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3D safety raises concerns

Format can present problems if stereo effect is too great

The last thing the 3D TV business needs is a health scare. With the sales of sets sluggish, prices high and a comparative dearth of content, consumers have been slow to embrace the new technology.

Now a lack of an overarching tech standard risks making auds queasy.

In 3D, the difference in perspective between the left-eye and right images is called parallax. Greater parallax means more intense 3D, but can also be the culprit behind hyperconvergence, or 3D that causes the eye strain, headaches and nausea.

“3D is the first time we have a display technology that has the capability of making people physically sick,” says Technicolor’s Pete Routhier, who developed the company’s 15-point Certifi3D system of quality control. “People on the street won’t (differentiate between good and bad 3D). They’ll just say, ‘3D at home is not for me.’?”

The few nets broadcasting in 3D have set their own standards, but potential problems may come from advertiser content looking to make their 3D spots more invasive an memorable via greater parallax.

“We do not have specific standards for our advertisers,” says ESPN 3D coordinating producer Phil Orlins says. “I’m not sure how we would exactly quantify one with so many variables involved.”

Late last year, President Obama signed the Calm Act, a law capping commercial volume to prevent such invasiveness in ad sound. Some insiders are wondering whether similar caps will need to be placed on parallax.

“The problem is every commercial thinks it’s in a universe by itself, but there’s going to be 10 commercials back-to-back,” Routhier says, “the cumulative effect of that is going to drain your audience.”

“Journey to the Center of the Earth” producer and 3D expert Charlotte Huggins doesn’t believe hyperconvergence is a serious issue in home entertainment, even in advertising, because of the smaller size of the screens and the fact that very convergent images tend to “ghost,” or appear to double, accidentally. “Nobody’s going to want to see their product come off the screen and ghost,” she says.

But Perry Hoberman, a professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, believes home entertainment is where danger is the greatest because broadcasters can’t know how far auds will sit from the screen.

Though experts, including those from the American Optometric Assn., note that there is no evidence that viewing proper 3D is harmful, manufacturers of 3D devices recommend that users take breaks. Nintendo, for example, says its 3D is for ages 7 and older, and recommends a 10-15 minute break for every half hour of 3D gameplay. But it’s not an issue that may be settled soon. Good stereography requires knowing and adjusting for what kind of screen the content is being played back on. Because humans naturally see in 3D, “If it’s well-made 3D, your eyes aren’t going to do anything that they don’t already do,” says Perry Hoberman, professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

Any way you look at it, the 3D biz doesn’t need another headache.

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