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German scientists develop advanced 2D-to-3D conversion software for films

German researchers at the Institute for Telecommunications Systems at Technische Universität Berlin have been hard at work on advanced 2D-to-3D conversion technologies that produce high-quality results. After eight years of research, Drs Sebastian Knorr and Matthias Kunter have been granted one patent, and another eight are in the application process. Rapid developments taking place on the 3D market prompted them to set up a spinoff, imcube labs GmbH in Berlin.

The context: 3D cinema production was barely off the ground when professionals expressed concerns that inexpensive 2D-to-3D conversion kits already available could kill the golden goose by bringing to the audience 3D-converted films in less-than-satisfactory quality and, thus, sabotage 3D market take-up.

To alleviate these fears, broadcasters that have launched 3D channels, like Sky in the UK, have announced that most of their production output will be ’native 3D.’ But catalogue blockbusters will be subjected sooner or later to the 3D treatment. Done to the highest standard, 2D-to-3D conversion is time-consuming and very expensive because of heavy manpower requirements. Costs can fetch tens of thousands of dollars per converted minute. Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows , G-Force, Clash of the Titans are cases in point. The 3D conversions of G-Force and Alice in Wonderland cost about $10m each while Clash of the Titans, much criticised for its conversion quality, has cost $5m.

R&D and software development company imcube is licensing its software to production companies worldwide. It has developed ’imcube cinema‘, a specialised 2D-to-3D conversion framework and compositing software that takes care of all the depth cues and binocular rivalry issues. “It integrates many fundamental features that are needed for an optimal workflow with flexible user-interactivity and creativity: depth assignment and compositing, layer management, pre visualization and screen-size adjustment,” explains Knorr.

“Up until now, it took five to eight days to convert one 2D film second into 3D. Our software can do the same job with very complex computer vision algorithms fully automatically for film sequences using specific camera shots – i.e. scenes with static images and a moving camera – in 5 to 15 minutes in best theatrical quality . But even with other camera shots and image content, the imcube software makes the converter’s work considerably easier,” says Knorr.

The company’s ‘imcube cinema‘ has been designed for the 2D-to-3D conversion of feature films and commercials for theatrical exhibition. ’imcube home‘ for Blu-ray applications and ’imcube tv‘ for the special requirements of 2D-to-3D conversion of broadcast content are under development.

Dr Knorr will be speaking at the forthcoming Blu-ray Disc Academy conference on 3D in Hamburg, Germany, 3-4 May, organised by DVD Intelligence in association with MEDIA-TECH. A White Paper entitled Impacts of stereoscopic vision: Basic rules for good 3D and avoidance of visual discomfort, that explores the key 2D-to-3D conversion issues, can be downloaded here PDF (1.1Mb).

Story filed 06.03.11

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