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GDC 2012 Part III - The Art of 3D

Stereography: The Art of 3D
Ian Bickerstaff
Simon Benson
Buzz Hays
L-R: Buzz Hayes, Simon Benson, Ian Bickerstaff (Team Sony!) at GDC 2012 The day wrapped up with a presentation from the guys at Sony about Stereography - for the first time at GDC (I think) a stereoscopic session was presented in the Art track, not programming.  I believe this is significant, and a good indicator of getting stereoscopic game development moving into the creative space for artists and designers to work with rather than simply an exercise in technology.

Ian Bickerstaff and Simon Benson started the presentation with a series of interactive demonstrations of how the parameters for stereography work.  A key part of the presentation was the 3D projector and polarized glasses that were distributed to the audience.  Often in sessions about stereoscopic stuff, the presenters discuss the topics and show 2D slides to describe what it means but the audience has to imagine what that could possibly look like.  Having a large high quality 3D image for the presentation makes a huge difference.

The talk went through the basics of setting a scene that looked reasonably "correct" from a technical perspective and then moved into demonstrations of how the conventional camera properties like focal length and camera position worked when you were also adjusting stereo parameters like the interaxial distance and horizontal image translation.  Then they moved into multi-rig/multi-cam approaches that showed how you can compose foreground and background elements together so that each has the settings that make them look best.

The automatic calculation of parameters was also presented as a way to bend some of the rules, particularly when the player has control over the camera.  It's fine for the art director to tweak the camera to get the shot they want, but what happens when the player takes over and starts moving things around?  Setting up heuristics and adjusting things intelligently when proximity thresholds are crossed is essential to presenting the player with good 3D under all circumstances.

The second half of the presentation, "Telling Stories in Three Dimensions" was done by Buzz Hays who is the Senior Vice President and Executive Stereoscopic 3D Producer for Sony Pictures.  Buzz is deeply involved with master classes that Sony does with Hollywood luminaries and had tremendous information to share with game developers about what film has been learning about story telling and emotional connections in 3D.  Concepts like depth scripting and the impact of subjective vs. objective views produced by parallax decisions have significant impact on the viewers of movies, and games can benefit significantly from learning how to utilize them as well.


Looking back at the day it kind of feels like a blur book-ended by the Uncharted 3 camera talk in the morning and the Sony stereography session in the afternoon with some really cool stuff on the expo floor in between.  It's been great to have more sessions this year talking about stereoscopic 3D than ever before, and particularly to have them in the Game Design and Art tracks.  The potential for 3D to engage players and provide innovative gameplay experiences is something that a lot of the members at MTBS are already excited about, and I'm really encouraged to see the game developers embracing it as well.