Print Story Not Dead Yet
By CheeseburgerBrown (Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 10:51:36 AM EST) (all tags)
I continue to surprise myself by failing to expire or spontaneously combust. Details beneath the fold.


We're doing a stereoscopic job at work, which reminds me with gruesome certainty that two years between stereoscopic projects isn't nearly long enough.

For the uninitiated, stereoscopy is the process whereby the picture is designed to look as if it has real depth from the point of view of the audience. This effect used to be called "3D" and it still is for marketing purposes, but behind the scenes we call it "stereoscopy" now in a throwback to the ninteenth century terminology to avoid confusion with computer-generated flat animation that is composed in a virtual three-dimensional space, commonly called "3D animation."

The principle is simple: instead of creating a single stream of frames, we create two streams imaged from slightly different perspectives. The stream designed for the left eye is polarized at 45 degrees, and the stream for the right eye is polarized at -45 degrees. These disparate streams are then projected onto a single surface. When viewed through glasses with each lens polarized to match each stream, each eye can only see a single image stream; the streams are then recombined in the brain. The brain reconciles the contrasting images by deciding the differences are on account of parallax, and informs us that we're seeing depth.

The execution, however, is not at all simple.

The human eye generally employs only convergent image sets to create the illusion of depth (that is, the closer an object is to the viewer the more the images cross into each other). Convergence brings an object closer to the viewer. The problem, however, is that the brain doesn't particularly want to be fooled in this way. It is constantly looking for other cues to help it make sense of what it's seeing, and it's very good at finding them. The edge of the picture frame, for example, gives your brain a clue that things that look like they're sticking out of the screen aren't in fact doing so. The same can be said for the heads of the peole sitting in the audience in front of you.

The solution is to couple a light, selected use of convergence with an ample use of divergence (that is, the further an object is from the viewer the more the images seem to separate away from one another). This sends elements of the image back into the picture plane rather than bringing them forward. The edges of the frame don't interfere with this illusion, because the brain is content to imagine that you're looking through some sort of magical window.

When the ratio of convergence to divergence is incorrect, the result is severe eye-strain, headache and dizziness.

So, one might imagine the solution is to develop a set formula for convergence and divergence tolerances, right? Wrong. The thing is, the amount of convergence/divergence the eye can assimilate is entirely dependant on two factors: how physically large the image is, and how far away from picture plane is from the viewer.

What this means, in short, is that you can't set your convergence/divergence ratios without having at least a vague idea of your destination projection set-up. A print of a stereoscopic movie designed for IMAX, for instance, will employ different ratios than a print destined for a traditionally-sized movie theatre.

So, I'm two weeks away from my deadline and the powers-that-be still haven't nailed down where we're doing the show. The powers-that-be are too mentally meagre to understand why this might affect my work. I've tried drawing diagrams, I've tried using clever analogies, and -- Spaghetti Monster forgive me -- I've even tried throwing a screaming hissy fit. No dice. All I get are blank stares followed by award-winning statements like, "Yeah, I hear where you're coming from, but I still need to understand why the stereo renders aren't ready yet."

My boss seems secretly convinced that I don't know what I'm talking about. He says he trusts my expertise, but he called around to see if he could find an expert stereoscopy consultant to set the record straight. He ran through his contacts in every technologically-advanced province of confederation, and he only came up with one name: mine.

That's right. Apparently, I'm the stereoscopy expert in Canada. If you're reading this now and you're a Canadian stereoscopy expert, let me tell you plainly: you're doing a piss-poor job of promoting yourself.

Since stereoscopy is exploding right now in the United States, everyone local who learns the craft goes south to work for Lucas, Zemeckis or Cameron. All that's left are the dregs, like me, who for whatever batshit stupid reasons think staying in Canada is to their profit.

The upshot is that my boss is now resigned to the fact that I may have a clue. Sadly, this hasn't accelerated the push to nail down our destination projection set-up, or even our method for delivering the media from two frame-accurate polarized sources. There are some really cool machines to do this, but in general they're only available in the United States, or at exorbitant cost, or both.

We're looking into buying our own media server to do the job. If all the details are worked out quickly, we might even get it a few days before it is due to be installed in the set, giving me a window of testing opportunity of, I don't know, about six hours or something before the show is loaded on a plane and flown across the country.

Quoth my boss: "I want you to make absolutely certain this doesn't give anybody headaches."

"Anybody besides me, you mean?"

Just in case that task was not impossible enough on its face, the client's principal symbol is a prism. On screen, what differentiates a prism from a triangle is the fact that it bends the light that passes through it. (Parenthetically, there was some initial debate about whether or not we could show a beam of white light being split into a spectrum by the prism -- initially our client believed this concept was "copyrighted by Claritin" until I (very gently) explained to him that it was actually Isaac Newton who "came up with that creative"). Rendering refracting light is very calculation intensive, and even with my fastest network of giga-computers single frames take upwards of a quarter hour to process.

