When I upgraded my home theater to 3D a few months ago, I originally predicted that about 90% of my viewing would remain in traditional 2D format. The reality has turned out to be closer to 99%. Nonetheless, I’ve watched a fair amount of 3D content on Blu-ray, cable and videogames. After struggling for a while to find the best settings and calibration, I think that I’ve achieved a pretty good sense of “looking through a window” 3D depth. However, what I have rarely if ever seen are the so-called “pop-out” effects where objects are supposed to jump forward from the screen. Does anyone else have this problem?
I have two 3D displays: a JVC projector (with active shutter 3D glasses) and a Vizio LCD TV (with passive glasses). My experience in this regard has been basically the same on both screens. When I watch 3D content, the surface of the screen is like a window that everything extends backwards from. I have almost never seen 3D imagery that protrudes forward from the surface of the screen. In fact, it may well be that nothing ever has.
Now, I have seen pop-out imagery in theaters when watching 3D movies, quite often in fact. So I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my ocular perception that prevents me from seeing 3D correctly. And, as I said, the sense of depth going back from the screen looks perfectly fine. I also understand that ever since ‘Avatar’, most forms of 3D have tended to emphasize immersive depth over gimmicky pop-outs. Even so, I feel like I should see this every once in a while, at least.
Some movies, like ‘Resident Evil: Afterlife‘ and ‘Drive Angry‘, have scenes that really appear to be designed to take advantage of gimmicky “Comin’ at ya!” gags. The opening scenes of ‘Resident Evil’ feature numerous shots of bullets, ninja throwing stars and other objects flying towards the camera.
I’ve heard from some 3D viewers, including some of our own review staff, who tell me that they do see pop-out effects on their 3D displays. But even when they give me specific scenes to look for, my experience doesn’t change. Nothing ever breaks forward from the surface of the screen.
Just about the only time that I was convinced that I had finally gotten a pop-out effect was during the PS3 game ‘Super Stardust HD’ (which looks fantastic in 3D, by the way). When your character dies, your spaceship explodes in a tremendous burst that blasts toward the viewer. However, playing this game for a while and experiencing this more often, I think that my perception of the effect was colored by the startling nature of it. Watching again and scrutinizing closely, it appears that none of the ship’s debris extends beyond the screen after all.
I discussed this a while back in a thread on AVSForum, and received some interesting responses about the ways that 3D imagery is created, and how it’s determined which side of the screen plane an object will appear. When I asked whether it was possible that a viewer’s ocular physiology might affect the perception of whether objects appear in front of or behind the screen, one poster explained:
Whether things appear to pop out should be a function of one physical element only: whether the object in question is displayed within the left eye-point physically to the right of the location within the right eye-point on the screen.
If both eye-points display the object at the same physical location on-screen, the object will look like it is exactly at the distance of the screen.
If the object in the left eye-point displays physically to the left of the object within the right eye-point, then it will appear to be behind the screen.
Settings in the BD player or display device can affect the relative location on the physical screen by shifting the image: force the left eye-point to display 5 pixels further right than normal, and the right eye-point to display 5 pixels further left than normal, and things will pop out a little more – you also lose 10 pixels of data (5 pixels on each side).
There shouldn’t be any ocular physiology involved – that might affect how much the object appears in front or behind, but not whether it appears in front or behind.
Psychologically, well, that’s a whole other kettle of fish, although I don’t think it would be typical to have that affect out vs. in, but again, like physiological factors, just how much.
And in response to whether screen size affects the 3D effect (for example, the difference between 3D in cinemas vs. home), another poster wrote:
It’s kind of like the aspect ratio where a 16 x 9 screen is 16 x 9 whether it is 160 ft. wide by 90 ft tall or 160 inches wide by 90 inches tall. Parallax z-axis positioning is a relative position based on a pyramidal cone where each corner of the base of the cone is an imaginary line from that corner to the center of your head, where the apex of the cone passes through each eye lens, to be precise. Objects will always appear to be larger the closer they are, therefore an object must be quite small to be seen inside the frustum of the cone. If its size extends beyond, it will appear cut off. This is why a large image like a car cannot get too close or it will appear chopped off, while a sword or cue stick can reach out and poke you in the face.
An object will never extend outside that frustum and never pass to your side and behind you. It doesn’t matter whether you are watching a big IMAX screen or a little 24″ screen. The position is relative to the size of the screen and your distance to the screen. So, if you see an object that is located pop-out 50% between you and the screen in the theater, it will still be 50% distance on your 32″ 3D monitor at home.
Comfort zone- This will vary for different individuals, but sitting too close to fill your peripheral vision will greatly reduce the pop-out effect distance, however it will increase eye strain because your eyes will be focusing attention to greatly diverged images, relative to sitting further away where the cone of vision has a narrower angle. A 60 degree angle on the cone is about maximum for 3D stereography.
(I don’t feel comfortable publishing names here. See the original forum thread for the full conversation.)
With this information, it seems like whether objects come forward from the screen or not is a factor of how they’re photographed (or rendered in CG), not the display type or a viewer’s eyesight. So why is it that I still don’t see anything breaking forward from the surface of the screen?
This isn’t to say that I’m dissatisfied with 3D, or even that I especially want a lot of gimmicky pop-out gags. I just worry that something is wrong in my home theater that I don’t see them at all.
If you have a 3D display at home and can cite examples of where you see pop-out effects extending forward from the screen, please post them in the Comments.