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Managing Stereoscopic Content For 3D-TV Viewing


PART 1


Before commencing, perhaps it will be helpful to pass on my experience and observations when buying a 3D-TV:-


Looking into the specifications of available TV sets, I was advised by the staff of a ‘proper’ TV shop that a Plasma, rather than LCD or LED set provided the better display.  I was also advised that viewing would benefit from the TV display frequency being 600 cycles per second rather than the more common 200 cycles.  I shall leave the technical debate alone, but having compared sets from four manufacturers, I fully accepted the advice and purchased a 42” Panasonic ‘Viera’ set.


Other features on my 3D-TV that influenced my decision were the presence of an SD Card and a USB slot in addition to the more familiar connections - HDMI, SCART, AV, etc.  An inbuilt media player is also included; this means that my 3D content can be viewed directly from the connected storage device, an SD Card or Flash Drive for example.  I now have the possibility to view 3D content directly from a connected Fujifilm W1 or W3 cameras, or from just the SD Card itself.  With the help of my computer and free software - StereoPhoto Maker (SPM), on my computer, I can manipulate digital images from any source and view them on my 3D-TV using the inbuilt media player.  I can browse individual images or run a slide show with variable slide display frequency and background music.  I can also use an external media player to show Blu-ray, 3D movies, commercial or home-made.


Note: More recently, at least one 3D-TV manufacturer (LG) has launched a 3D-TV that uses ‘Passive’ (polarised) glasses, rather than the more usual ‘Active’ (shuttered) glasses; this is a feature that could affect your purchasing decision.    


Direct Connection


Although the Fuji W3 can be connected to an HDMI input of our 3D-TV, you will need to buy a special lead for this purpose.  I would suggest the simplest route is to remove the SD Card from the camera (Fuji W1 or W3) and insert this into the SD socket on your 3D-TV.  It is wise to try this at the retailers before purchasing your set.  My own 3D-TV recognises that an SD card, containing MPO stereo images, has been inserted and immediately displays these through the 3D-TV’s media player; this then provides various viewing options including slideshow and background music.  If your 3D-TV does not have an SD card slot, then look for a USB connection which should provide similar results.  This, of course, will require you to transfer your MPO stereo images to a Flash Drive via a computer.


If you own a computer, you can of course select and edit your images, ready for a more ‘structured’ presentation, again using the 3D-TV’s media player.


I shall now take you through the workflow for preparing your images, using a computer with StereoPhoto Maker (SPM) installed; you will need the version 4.63b or later. You have two choices of converted file formats, MPO or JPG. The MPO file format can be used in many 3D-TV sets and media players. The JPG format provides two options ‘Side-by-Side’ (SSB) or ‘Above-Below’ (A/B) which may be used for TV and other applications such as ProShow.


Multi-Conversion with StereoPhoto Maker (MPO workflow)


I will assume that you will have used StereoPhoto Maker (SPM), or some other application, to work on your images and you have saved them to a folder as stereo pairs; side-by-side (Fig 1.), above and below etc. You should now make sure that you have all the files you wish to convert for 3D-TV viewing, in a folder named to your liking.












 



Fig. 1 - Typical Side-by-Side (SBS) image.



















 


Fig. 2 - ‘Multi conversion’ dialogue for MPO files


Having opened SPM chose ‘File’ > ‘Multi Conversion’ (Fig 2.) check "Input File Type" (Side-by-Side etc.) for the files type in your source folder. Now select ‘Output File Type’ > Individual (L/R) then ‘Output File Setting > MPO; this defines the format for 3D-TV compatible images.


Now check ‘Resize’ and key in ‘Width’ > 1920 and ‘Height’ >1080. We also need to check the check 'keep designated size' and select 'Border'.


You can now click on the ‘Convert Selected Files’ or ‘Convert all Files’ as you need.


This concludes the workflow for creating full high definition MPO stereo images which you can now transfer to a Flash Drive for viewing on your 3D-TV.


