The arrival of a new baby in my family has led me to take more video than usual. But as I shoot with my standard-definition digital camcorder, I wonder if I’ll be getting grief from this kid once he realizes that his vids could have been shot in high def. And lurking in the back of my mind is something even more worrisome—3D.
Since a good part of the civilized world has seen Avatar, is there any turning back? Hollywood is pumping out 3D movies faster and faster. Those movies will wind up playing on 3D-capable flat-panel TVs, as some are already doing now. As more and more people start watching 3D movies at home, what’s the next step? It’s obvious. Everyone will want to shoot their own videos in 3D.
3D CAMCORDERS ANYONE?
I went searching to find out how close we are to having an affordable 3D camcorder, and the answer is pretty close—maybe two years. At January’s International CES in Las Vegas, Panasonic unveiled the world’s first integrated Full HD 3D camcorder (see the figure).
Yes, we’ve seen 3D cameras before. After all, how else can Hollywood produce blockbusters like Avatar? Those systems often use two separate cameras melded into one with fancy electronics and optics. But the Panasonic camera is different. No, it’s not a consumer camera. It’s for professionals. The cost says it all: $21,000. But it’s also the shape of camcorders to come. Can the cost curve slide by a factor of 10 in two years? Maybe.
Naturally, Panasonic’s Full HD 3D camcorder takes advantage of the latest technologies so you get what you might expect—a solid-state memory instead of tape or hard disk as the recording medium. The lenses, camera head, and dual Memory Card recorder are integrated into a single, lightweight body. The camcorder also incorporates stereoscopic adjustment controls, making it easy to use and operate.
A twin-lens system in the camcorder’s optical section lets you adjust the convergence point, which is where the left and right cameras’ optical axes converge to produce 3D images. There are also functions for automatically correcting horizontal and vertical displacement.
With conventional 3D camera systems, these adjustments are typically made with a PC or an external video processor. This new camcorder, however, will automatically recalibrate without any need for external equipment, essentially giving you the ability to capture 3D images without too much fuss.
As you might expect, the solid-state memory file-based recording system will let you take full HD 3D videos in more challenging shooting environments, since solid-state memory can “take a lickin’ and keep on tickin,’” as they used to say. This camcorder is certainly lighter and smaller than current 3D rigs, so handheld shooting is not a problem.
DON’T FORGET THE GLASSES
Panasonic has jazzed up 3D glasses compared to the clunky versions that cinemas give out for 3D movies. I’m picturing an entire cottage industry for “fashion” 3D glasses with vendors in malls and other high-traffic venues. Get your glasses on and cuddle up with the kids on the couch to watch your favorite family vids in 3D.
More information about the camcorder, glasses, and other 3D gear is available at www.panasonic.com/CES2010. The camcorder is set to debut in the fall, but Panasonic will start taking orders in April. Does anyone out there have 21 grand to burn?