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At the September 15, 2010 meeting...
Portable 3D Acquisition
At RULE/Boston Camera

So fresh off the plane from a return trip from IBC in Amsterdam was Panasonic's Michael Bergeron, that when he arrived at our meeting he still had a few neatly-folded Euros in his wallet.

Bergeron, Panasonic's Chief Technology Liaison, had come here in response to our invitation to show and tell us about Panasonic's new 3D 'camera-recorder,' the AG- 3DA1 and its related workflow. With him was Panasonic's New England Senior District Sales Manager Bill Kennedy.

John Rule, president of Rule/Boston Camera, graciously offered his facility for the evening. It was certainly not the first time he has stepped up to the plate for us. In fact, our last meeting in June with Sony Broadcast was held there.

Rule is an ideal venue for presentations and his staff really proved that once again by sweating over the details; right down to the seemingly little things such as tweaking the PA speaker levels and warding off any hint of dreaded feedback.

Bergeron began his presentation with a technical look at 3D from the optical, physiological, and electronic perspectives, then delving into the challenges and myriad decisions directors must make when a third dimension is added into the equation.

Terms such as vergence, inter-axial spacing, convergence plane, line-by-line circular polarization, side-by-side, anaglyph, synchronized glasses, and many more were thoroughly explored.

Bergeron went over the features and benefits offered by Panasonic's unique approach towards portable stereographic acquisition and the complex technical problems that had to be solved to make it all happen. The real-time stereographic adjustments that could be made during a shoot were most impressive as were the analytical functions afforded by Panasonic's companion BT-3DL2550 3D LCD monitor. This monitor accepts three types of 3D input, dual SDI, line-by-line and side-by-side. The 25.5" monitor employs opposite circular polarization on each line.

The camera-recorder's twin-lens system permits adjustment of the convergence point for natural-looking 3D images under various situations. Bergeron explained that for best results a 3D camera's optical system should track to an accuracy of plus or minus one pixel! Achieving this is no small feat, requiring both optical and digital manipulation of the image. Some of the same technology developed for chromatic aberration compensation has been employed to insure accurate registration of the images.

The AG-3DA1 is also the first 3D motion imaging device to employ AVCHD as its codec. Imaging data is stored on two SD HC cards, each containing the information destined for each eye.

The camera-recorder, (Panasonic obviously prefers to use this terminology rather than 'camcorder' to distinguish it from ordinary consumer devices), is extremely lightweight (just over 6 lbs.) and likely because it has so few moving parts is eligible for a three-year extended warranty program.

You might think that at this nascent stage of its development it might be difficult to find an editing system that can work with this new 3D format. Fortunately, this is not the case. Using Cineform Neo 3D software with Avid Media Composer 5, Apple Final Cut Pro 6 and other popular editing software, the process is remarkable simple and adds an extraordinary amount of post production adjustment and control.

Rony Sebok, of 1 Beyond, a well known manufacturer and reseller of sophisticated editing systems was on hand to demonstrate how easy it is to edit 3D files generated by the Panasonic AVCHD-based system. We watched files being synchronized and sent to the Avid Media Composer 5 timeline in short order.

For once, it is a pleasure to see a post production product that's ready to go by the time a new acquisition product reaches the market.

A lively Q&A immediately followed the formal presentation. Solutions for preventing abrupt and jarring changes when juxtaposing 3D scenes, methods for preventing eye fatigue and motion sickness, composition and pacing tips and other related topics were all touched upon.

Marty Feldman
SMPTE/New England Section

Posted: 17 September 2010
Bob Lamm, SMPTE/New England Newsletter/Web Page Editor