That’s Entertainment: 3D Leaps From Theater to Home

James Cameron propelled 3D entertainment into the mainstream by achieving extraordinary success on the big screen with Avatar, the highest-grossing movie of all time. Now he has his eye on a new frontier: home entertainment.

The next-generation technology propelling 3D films, television and video games is changing the landscape of entertainment from theater screen to laptop. One only needs to look at the global box office to see that 3D isn’t a fad like it was in the ’50s and ’70s.

Three-dimensional movies are on the exact trajectory that Cameron expected, as more 3D movie screens and more 3D movies are being released than ever before. In fact, of the 10 movies that have ever crossed the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office, six are 3D films, and one is getting a 3D makeover. Cameron holds the No. 1 and 2 slots with Avatar ($2.8 billion) and Titanic ($1.8 billion), the latter of which will be released in 3D on April 6. The newest addition is Michael Bay’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which was filmed using CAMERON | PACE Group’s latest 3D camera setup and rigs.

“You’re not going to put the toothpaste back in the tube at this point; it’s just a matter of people realizing this,” says Cameron. “There are more 3D films in the market in parallel with each other, and theaters are having trouble keeping up.”

Cameron Continues to Shape 3D’s Future

Cameron is working on two Avatar sequels, which will hit theaters in December 2014 and December 2015, respectively. He’s also been busy working with longtime partner Vince Pace to help other filmmakers push 3D technology with their films. Cameron partnered with Pace in 2011 to form the CAMERON | PACE Group (CPG), the industry leader in 3D technologies and production services. The company leases the latest 3D equipment to filmmakers and broadcasters to bring 3D entertainment to the big screen and the home.

“The understanding of what constitutes 3D entertainment as opposed to

3D dimension is the difference filmmakers really need to understand to take advantage of the latest technology and tools that are out there,” says Pace.

“They have to be used properly, and I think there’s been a progression of understanding about what you need to do to create good 3D entertainment.”

Before Avatar came out, people didn’t think an audience would watch 3D for an extended period of time. But that’s not the case any longer.

“3D became a picture window into the world, and I think that both games and sports have to make that transition,” says Pace. “It becomes this viewing window for the public where these things -- whether it’s a movie, television show, sporting event, or video game -- are happening right there in front of you.”

3D Invades Homes

While much of the focus around 3D has been on the silver screen, both Cameron and Pace believe the future of 3D is in the home. According to Research and Markets, the global 3D TV market size is expected to exceed $100 billion by the end of 2014. A key driver of these sales is content, including video games for Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 consoles such as Batman: Arkham City, Gears of War 3 and Resistance 3.

Hollywood is also offering more Blu-Ray 3D movies, such as Paramount Pictures’ Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, and Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment’s Cars 2, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Toy Story 3 and Tron: Legacy. But 3D programming, including sports -- such as soccer, college football and basketball -- is going to be crucial for the growth of 3D entertainment.

“What excites me is we’re taking the bookends of what we understand

3D to be contained to -- a sci-fi film or a horror film -- and removing them,” says Cameron. “When done correctly, it brings out more emotion, more character and more athleticism than any other medium out there.”

Another key area of 3D growth is the PC. A growing number of laptops and desktops support 3D movie playback and video gaming. And tablets are expected to enter the market featuring glasses-free 3D entertainment, as well as smartphones and portable gaming systems such as Nintendo 3DS.

“We’re talking about a complete revolution of the way we interact with screens,” says Cameron.

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Video Editing Tools Bring Power to the People

Addressing the computing needs of digital content creators requires a deep understanding of the complex interdependencies between hardware components and software applications. Few systems integrators understand this better than BOXX Technologies. For more than a decade, BOXX has been designing high-performance workstations and rendering systems for creative professionals working in video, special effects, animation and design visualization. Their roster of customers includes the likes of Disney and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Realizing that aspiring pros and serious hobbyists -- “enthusiasts” -- could benefit from their hard-won expertise, BOXX teamed up with CyberLink, whose PowerDirector video editing software offers enthusiasts a powerful yet uncomplicated set of tools for editing, converting and sharing videos.

“Our customers place high demands on their hardware and software,” says Shoaib Mohammad, vice president of marketing and business development for BOXX Technologies. “And because we understand how their software and hardware needs fit into their workflow, we’re able to deliver customized solutions that are fast, innovative and reliable.”

Inside the Technology

BOXX offers digital media enthusiasts three turnkey systems designed for PowerDirector users. And for optimal performance, BOXX paired multicore processors with SSDs, which significantly outperform standard HDDs.