My boss says, "No problem. Once we get our stereo stuff calibrated, you can just re-render it all before the show."

Oh, sure. There's nothing like taking a sixty-seven hour rendering job and trying to figure out how to accomplish it in twelve hours. What chance do the laws of physics stand against gumption?


Still, it must be said, when all is said and done, that seeing shit jump off your computer screen is neat-o mosquit-o. Stereoscopy is fucking cool. Soon enough it will be everywhere. By 2012 or so the HDTVs that show stereoscopic imagery without the need for glasses should be just about ready for the consumer market, and you know what that means, right? It means when you download pirate movies you'll have to make sure both eye-streams are ripped from the same source. Maybe the new BitTorrent protocol will have a special hash function for checking the match.

No, I haven't seen Beowulf yet.


Littlestar has started working, which means going home is more like another job than ever before. She's managing a liquor and grocery store, working nights until 11, so it's now my daily duty to come home from work in time to feed, bathe, and teach the children before putting them to bed. Combined with the amount of overtime I've been putting in on this stereoscopy job, this has been a fairly harsh trial brokered by cumulative exhaustion and acute stress.

My response: lots of liquor. (Mm'mm...lick-her.)

Drinking liquor helps me sleep, and it also takes the edge off of my compulsive feelings to chop my family up into little bits and press them into aluminium cans for export to some dingy nation where people think wrong and seldom bathe.

You'd think this would give me trouble waking up, but it doesn't because my boy thoughtfully starts screaming bloody murder every morning at 5:30 AM. That's just how he cares to greet the day. It doesn't seem to matter whether or not he's napped, or how late or early he went to bed: 5:30 is unerringly his moment to rise, shine, and bellow.

Littlestar: "You look old, baby."

"I feel old."

Even though the rule is supposed to be that Littlestar can only acquire one new animal each year, this year we have acquired a rabbit, two South American degus, and a kitten. Thus, my livingroom is resplendant with shredded newspaper and the various perfumes of mammal life: excrement, kibble, old vegetables. This is compounded by the children whose prime joys in life recently are to mix up various kitchen or bathroom compounds into "science experiments" which are then left, forgotten, under chesterfields or spilled in the toy box, free to become fetid or sticky or slimey or any combination thereof. They leave the cage doors open, and encourage the animals to get lost in the house.

I vaguely remember my wife. She was this ample blonde with fabulous ya-yas and a knack for making me feel heavenly. Remind me to check her Facebook status so I know what she's up to.

Home School

Popsicle is one award-star away from being entitled to a toy unicorn. She almost lost a star for being saucy the other day, but she managed to hang to it by the skin of her teeth. One more successful lesson and she wins.

A successful lesson is defined as Popsicle correctly answering six out of ten post-lesson questions. She's generally very good at this, and rarely fails to earn a star. She must also obey the Five Rules of School, which are these:
#1. With our eyes, we look.
#2. With our ears, we listen.
#3. With our bums, we sit.
#4. With our mouths, we stay on topic.
#5. With our brains, we try.
Topics we've been covering lately include mixing colours, adding numbers, counting by twos, identifying factors and multiples, recognizing place values and using them to put numbers in the correct order, reading short words, recognizing Latin and Greek root words and using them as a clue to guess meaning, writing her name, identifying major historical civilizations and the sequence in which they arose, understanding the impact of technological change from fire to the telephone, understanding years, centuries and passage of time, identifying whether movies or set in the past, the present, the future or a fantastical realm, identifying geographic features, memorizing the names of local geography, decoding the formulas used in storytelling to predict what will happen next in a movie, identifying animals and understanding how different kinds relate to one another, understanding cumulative change over time and the basic concept of genetic inheritance, differentiating myths from reality, understanding how various members of our family are related to one another, memorizing the names for degrees of kinship, measuring length and volume using standard units, understanding the states of matter (solid, liquid, gaseous, plasma) what causes their transitions into one another, identifying geometric shapes and recognizing symmetrical features, naming familiar celestial bodies, and understanding the relationship between the passage of seasons and the Earth's position and angle. Also, what angles are.

I continue to be blown away by the amount of information she can absorb, and the unprompted acts of synthesis she accomplishes while mulling things over.

So far, so good.

So Very Tired

I am so very, very tired. Between life and writing, I'm feeling quite spent lately. I'm always in a hurry, always pressed for time, always a dollar short, always at pains to patiently explain the obvious to idiots without letting bad attitude leak in.

On the other hand I watched Superbad last night and I thought it was wicked funny.

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Not Dead Yet | 15 comments (15 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Is that a real home school? by georgeha (4.00 / 2) #1 Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 11:05:29 AM EST
Like in place of a government mandated indoctrination camp school?

I heartily sympathize with many of your sentiments, but take heart, in 50 years you'll be the star of the children's book "Goodby to Daddy".
I think I need to watch a wicked funny movie.