Multi-Conversion with StereoPhoto Maker (JPG workflow)


I will assume that you will have used StereoPhoto Maker (SPM), or some other application, to work on your images and you have saved them to a folder as stereo pairs; side-by-side (Fig 1.), above and below etc. You should now make sure that you have all the files you wish to convert in a folder named to your liking.
















 







Fig. 3 - ‘Multi conversion’ dialogue for JPG files


Having opened SPM chose ‘File’ > ‘Multi Conversion’ (Fig 2.) check "Input File Type" (Side-by-Side etc.) for the files type in your source folder. Now select ‘Output File Type’ > ‘Half width SBS’ or ‘Half height A/B’ then ‘Output File Setting > JPG; these defines a format useable on some 3D-TV sets or for building AV shows and videos.


Now check ‘Resize’ and key in ‘Width’ > 1920 and ‘Height’ >1080. We also need to check the check 'keep designated size' and select 'Border'.


You can now click on the ‘Convert Selected Files’ or ‘Convert all Files’ as you need.


This concludes the workflow for creating half width or half height JPG stereo files with an overall 16 x 9 aspect ratio at an HD resolution of 1920 x1080.


PART 2


In Part 1, we looked at the simplest approach to viewing our 3D images on a 3D-TV.  There, we explored the direct connection of our camera to a 3D-TV by way of the HDMI socket, inserting the memory card removed from our camera into a provide SD card receptacle on the 3D-TV and finally, using our computer with StereoPhoto Maker (SPM) installed, to manipulate images ready for transfer back to an SD card or Flash drive for viewing on our 3D-TV.  These methods for viewing our images are of course, restricted to the available features of the media player built into the 3D-TV; that is to say, we have little control over timing, transitions and sound.


Now we shall explore a more advanced approach to viewing our images.  In doing this we shall take a look at the media player devices that can be connected to our 3D-TV.  We shall also look at the software needed to create a sequence of images, collated in a structured manner, to form an Audio Visual (AV) show.  The show need not be complex, but could include background music and sub-titles to help the show along.  Such a show could be written to an optical disk - CD, DVD and BLu-ray (BD), or alternatively to a USB connectable Flash Drive.  In doing this, it will be possible for others to view our work on their 3D-TV directly, or by way of a media player.  The completed AV could also be used for 3D projection purposes.


Overview of Media Players


The choice of available devices capable of connection to a 3D-TV by way of the HDMI sockets is overwhelming.  There are HDMI media players available with, or without internal storage (Fig. 1.)  These range in price from £50 to £150 depending on their storage capacity, if any, and their file handling  capability, still image, video streaming etc.  Many of these devices are now ‘3D Ready’.   All media players will provide a USB connection for external storage devices, including hard disk drives (HDD) and often SD cards.   All media players will have a TV like guide to navigate the stored files, images, music, video and even Internet in some cases (Fig. 2.)















 


                       Fig. 1 Simple player                 Fig.2 Player with HDD and Network capability


Owners of a Fuji W1 or W3 have access to a dedicated MPO file player, the HDP-L1 at around £40.


An alternative to the media player is a 3D Blu-ray disk player or games console, such as a Play Station 3 (PS3) which is 3D capable and includes HDD storage.  Prices for 3D Blu-ray players have fallen dramatically in recent times and can now be purchased for less than £100.  The cheaper of these devices will be capable of playing CD, DVD and BD media and will include at least USB and network input connectivity; with an HDD and TV tuner installed, the price will be more like £250.  Either way, as a device for sending our 3D work to a 3D-TV, these players are probably the most convenient and are mainstream in terms of development (Fig.3).












Fig. 3 - Typical 3D Bly-ray disc player


From this point on, I shall assume that the chosen device for presenting our 3D work to a 3D-TV is indeed a 3D Blu-ray player, as this is the device that you are most likely to own having purchased a 3D-TV.  I should add that this does not mean you will need to work with Blu-ray media when preparing our shows, as these players will accept CD and DVD media having 3D content that complies with certain criteria.