“BOXX is always pushing the latest and greatest technology,” says Mohammad. “SSDs have come a long way, providing increased capacity at attractive prices.”

CyberLink PowerDirector offers enthusiasts a powerful, intuitive toolset for polishing and enhancing HD video shot with consumer electronics devices, including smartphones, video and DSLR cameras, webcams and more. Running on BOXX turnkey systems with maximum-performance components, PowerDirector users can handle complex HD footage fluidly. And when their projects are complete, they can be converted to a variety of popular device-friendly formats quickly and easily.

PowerDirector 10 Ultra, billed as “the world’s fastest” video editor, offers full 64-bit OS support to utilize all the RAM on the system, reducing the time it takes for HD footage to load. PowerDirector includes CyberLink’s second-generation TrueVelocity technology, which improves previewing, effects rendering, format converting, and outputting of videos. The software also comes with OpenCL support, an enhanced HD video encoder and patented Intelligent SVRT technology to help users produce better videos in less time. Previously, that sort of power was the exclusive domain of professional video software and high-end workstations.

“Our goal with PowerDirector was to deliver the best aspects of high-end functionality, without making the software overly complicated,” says Louis Chen, director of product marketing at CyberLink.

That focus on ease of use is evident at every stage of the video workflow. For example, PowerDirector supports a “file-based” workflow that lets users handle video clips stored in the latest digital formats, for use in devices such as smartphones, camcorders, point-and-shoot cameras, Canon and Nikon DSLRs, and webcams. Bringing video clips into PowerDirector is as simple as connecting your device’s storage media to your computer, browsing to the files and choosing to import them as individual clips or a batch of clips.

Digging Deeper

Most of PowerDirector’s complexity is hidden from newbies, but easily discoverable by more advanced users. In a nod to these users, the timeline -- a ubiquitous feature in both professional and consumer video-editing apps -- supports up to 100 video tracks and key-frame animation, as well as numerous advanced editing and enhancement tools that provide added control and flexibility.

PowerDirector 10 Ultra even offers native support for stereoscopic 3D (S3D) videos and photos, as well as the conversion of 2D content to S3D, expansive editing support for S3D titles, S3D particles, S3D effects, S3D menus and more. In addition, PowerDirector lets users output and burn S3D content to disc, and even directly upload S3D videos to YouTube.

“We’re seeing up to 10 times faster video encoding, playback and conversion with the processors, thanks to deep parallelism, increased throughput and hardware-accelerated encoding,” says Chen. By combining easy-to-use software with powerful turnkey computing systems, BOXX and CyberLink are making pro-level, high-performance tools available to creative enthusiasts.

Tapping Into the Power: Graphics Performance Analyzers

Creative enthusiasts working with entertainment media such as HD video need highly responsive tools that sustain the creative flow. After all, waiting for an effect to render or suffering through herky-jerky video playback are sure ways to squelch inspiration.

So tapping into the full performance potential of today’s desktops, laptops, tablet PCs and mobile computing architectures -- and eliminating latency-inducing bottlenecks -- is essential for media application developers. These are typically daunting time- and resource-intensive tasks.

Fortunately, a number of powerful developer tools can help streamline the process of analyzing and optimizing media and other graphics-intensive applications. For example, Graphics Performance Analyzers (GPA) allow developers to increase the parallelization of their code, readily identify and eliminate hotspots and bottlenecks and accelerate media encoding, decoding, preprocessing and transcoding operations across a variety of platforms, including legacy and the current second-generation processor family.

Making an Impact With Performance
Optimization is a critical part of the product development workflow, especially for media application developers. For example, ArcSoft -- a leading developer of video editing, conversion and application sharing -- devotes 50 percent of its development cycle to the optimization process. Why is optimization so important? It all boils down to performance.

“Today’s users don’t want to wait for effects to render or videos to load,” says Yanlong Sun, ArcSoft’s deputy general manager of video and home entertainment. “Tapping into the performance of processor architecture through fine-tuning and optimization means that users don’t need to wait.”

Optimization is also a top priority for Corel, one of the world’s top software companies. “Platform optimization is fundamental to our development,” explains Jan Piros, senior strategic product manager at Corel. “A significant amount of our effort goes into this because the gains made can be felt throughout many of our features. It’s an effort whose impact is multiplied throughout the software and is of great benefit to the user.”

With each new generation of processor, more cores are added to a single piece of silicon. To make use of all that processing power, software developers tune and optimize their code for multicore, multithreaded operations. This allows the software to utilize all available cores and threads on a system, helping boost performance in the process.

