McAdams On: Talking in 3D

A group of scientists and engineers this week released a draft glossary for 3DTV that starkly illustrates its own necessity. Never before has TV had so much power to make people sick. Never before has it been so imperative in content production to bear in mind the human optical system.

Case in point: “Sensoric fusion,” the “neural process of merging two retinal images into a single stereoscopic image... limited to a retinal disparity of 0.1 degree at the fovea, 0.33 degrees at an eccentricity of 6 digress, and 0.66 digress at an eccentricity of 12 degrees.”

I am almost certain foveas don’t often come up in broadcast and film-making schools.

3DTV, after all, is illusory. Two visual fields are combined to create the illusion of depth on a flat screen. Those visual fields have to be captured similarly to how human eyes work. If the images are captured too far apart, you could create “retinal rivalry, for example. “Transmission of incompatible images to each eye.” And not just incompatible in the way reality TV is incompatible with normal thinking. Incompatible as in “brain shear.”

James Cameron is credited with applying the term--which actually refers to real, physical brain injury--to the hurl factor of improperly produced 3DTV:
“The brain’s inability to reconcile the images received by the left and right eyes into a coherent stereo image, which causes it to send corrective messages to the eye muscles, which try to compensate but can’t fix the problems baked into the image on the screen, creating an uncomfortable feedback loop and physical fatigue of eye muscles, which causes the eye muscles to scream at the brain, at which point, the brain decides to fuse the image the hard way, internally, which may take several seconds or not be possible at all--all which leads to headache and sometimes nausea.”

Pass the popcorn.

“People will not pay extra for this,” blogger and media consultant Olivier Amato said last year.

Two-fifths of TV households will have 3DTVs by the end of 2014, IMS Research says.

No forecasts have yet emerged on a correlative rise in brain injuries, though the proliferation of reality TV shows suggests another culprit is already afoot.

The 21-page draft glossary of 3D video quality terms targets the creative side of 3DTV. The display side also has some quirks. The current crop of 3DTVs work through the use of electronic glasses that block out one view and then the other in rapid succession. The glasses must be synched properly to the TV, which in turn must be viewed pretty much straight on.

These early days of 3DTV are like sticks and a flint compared to central heat. Hopefully the need for some terms will be relatively brief over the course of its development.

Like “simulator sickness,” for instance. It’s a “feeling of unease caused by a conflict between the visual perception system and the vestibular system that confuses a viewer’s perception of motion.”

Scratch the popcorn for now. Make that an Alka Seltzer.