few and far bewtween, and of course they aren’t free. Moreover, the average Joe has either a very limited, or no real means of making a true 3D film of his own – however in Machinima it’s as simple as the click of a mouse. Games can easily be put into stereo mode during capture, or if your film is captured from a demo format, you could even easily have 2 versions of the film: monovision (normal) for those without glasses, and a stereo version for those with.

With the Nvidia stero drivers it’s supposedly even possible to play 3D games in anaglyph mode (I’ve never tried this) so the power of true 3D Machinima is available even to those who don’t want to shell out the £££.

A few questions run through my mind.

1. How many people have already thought of, or are thinking along these lines?

2. As the technology in the glasses becomes cheaper and more available could this sort of Machinima become a future reality?

3. With digital cinema projection becoming more common it’s no longer as expensive to screen 3D films since the old, costly celluloid is going out the window. Could Machinima perhaps become an even cheaper way of producing 3D cinema and 3D home entertainment?

4. Could true 3D Machinima infact bring something entirely new to the whole medium of Machinima? could it perhaps make us think in new and unique ways about cinematography?

5. Could 3D Machinima, with its simple creation process even end up being the boost that the technology (the glasses) needs to become more popular and more common?

As you can see there’s potential for quite a bit. A lot of people have often said Machinima is still young, but honestly I expected this sort of thing to have come about a long time ago. I even had plans to experiment with it myself, but frequent readers of this blog will know why that never happens.

Perhaps the title of this post is harsh, and 3D Machinima isn’t the missing, but the unborn child, and is still to come. Perhaps not. But you gotta see the “What if?” value.

Something to think about when you’re gone,
the tagline at Machinima.com is “Making Movies in Virtual Reality”.

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