Getting the Numbers
Zeroing in on the exact cause of any particular latency -- when hundreds of modules and millions of lines of code are involved -- is like trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack. Discovering bottlenecks and analyzing CPU and graphics workloads at the system, task and intra-frame levels can help save developers a significant amount of time during optimization and development of their application.

GPA provides developers with a suite of analysis tools for visualizing and optimizing applications efficiently from the system level all the way down to individual elements, such as draw calls within a single video frame. In addition, GPA lets developers experiment and actually see performance opportunities from optimizations without making source code changes with a standalone GPA Frame Analyzer tool.

Case Study: ArcSoft
ArcSoft -- a leading developer of multimedia imaging technologies and applications for desktop and embedded platforms -- creates software for smartphones, feature phones, tablets, PCs, smart TVs and cameras. They know that optimization is a crucial portion of their development cycle.

GPA was instrumental in allowing ArcSoft to parallelize the core engine used in both ShowBiz and MediaConverter. “Parallel tasking gives our users the ability to simultaneously output finished content to, say, YouTube and a handheld device format,” says Sun. “GPA gave us a frame-by-frame GPU analysis to help us improve our decode and encode pipelines. Multicore, multithreaded processor technology significantly reduces the conversion time. The user can now convert four or more files concurrently while leaving the processor free for other tasks.”

Case Study: Corel
Corel, one of the world’s top software companies with more than 100 million active users in more than 75 countries, develops innovative products that are easy to learn and use. Corel VideoStudio Pro X4, its flagship video-editing software, offers video makers of all skill levels a comprehensive set of video-editing tools, along with plug-ins for rock-steady video stabilization and broadcast-quality titles, animations and graphics.

In developing VideoStudio Pro X4, Corel engineers used GPA to achieve optimal load balancing between CPU and GPU media-processing pipelines. “The decode/encode functions allowed us to achieve very fast transcoding speed, as well as fast read-back between video and system memory,” says Chung-Tao Chu, director of development at Corel.

GPA helped Corel engineers identify bottlenecks and hot spots by analyzing modules related to a single feature or feature set instead of having to look at the entire VideoStudio Pro code base. Once identified, bottlenecks were eliminated, resulting in code optimized for performance and multicore scalability. “It lets us deliver a video editor with a smooth and responsive creative experience that really wasn’t possible with previous-generation chips,” says Piros.

Corel’s new MotionStudio 3D is an easy-to-use 3D and motion-graphics application that makes titles and graphics for video. “MotionStudio is very graphics-intensive,” says Chung-Tao. “Looking ahead to future releases, we can absolutely see where GPA will help optimize our very complex and computing-intensive graphics.”

Image: corel.com

The Crossroads of Art and Technology: Creating The Creators Project

Technology has revolutionized social interaction, giving individuals unprecedented access to global distribution channels. Thanks to incredible advances in content creation technologies and multithreaded processors, today’s artists, musicians, filmmakers and designers are reshaping the boundaries of creative expression.

The Start

The Creators Project, founded in part by Vice Media, was started to showcase innovative artists and enable them to realize new artwork. “The Creators Project celebrates the connection between art and technology,” says David Haroldsen, a creative director for the project. “We set out to give people who use computers every day a look at artistic experiences that are only possible because of technology.”

“The Creators Project is about cultivating artists from around the world and exploring the boundaries of creativity as well as the role technology plays in the process,” adds Hosi Simon, general manager at Vice Media. With offices in more than 30 countries, Vice is uniquely positioned to draw from its relationship among the global art community and identify cutting-edge interdisciplinary artists.

When The Creators Project launched in 2010, Vice used a variety of media -- including television, print, online and mobile outlets -- to document the work of more than 100 creators to date, hailing mostly from seven countries (Brazil, China, France, Germany, South Korea, United Kingdom and United States). “In 2011, we pushed that concept forward by showcasing their work at events around the world, and by getting involved with the creators, their future and their creative process,” says Simon. “But we wanted to go beyond telling their stories. We wanted to help them take their work to the next level.”

The Studio

The Studio, an ongoing arts initiative supported by The Creators Project, was created to do just that. “Think of The Studio as an art foundation,” says Simon. “It offers creators the means to realize their artistic visions. We foster interdisciplinary collaborations and give them access to the latest technology. Then we disseminate the work using a number of media channels and an event series.”

