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Don’t Expect Mobile 3D Movies to Look the Same

Film buffs and video game junkies could be surprised by how media look on the Nintentdo 3DS and 3D-equipped mobile phones.

Viewing 3D movies on small screens could lead to radically different perceptions of relative depth when compared to seeing them in the theater or on a television, conclude Nokia engineers.

Even more eye-popping on the small screen?

In a paper published in the Proceedings of Stereoscopic Displays and Applications, Jukka Hakkinen and colleagues tested three short animations on viewers. What they discovered is a direct consequence of how we perceive depth and how it is recorded via dual cameras when creating 3D films: the closer you are to a display and the smaller it is, the greater the perceived difference of depth of features in a scene.

This effect was not seen when viewers were shown the same animations on a television or in a cinema, at viewing distances typical for those formats. The effect comes about because 3D is generated via two different cameras (or camera views, in the case of digital effects): When viewing a 3D movie, the user’s eyes are effectively the same distance apart as the cameras used to shoot a scene, other enhancements notwithstanding.

This enhances the effect of 3D at short viewing distances and is lessened for greater viewing distances. In addition, the researchers discovered that effects that went beyond one degree of visual angle simply weren’t perceived at all on television or in a cinema, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear.

The researchers note that those creating 3D media must therefore take into account the various viewing distances and screen sizes at which that media might be viewed, and limit the depth effects they’re trying to generate so that they are acceptable in all contexts. An alternate solution would be to re-master – perhaps even dynamically, in the case of video games – a 3D scene so that it looks best on whatever size screen it’s viewed.

The bottom line is that viewing a 3D movie on a Nintendo DS might be a very different experience than seeing it on a television or in a movie theater. Whether or not that experience is better or worse will depend on the film – it’s going to be interesting to see how users perceive individual works once they are available on both smaller devices 3D televisions.

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