This year at CES, HP showed off an impressive new technology at the Earth, Wind and Fire concert they organized in partnership with Monster. Code-named “Pluribus” (the Latin roughly translates as ‘many’), the new HP 3D Live tech takes off-the-shelf parts to create an amazing 3D experience. Read on for some eyes-on impressions.
I’ll be the first to say that, by and large, I’m not a huge fan of 3D technology. At least, not a fan of 3D as it exists today. There are a number of problems with it, from expensive glasses in the home to games and movies that see 3D as nothing more than a gimmick to increase sales.
As a result, while consumers are actively interested in experiencing 3D content, that same content often leaves them wanting.
That’s not the only problem, either. In order to create compelling (or even not-so compelling) content, companies are forced to invest in expensive equipment, from high-tech 3D cameras that record an event, to computers that process the footage, to the infrastructure necessary to transmit and broadcast the final result.
On top of that, doing it all live increases costs and difficulty by a substantial degree. That puts it out of range of many places where it would be the most useful. Think about the giant video screens you see at a concert, speech or sports event. Maybe the city theater wants to double the number of people that can see their productions, or the stadium wants to offer live 3D video in its suites.
Even a speech or symphony, while not typically a motion-intensive spectacle, could benefit from being broadcast with an added dimension.
This is where HP’s 3D Live technology comes in. Instead of requiring 3D cameras, 3D projectors and $100,000 worth of workstations to model everything, HP uses entirely off-the-shelf parts. Aside from the special software, nothing that they used in the broadcast in Las Vegas required a custom piece of equipment.
HP’s CTO Phil McKinney talks about the Pluribus technology.
Several projectors are first arranged in a grid pattern, each pointed at a screen. In this case, there were fourteen projectors, but twelve of these did all the work with two as emergency backups. The projectors are arranged in such a way as to overlap the broadcast screen, and a test pattern is lit.
When using multiple projectors like this, the biggest problem is typically time and effort – each projector will display slightly different images, and manipulating brightness, contrast and image keystoning to produce a seamless picture requires hours or even days.
HP sets up two consumer HD camcorders to watch the test image. Almost any HD camcorder you can walk into Best Buy and pick up would be suitable for the task. The feed from these cameras is then sent to a quartet of HP workstations for analysis.
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