The event series kicked off at Milk Studios in New York City and then moved to London, Sao Paulo and Seoul, culminating in a three-day exposition in Beijing. “We learned a lot in those first events,” says Simon. “They were all-day, all-night affairs with everything from a film festival to panel discussions where creators explained how they do what they do. We had some of the best bands -- amazing bands -- playing. In New York City, we had MIA, Interpol, Mark Ronson -- and we had incredible art installations -- all in one building. Frankly, it was too much to experience in a single day. That led us to planning multiday events.”

Coachella

In 2011, The Creators Project was the first-ever creative partner for Coachella -- one of the world’s premier music and arts festivals -- and reimagined the event by creating groundbreaking visual experiences. The project collaborated with acts such as Arcade Fire and Interpol to enhance their performances. It also unveiled a series of original, large-scale artworks, including United Visual Artists’ reinvention of Coachella’s main stage and Muti Randolph’s Sahara Tent installation. For the first time, The Creators Project billed international bands from China, Korea and Brazil and also showcased interactive works by Mark Essen, Lumpens, Feng Mengbo and Hojun Song in The Creators Project tent.

The original artworks created for Coachella were unveiled as the first series of projects from The Studio. For example, J. Spaceman (from Spiritualized, a U.K.-based space rock band) and Jonathan Glazer (director of Radiohead’s OK Computer video and the film Sexy Beast) created a light and sound installation. The installation was a physical manifestation of Spiritualized’s iconic track “Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space,” and was presented in a cathedral-like space designed by the architecture firm Undisclosable. 

“I had an interesting conversation with Jonathan Glazer,” says Simon. “He was amazed that, despite the technical difficulties, the finished project was exactly what he had envisioned. So often, projects end up being only a third as good as the original idea. Vice and The Creators Project stood behind Glazer’s and Spaceman’s idea 100 percent.”

Joining Up

To become part of The Creators Project and The Studio, check out the application process on The Creators Project website. Notes Haroldson: “We are enabling artists all over the world to build new things with the caveat that they need to push technology.”

“Visual experience is our top-level brief,” says Simon. “It’s not enough that someone be a great electronic musician. There also has to be a visual element. And it’s essential that the Creators want to be involved because this only works if the Creators are enthusiastic. We’re not paying them to be part of the project.”

“We have a mix of emerging artists and leading artists,” continues Simon. “There has to be some aspirational aspect to The Creators Project for emerging artists to get included in the program and feel like, ‘Wow, I’m hitting the big leagues.’”

Globally, that approach helps artists who are well-established in their home countries to gain exposure abroad. “We can help a Chinese artist get recognized in the U.K., for example,” says Simon. “The same goes for someone like Diplo, who’s arguably quite famous in the States -- but by being featured on The Creators Project website, his profile gets a couple million hits in China.”

The Creators Project is a balance between passion for the arts and an intimate connection with technology, as well as the culture surrounding the two. By supporting and showcasing emerging and established Creators and their work, Vice hopes to demonstrate that the status quo is simply not good enough.

Power to the People: The New Consumer Video Revolution

The consumer video renaissance is in full swing thanks to technological innovations that make it possible for anyone to create professional-looking HD videos complete with Hollywood-style transitions, effects, graphics, sound and animation.

Modern video and still cameras, smartphones and webcams are all capable of shooting and storing high-quality HD -- even stereoscopic 3D (S3D) -- video digitally. And a new generation of software from companies such as CyberLink and Roxio offer hobbyists and serious enthusiasts powerful yet uncomplicated tools for ease in editing, converting and sharing their movies, photos and music creations.

CyberLink Technology
CyberLink specializes in designing software solutions that showcase the latest advances in processing power. It also markets its own line of video software. So when PCs equipped with multicore processors hit the market earlier this year, CyberLink was ready with versions of its top-selling applications for consumers -- CyberLink PowerDirector, PowerDVD 3D and YouCam -- all tuned and optimized to tap into hardware-accelerated media processing and the multithreading capabilities built into multicore processors.

For CyberLink customers, those performance optimizations translate to usability. “We surveyed our users and discovered they all wanted one thing: to be able to edit faster,” says Louis Chen, director of product marketing at CyberLink. “We’re seeing a significant performance boost using the latest generation of processors thanks to deep parallelism, greatly increased throughput and integrated media processing. In some cases, video encoding, playback and conversion is up to 10 times faster.”