Well, It's a School House by CheeseburgerBrown (2.00 / 0) #2 Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 11:06:56 AM EST
That's heavy by duxup (2.00 / 0) #3 Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 11:22:10 AM EST
If we were nearby Mrs. duxup the ex nanny could do some kid sitting to give you guys some time.  Also I could figure out what on earth a degus is and why your children haven't yet eaten it intentionally or otherwise.
<i>Octodont degu</i> by misslake (4.00 / 1) #8 Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 12:26:45 PM EST
little tree-living chinchillas.

brown rattish critters. amongst the longest lived rodent, i found out after living with the two little darlings for 5 years and being surprised that they hadn't dropped dead yet. so now the schoolhouse is looking forward to spending the next 6 or so years with alpha and bravo, or sunflower and nubby (as they are now called)

they might get eaten. tomorrow, even. if not by the kids then by the dog.

[ Parent ]
I am glad you are not dead by 606 (2.00 / 0) #4 Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 11:38:50 AM EST
Everything I hear about media/multimedia type companies is that they're all run like that. Poorly planned, overpromising, and undercompensated. But at least something gets delivered at the end of the day even if it isn't as perfect as you'd hope (and makes viewers crosseyed).

My brother is always talking about making stereoscopic movies. I'll have to tell him it's not as simple as duct taping two DV cams together. Is there some formula for determining optimal divergence/convergence between cameras when you know your screen size, or is it more art and luck?

The prism was totally patented by Pink Floyd, by the by.

Your home-school regimen looks extensive. How long does a lesson last? And when are you going to get into set theory, discrete mathematics, and asymptotic analysis of algorithms?

imagine dancing banana here

You've summoned the spirit of Misterqueue... by superdiva (4.00 / 1) #5 Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 11:39:00 AM EST
My response: lots of liquor. (Mm'mm...lick-her.)

Queue-like in many ways...heh


You could work for Zemeckis in Hollywood by MillMan (2.00 / 0) #6 Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 11:59:52 AM EST
but then you'd be in LA, and your fabulous salary would be wasted on a mortgage payment with an extra zero in it.

Also, I enjoy the occasional popsicle photos your wife puts up on myspace.

When I'm imprisoned as an enemy combatant, will you blog about it?

I MEAN FACEBOOK! by MillMan (2.00 / 0) #7 Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 12:00:33 PM EST
wow, that was worse than typing netsex into the wrong window.

When I'm imprisoned as an enemy combatant, will you blog about it?

[ Parent ]
Weeellllll..... by fencepost (2.00 / 0) #9 Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 02:19:49 PM EST
You should spend a few minutes putting together the order for the level and quantity of machines you'll need to get the render done in less than 12 hours. Don't forget to include the cost of expedited delivery, etc. and time to get them all set up.

Then present that to your boss for his signature, pointing out that "This is the cost of not having it finalized." Perhaps he'll decide that it's worth nailing someone's feet to the floor if that number is high enough.

Alternatively, you might see what sort of rendering capabilities you might be able to scrounge elsewhere. Two things jump to mind, one of which you've probably already considered:

Contact a spammer by notafurry (2.00 / 0) #10 Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 09:37:43 PM EST
Think botnets. Cheaper, more raw capacity, and if you need more than they have available you have the skills to create the next fake celebrity bait video.

[ Parent ]
Pirsig chernobyled the word gumption by fleece (2.00 / 0) #11 Wed Nov 21, 2007 at 01:23:02 AM EST
still another 50 years before it's safe to use again.

Stereoscopy is fucking cool. by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #12 Wed Nov 21, 2007 at 04:21:44 AM EST
Except for those of us who, due to playground disagreements in our youth, can't see stereo.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

With the $CDN so high by sasquatchan (2.00 / 0) #13 Wed Nov 21, 2007 at 04:37:07 AM EST
aren't you the sell-out now, and should be talking shite to all the other Canadians that left for the paltry $USD ?

And I thought 3d went out of style 10-15 years ago ? I mean, it peaked in the 80s, and then slow down hill decline to 92-93, with "Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare" (gosh, I remember seeing that one in the theatre with the 3-d glasses)

Hello again! by jared (4.00 / 1) #14 Fri Nov 23, 2007 at 08:07:26 PM EST
Thanks for the update to let us know how all of you are doing!  :-)  Seeing you and your family was one of the highlights of our Canadian honeymoon.  Sorry to hear that you're being pulled in so many ways.  I have semi-similar feelings to remembering what my husband looks like at times, but it's nothing as severe as what you're going through.  Just that we don't have the same amount of time together as we used to pre-law school.

Please give your wife a big hug from me, and then get her to give you a big hug from me, too.  :-)

Not like you asked for suggestions, but by emissary (2.00 / 0) #15 Sat Dec 15, 2007 at 10:15:02 PM EST
I'd like to suggest some basic linguistics as good curriculum for the toddler (obstruents/sonorants/vowels, places of articulation, parts of speech). It will probably get her in trouble in English classes for the next twelve years.

"Were I not married and practicing my religion, I would be a rabid sex maniac." - nathan
Not Dead Yet | 15 comments (15 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback