UT3D program launches this fall
Using stereoscopic images to create a sense of depth is nothing new: Hollywood has been employing the concept since the Fifties. And it's worked well for them, as 3-D technology has been expensive and unwieldy enough to keep it strictly within the confines of movie theatres. Its popularity in theatres has ebbed and flowed, and, at a time when attendance for 3-D films is finally down after a massive resurgence, it's probable that 3-D will soon fade away from theatres. But, in the very near future, it's going to be just about everywhere else.
"Our idea is that 3-D is going to have a lot more uses than it has now," says Associate Professor Don Howard, the program director of the UT3D Lab program at the University of Texas' Radio-Television-Film Department. "To me, the things that are going to really drive real acceptance of 3-D have nothing to do with feature films. They're glassless tablets that are on the horizon."
The latest resurgence of 3-D has paired with improvements in digital technology, and the result is on the verge of vastly reconfiguring not only 3-D's availability for productions but its availability to an audience as well. With Apple making prototypes of 3-D iPads, the Oculus Rift making waves in three-dimensional virtual reality, and the costs of glasses-free 3-D televisions slowly dropping, 3-D is changing from a theatrical dog and pony show to a common household concept. Howard has conceptualized a program to cater not simply to the present state of 3-D, but to its future.
"The people taking this in the fall are going to be juniors in college, so they're not going to fully begin their careers for another few years," says Howard. "So, the difficulty, and the interest for me, is what is 3-D going to be then?"
To build such a training platform, Howard has enlisted the help of Buzz Hays, one of the world's leading experts in stereoscopic 3-D film development. Hays founded the Sony 3D Technology Center and the True Image Company, which has consulted on most major 3-D features of the past few years. He has vast experience working with 3-D on large-scale projects but is interested in seeing its potential in the hands of fresh filmmakers with new ideas, as is Dave Drzewiecki, a stereographer at Sony Pictures Imageworks.
"I think it's really important that we bring this information down to the academic level," says Hays. "We want to bring it to a more common level of television and independent production and documentary production."
Like the college's traditional production program, the UT3D program will let students pick and produce their own projects, renting out handheld stereoscopic cameras to them and allowing them to push the technology's boundaries and discover previously unchartered applications for it.
The program, funded by the Moody Foundation, will also host a wide variety of guest lecturers, from high-profile directors to other professors on campus.
"We'll have experts that are interested in things like the neurology of how we perceive depth," says Howard. "It's very cool."
The UT3D Lab program, which is the first of its kind in the country (and only the third in the world), begins classes at UT this fall.