Posted on November 5, 2010

Cure for 3D Viewing Motion Sickness in the Works in Canada

A cure for nausea or headaches from 3D movie or TV viewing is in coming from Canada.

Starz Animation Toronto has teamed up with Canuck academics to ease or even end motion sickness that movie and TV audiences experience in a virtual world.

The fault, says York University film professor Ali Kazimi, lies in 3D stereoscopic cinematography.

“The reason people feel nauseous or have discomfort, headaches or eye strain is when there’s something being done improperly or incorrectly in the Stereoscopic 3D process,” Kazimi explained.

The challenge, adds Rob Burton vp of technology at Toronto-based Starz Animation, is controlling stereoscopic camera parameters to generate comfortable 3D images, where possible.

Discovering a more viewer-friendly stereoscopic film language and camera work is especially important as 3D audiences increasingly move from stationary seats in a cinema to watching stereoscopic content in homes, where neck angles and sight-lines vary greatly as viewers move round a 3D TV set.

“Unless you shoot multiple versions for different viewing venues, it’s difficult to make a one-size-fits-all model for stereoscopic 3D production,” Burton said.

To produce stereoscopic 3D imagery that leaves viewers less queasy, Starz Animation has pacted with Kazimi to make Lovebirds a 3D live action/animated short.

Burton explained Starz Animation already had a stereoscopic 3D unit in Toronto, but tended to put storytelling first before considering how the 3D production process helps tell a story.

With Lovebirds the Starz Animation crew talked extensively with Kazimi, the live action director, at the rough story-boarding stage to consider how stereoscopic 3D camera parameters might impact the story-telling, and what were the format’s potential caveats and pitfalls.

“Being able to simulate what you would get with a real stereoscopic camera in a CG environment before stepping onto a live action stage was really invaluable,” Burton said.

Love Birds, created and directed by Gary Dunn, portrays a hapless romantic bird and his first experience with dating, is conceived in a CG environment, and set against a live action background.

Stereoscopic 3D imagery helps viewers appreciate the physical size and scale of characters in a movie or TV show through the use of binocular vision.

So the Starz team and Kazimi had to consider how they wanted an audience to perceive their position in relation to a tiny 3D bird.

“Do we want the viewers to feel like their chin is on the ground looking at a bird that’s four inches tall, or do we want the viewer to feel they are on-par in terms of scale with the bird?” Burton questioned.

The decision was making the bird larger in scale in all the stereoscopic 3D camera shots to get viewers more into the two-legged animal world, starting with the opening scene.

“We chose stereoscopic camera parameters that convey the appropriate physical size and scale and, as we get into the story over the next few shots, we slowly bring the viewer down to this smaller size by manipulating the stereoscopic parameters,” Burton explained.

Kazimi adds that calculating how best to place the animated birds against the live action background when producing Lovebirds offered vital clues to the relationship between stereoscopic 3D live action and animation integration, and scaling and eye vergence.

Easing or eliminating discomfort of viewers experience with 3D content is vital, the Canadian academic insists, before stereoscopic 3D possibly gets a “bad name, and audiences get frustrated with it.

The Lovebirds shoot is part of the Toronto-based 3D Film Innovation Consortium, which has brought a host of private and public sector partners together to research stereoscopic 3D perception and provide best practices for 3D cinematography.

Get More Entertainment News from The Hollywood Reporter