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What’s the Big Deal about 3D Video?

Now is the perfect time to dive into the world of 3D-video recording. The technology is still new, but not so new that there is a lack of camcorder models to choose from. Yet 3D camcorders can appear confusing at first. There are already numerous 2D camera shapes, sizes, and shooting formats to consider. Add 3D to the mix and there are even more options. Not only that, but unfamiliar terms such as parallax, convergence, and full 3D also get thrown around.

Luckily, most consumer-level 3D camcorders are simple to use, at least technically speaking. Turn on your new camera, set it to auto, and off you go. But many people are initially dissatisfied with their stereoscopic videos (that’s 3D folks). This is most often because they don’t know the differences between 2D and 3D shooting. Yet 3D recording is quick to grasp once you key in to a few important concepts. What’s more, you’ll find that the payoff is worth the time spent learning.

3D technology opens up a whole new way to record the world around you. The added depth makes your videos a step closer to actually being there. And who doesn’t want greater realism in the moments they capture from their lives and the lives of their loved ones? Just as important, consider this: stereoscopic 3d videos can easily be converted to regular 2D videos, but as you’ll learn, it’s much more difficult to convert 2D to 3D.

Each day that you shoot outdated 2D movies, also known as flatties, is a lost opportunity to capture your memories with the full depth and wow factor that 3D offers. However, there is a vast difference between haphazardly shooting 3D video (which may not look particularly three-dimensional) and shooting full-on, eye-popping, wow-your-friends-and-family 3D video.

Since the birth of visual media, we have demanded increased realism. Consider black-and-white photos, for example. These frozen moments in time stirred and captivated us, but we wanted to see some movement. Movies arrived and amazed us with their motion, but we wanted to hear what was going on. Along came sound, and indeed, talking movies were pretty cool; but hey, what about some color? Color served up a rainbow feast, but life is best lived large. What about wide-screen? Surround sound? High-definition? And so on, as we continuously move toward better and better technologies. Better meaning technology that more closely matches our experiences in everyday life, because the truth is that’s what we seek.

We experience the world around us in full depth and color—in three dimensions. 3D brings us one step closer to content that more closely matches our real-world experience. Recent technical advances have overcome the issues that kept movie theaters from embracing 3D in the past, such as installation cost and viewer fatigue. But arguably the greatest advance occurred when 3D camcorders began to make it into your hands—the hands of the home user. It only took about one hundred years, but 3D is finally affordable and accessible to just about anyone. This is an exciting development because 3D offers an entirely new way of shooting video.

As you likely know, 3D is not a recent discovery. The little camcorder that you currently hold (or will soon hold if you haven’t yet bought one) has a long and interesting story behind it. And in fact, 3D has been labeled a fad at numerous points throughout its tumultuous history. Some still say it’s a fad. More on this shortly. But for now, if you consider the evolution of this fascinating technology, you’ll begin to understand why this time things are different.

The Early Days of 3D

Euclid, a Greek mathematician, is famously (or infamously, for those who struggled with mathematics in school) known as the father of geometry. He also wrote a book called “Optics” that explained the geometry of eyesight. Today, we know that light bounces off objects and enters our eyes. However, at the time, beams of light were thought to emanate from our eyes, revealing the world around us. In other words, Euclid believed that our eyes functioned somewhat like flashlights.

Euclid with Students

Euclid with Students

Unless your eyesight is of the superhero X-ray vision variety, you can see how poor Euclid was a little bit off in this regard. But given the limited scientific knowledge of his era, he was way ahead of his time in understanding the way vision works. Being a specialist in the geometry of eyesight, he realized that having two eyes allowed humans to perceive depth.

Leap ahead over two thousand years into the 1800s. Sir Charles Wheatstone made use of Euclid’s knowledge to invent the stereoscope. Stereoscopes allowed people to view two separate photos through different eyepieces to create an impressive 3D effect. People were equal parts intrigued and astounded, but as you might have guessed, they wanted to see moving pictures. Not long afterward, William Friese-Greene patented a rather unwieldy device called the stereoscope headset. The technology, invented by Frederick Varley, used two side-by-side screens and a cumbersome viewing device to create rudimentary 3D movies.

Ultimately, Hollywood noticed these exciting new advances. In 1922, 3D reached U.S. shores when The Power of Love was released commercially in Los Angeles. However, the film was not destined for greatness despite its bold filmmaker’s lofty aspirations. 3D technology had advanced somewhat, but was still extremely expensive and cumbersome. Although the film caused a brief stir, it quickly faded from view. It was not entirely forgotten, however. Various 3D experiments were made throughout the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s. Then, in the 1950s, 3D finally began to make its mark on entertainment history. Technical advances aside, there were several reasons why the 1950s were the perfect time for 3D stereoscopic video to explode in popularity.

This is an excerpt from my new book Shoot 3D Like a Pro. Available on Kindle and other ebook formats Paperback to follow soon!

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