File Format Compatibility


In Part 1 we concluded by having side-by-side images horizontally compressed to half width and positioned in a 1920 x 1080 (16 x 9) frame.  What we didn’t cover was the image file extension compatibility with our chosen media player.  This will vary from one 3D-TV to another and also from one 3D media player to another, but several of the common formats are embraced by all manufacturers.  I have observed that with still images ‘.jpg’ is commonplace but ‘mpo’ less so.   With video, the popular formats are DivX, MKV and AVCHD.  The instruction manuals supplied with your player will list the format options available.  


It does seem sensible that our AV shows and sequences are pieced together as a Video (AVI) file rather than a computer dependent Executable (EXE) file.  It follows then, that when we choose a software tool for compiling our shows, we consider video editing programs as an alternative to the slideshow programs that some of us are familiar with.  It is very noticeable that with the renewed interest in 3D movies and the availability of digital cameras with 3D video capability, video editing software with a 3D capability is now easily obtained.  Of course, familiar slideshow software, such as hotodex ProShow (PSH) and Pictures to Exe (P2E) are capable of producing an AV show as a video and writing these to optical disk or Flash Drive.  Those of you already in possession of such a program, may wish to continue using it, but those not yet having AV production software, should certainly consider using 3D video editin software from the outset.


Leaving the detail until later, we can now expect to follow the practice of the TV companies and film producers and recognise that our viewing devices 3D-TV, computer monitors and digital projectors all encompass a 16 x 9 aspect ratio frame, albeit that we will sometimes have ‘black borders’ compensating for the difference in image size.  We should also accept that currently this frame has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels.  In Part 1, we went about producing side-by-side images each having this aspect ratio, this is how we will proceed in future with both still and moving images (Fig.4).



















Fig. 4 - Horizontally scaled combination of the left and right eye frames


It so happens that this format is commonplace in the video editing programs now available which are equally suitable for producing slideshows and more importantly, well designed to handle a mix of 3D content.


There are currently three outstanding contenders for our money when it comes to purchasing  video editing software, each has its own merits and choosing one or the other will depend greatly on how involved we wish to become with compiling shows; it is engaging and can be very time consuming.  A short learning curve is one desirable aspect of a new program and currently the most user friendly product is Cyberlink PowerDirector 11 at £76.  More so than its competitors, this program appears to put 3D editing on equal terms with 2D.  The process of producing a Blu-ray compatible DVD from images, as presented in Part 1, is very straightforward.  Magix Movie Edit Pro MX at £80 is a little more advanced when it comes to adding motion effects.  Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 is extremely good value for money at £40 but is less intuitive than the aforementioned.  It has many of the features found in the Vegas professional software costing ten times the quoted figure.  These features do bring complexity to the program but is probably the best choice for those interested in serious video editing.


Each of the programs mentioned are able to produce files direct to optical media or to our computer hard drive in the ‘Advanced Video Coding High Definition’ format (AVCHD).  This is the format that we shall be focusing on in Part 3.


Each of these programs are available on a ‘Try before you buy’ (TBYB) basis.


PART 3


In Part 2, we explored devices that provide a means of presenting AV shows on our 3D-TV.  We identified the need to produce our AV shows in video format by way of video editing software (editor) that has a 3D capability.  We also identified that a 3D Blu-ray player (player) is the preferred device for delivering our AV shows to our 3D- TV.  It follows then that our PC needs to have the capability of writing to media that will be compatible with our player, be it an optical disc or a plug-in storage device (USB or SD).  Ideally, we need to have a Blu-ray writer available in our computer or as an external device.  Blu-ray disks (BD) are now available for around £1 and so it is advised the we check our shows by writing to a BD-RE disk that cost around £5 but can be used over and over.