PowerDirector 9 Ultra64 -- billed as the world’s first native 64-bit consumer video editor -- utilizes all the RAM on the system and reduces the time it takes for HD footage to load. Together with new TrueVelocity Technology, including TrueVelocity Parallel and TrueVelocity Accelerator, users can handle multiple layers of HD video and graphics overlays and perform picture-in-picture effects with multiple streams of HD video, all in real time. That sort of power previously was the exclusive domain of professional video software and high-end workstations.

“Our goal was to deliver the best aspects of high-end functionality, without making the software overly complicated,” says Chen. That focus on ease of use is evident at every stage of the video workflow. For example, PowerDirector supports a file-based workflow that lets users handle video clips stored in the latest digital formats for use in devices such as smartphones, camcorders, point-and-shoot cameras, Canon and Nikon DSLRs, and webcams.

Bringing video clips into PowerDirector is as simple as connecting your device’s storage media to your computer, browsing through the files and choosing to import them as individual clips or a batch of clips. Most of the complexity is hidden from newbies, but easily discoverable by more advanced users. In another nod to more advanced users, the timeline -- a ubiquitous feature in both professional and consumer video-editing apps -- supports up to 100 video tracks and key-frame animation, as well as numerous advanced editing and enhancement tools that provide added control and flexibility. PowerDirector 9 Ultra64 even includes Audio WaveEditor, a stand-alone sound editor.

The Magic Movie templates let anyone get expert results with minimum effort. For example, the Slideshow Designer lets users choose from eight styles, add their photographs to the timeline, pick a soundtrack and, in the blink of an eye, get a slideshow timed to the music, appearing as if a professional motion graphics artist labored over it for days.

When it’s time to share your creations, it’s easy to output projects to YouTube and Facebook in full 1920 by 1080 resolution HD, send them to all sorts of handheld devices, game platforms, smartphones and tablets, or save them in a number of popular file formats. Simply choose a device and a quality setting and press “Start.” PowerDirector’s batch conversion is another feature typically reserved for high-end applications.

Consumers Use Fast Format Conversion
With PowerDVD 11, a universal media player, CyberLink’s video expertise reaches the home theater enthusiasts. PowerDVD lets users extend their viewing experience beyond their PCs so they can watch video in virtually any format on their home theater system or on smartphones, tablets, CE devices and more.

“Many of our more technically savvy users like PowerDVD because our extensive format support includes MKV and FLV -- two formats that are quite popular,” says Chen. “These users tend to have large collections of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs and want to be able to access their media collection wherever they are. They also want maximum image quality and sonic fidelity in 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound at very high bit rates.”

PowerDVD 11 Ultra was the first Blu-ray 3D-certified player for PCs. Users can experience S3D movies at home by using a hardware-accelerated decoding of Blu-ray 3D Multiview Video Coding (MVC). This process outputs bit streams through an industry-standard HDMI 1.4 connection to the latest generation of S3D televisions and projectors.

In addition, PowerDVD features unique TrueTheater Technology that boosts SD video to S3D at HD resolution. This automated conversion technology lets consumers experience their existing DVD collections in S3D. It can also automatically convert 2D photos to stereo 3D slideshows, stabilize shaky cam video footage and clean up noisy audio tracks.

Roxio Tools
With roots in CD-ROM- and DVD-burning software, the Roxio division of Rovi Corp. specializes in consumer digital media software. Roxio Creator 2011, its flagship product, is a suite of software applications that lets users easily edit and polish videos and store them on DVD or Blu-ray Disc and share them on portable devices, YouTube and Facebook. Like many of its counterparts, Creator offers advanced features wrapped in a user-friendly interface.

Recognizing that S3D was coming to televisions, PCs and other consumer electronics devices, including camcorders, Roxio designed Creator 2011 to be the first media suite to implement S3D conversion of both 2D still photos and video. That conversion process places incredible demands on the processor, particularly when working with video footage.

“That posed some technical challenges for us,” says Michel Yavercovski, senior director of product management in the Roxio Consumer Product Group. “We had to accommodate all of the current S3D formats available to people using stereo 3D camcorders, allow them to edit the footage and support most of the major formats that TVs will accept.”

Roxio created an intermediate format -- one that is easier to process and allows users to simplify the S3D workflow. “Our users don’t want to have to wrestle with formats, they just want to be able to work with their video,” says Yavercovski. “We also felt that using the 2D workflow that people are used to for S3D was important. We chose an AVC side-by-side, full-frame format that still creates rather large, computationally intensive files.”

Roxio’s users, however, don’t want to wait while their video projects take hours to render. “People want results right away, so speed is essential,” says Yavercovski.

Photo Credit: @iStockphoto.com/webphotographeer