In this final part of the article, we will examine the basic procedures to be followed when using the more popular editors.  We will take a quick look at a program with which many of us are familiar - Photodex ProShow; this will then be followed by a look at the key settings in perhaps the most popular 3D editor available, Matrox Movie Edit (MME).


You will find that all editors will have similar production stages within the project created; usually four - import, edit, burning, export.  The names used for these workflow stages will differ from one editor to another.  Those stages quoted are for MME, each of which we shall refer to later in this article; first we shall look at producing a show with ProShow.


The ProShow interface differs from any 3D video editor and is not in fact designed to work with 3D.  However, if we use the image format described in Part 1, ProShow is the easiest way to produce a 3D show for presentation on a 3D-TV.  The fact that we are to produce a show with a 16 x 9 frame containing side-by-side, half width images means that the 3D-TV will recognise it as such in a similar way to recognising a 3D broadcast.


Photodex ProShow (ProShow)


Having opened ProShow, in this case the ‘Gold’ version, we must first set the ‘Show ->  Show Settings’ as in Fig. 1.  The important setting is the ‘Aspect Ratio’ which must be 16:9 (Widescreen).























Fig. 1 - Show settings.


This is the time to save our show ‘File -> Save as’ with a name of our choice ‘My Show’ for example.

The location of this could be that occupying the images, ‘3D-TV’ being the folder we created in Part 1.Now the show is saved, we can navigate to it so that the images can be transferred to the timeline in ProShow.  We do this by the ‘Folders List’ as seen in Fig. 2.


















Fig. 2 - Folder List


Clicking on ‘3D-TV’ will reveal our images in the window below - if not, right click on the window and select ‘Thumbnails’.  We can now drag and drop files from this window to the timeline; each file dropped now will have a green tick indicating that it has been included in the show;  The timeline should now look something like Fig 3.





Fig. 3 - Timeline


The transition and slide duration can be adjusted as required.  Captions can be included, but we shall need to have matching left and right ones set to ‘Caption -> Caption settings -> Position’ enter 25 and 75 respectively see Fig. 4.  Note that a narro font is selected.























Fig. 4 - Caption settings


It is beyond the scope of this article to explain in detail, each stage in detail, but we can add sound to the show in the form of narration and background music.  Doing so is no different for 2D or 3D shows and therefore the instructions for ProShow will serve our purposes well.


Have completed our show we can now ‘Create Output -> Video file’ with the settings shown in Fig. 5.  ‘Type’ and ‘Quality’ are the only fields requiring a selection, the rest of the fields will remain set at their default settings.  We now click on ‘Create’ to save the file in the same folder as the other show objects, with a name of our choice.
























Fig. 5a - Create Output - (to computer)


The file that we have saved, ‘My Show.mpg’ or something similar, can now be copied to a flash drive that can be inserted into the USB connection of our player for play back; there is no guarantee that plugging the flash drive into the TV will work.


We also have the option of copying our show to a BD from within ProShow by ‘Create Output -> Blu-ray’ then -> ‘Options’.  The dialogue we are presented with will appear as seen in Fig. 5.























Fig. 5b - Create Output (to optical disk)


The file that we have saved ‘My Show.mpg’ will be written to the BD with a file structure recognised by our player.  With most players this file structure will enable the disk to play on insertion.  It is advisable to check our show on a BD-RE before committing it to a BD-R.


ProShow completes the task of writing optical disks by including an EXE file of the show on the BD; this can of course be copied back to our computer for viewing if so required,


Magix Movie Edit (Magix)


We shall now try our hand at putting together a show with Magix Movie Edit, in this case the MX version.   Unlike ProShow, we now have a choice of which file format we use; we can uses exactly the same files as used in ProShow - 16 x 9 aspect ratio with half width images, 32 x 9 aspect ratio with full width images or matched individual left and right images of any aspect ratio.  In order for this to work, we will need to tell Magix what we have imported.


First things first!  Having opened Magix we will first navigate to the folder that holds our files, in this case 3D-TV, see Fig. 6 showing a full screen view of our work space with the Media Pool ‘Import’ tab selected.






















Fig. 6 - Magix work space.


Now we can now drag and drop our selected images to the timeline, just a few at the moment.  We now highlight the group of the images so that we can tell Magix in what format they exist.  Fig. 7 shows how the timeline looks at this stage.











Fig. 7 - Timeline with highlighted files


We can now tell Magix what the imported file format is, in this case click on the ‘Effects’ tab at the top of the media pool, then ‘Stereo3D -> Properties -> Side-by-side -> [left image to the left, half width] as shown in Fig. 8.  Note that this process is not required if the images imported are MPO format.





















Fig. 8 - Effects - Stero3D dialogue (side-by-side images).



If we choose to import individual left and right full width images, they should be dropped onto two separate tracks of the timeline.  Then highlighted followed by ‘Effects’ tab at the top of the media pool, then ‘Stereo3D -> Properties -> Side-by-side -> [Stereo3d pair - left image first].  Fig. 9a and 9b shows how the timeline will look before and after using these settings.










Fig. 9a - Effects - Stero3D dialogue (stereo pair - before merging).




 







Fig. 9b - Effects - Stero3D dialogue (stereo pair - after merging).


At this point we should save our project  - ‘File -> Save project as…’ to the same folder as the selected files.


Before commencing our editing, we can set the Display Mode we would like to use.  Click on the red/cyan symbol at top left and make your choice.  If our monitor is a 3D type, then we should select an ‘Interlaced’ option otherwise ‘Anaglyph’ will be useful - see Fig.10.

























Fig. 10 - Display Mode (Anaglyph).


From this all further editing processes will be common to all image formats.  The way in which we proceed will depend on our taste.  There are comprehensive instructions built into the program and there are example training videos on You Tube.  Being a 3D editing program, we can assume that whatever we do with ‘Fades’, ‘Title’ and ‘Effects’, they will appear in 3D.


Once we have completed our editing, we can save our show as a video in the same folder as the other show objects, with a name of our choice,   To do this, we use the ‘Burning’ tag which takes us to the ‘Preview’ screen, see Fig. 11.  From here we can first simulate the actions of our player’s remote by clicking on the buttons to the left of the screen.  This screen also provides us with the facility to edit the menu for our show, something we may choose to do in the future.





















 


Fig. 11 - Burning - Preview screen


By clicking on the ‘Burn’ button, we are presented with a selection of disc options.  We will be choosing either Blu-ray or AVCHD; the list below each button provides an indication of what to expect, see Fig. 12.



















Fig. 12 - Burning - Preview screen


If we have a short show, we will choose AVCHD and insert a writeable DVD into our computers optical drive.  Fig. 13a shows us the AVCHD dialogue and we shall check the encoder settings to ensure that our required 3D format is set.  Click on ‘Encoder settings…’ and then ‘Preset -> Side-by-side [left picture first]’ and leave the remaining settings at default, see Fig .13b.   We can now burn our disc, during which time a progress window will appear.  We can also see in Fig. 13a, that we have the option to ‘Encode in directory’ which will create a video file on our computer hard drive that can be copied onto a Flash drive.
























    


Fig. 13a - AVCHD Burning                       Fig 13b - Burning Presets


The process we follow for creating a BD is similar to that for AVCHD and must be used for larger shows or compilations of shows.  Fig 14a and 14b shows us the preferred settings.


















  


            Fig. 14a - BD Burning                       Fig. 14b - Burning Presets


We can see that, as with AVCHD, we also have the opportunity to ‘Encode in directory’ which will create a video file on our computer hard drive.  This file be saved to an existing or new folder in the form of an ISO that can be used to produce a BD at any time.


Summary


In this article, we have explored the methods available to us for producing and managing images for display on our 3D-TV.  We have only touched the surface, but the results we can achieve with this simple guide will hopefully encourage us to venture further, developing our creative skills to enable us to produce shows with richer content.


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