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No more headache after watching movies

March 01, 2016

A team of scientists lead by Dmitry Vatolin, senior research fellow in Graphics & Media Lab, the Lomonosov Moscow State University , investigated the problem of headache provoked by 3D-movies for more than eight years. In mid-February the results of the research were presented in San-Francisco on a 27th annual conference Stereoscopic Displays & Applications:

The problem to which scientists devoted eight years of their life is truly grave. Vatolin refers to a French portal that issued a poll in 2011 researching how people feel after watching 3D-movies. It turned out that only one third of spectators have no trouble watching, while 27% feel 'certain discomfort', 22% complain about worsening condition, 7% suffer terrible headache, and the remaining 11% also notice a worsening state, though due to some other reasons. Dmitriy Vatolin himself believes that almost everyone who watched 3D-movies felt discomfort at least once, and many refuse watching 3D because of that problem they once had.

This headache is a brain's reaction to the 'wrong' images coming to both eyes simultaneously. The brain needs to combine them to produce a stereo effect, but unfortunately it does not always succeed. Most of the time brain accustoms to this 'wrongness' without even noticing it, but, as statistic shows, that does not happen all the time.

Dmitry Vatolin's research team names more than fifteen reasons for that problem. They can be separated into two categories: imperfections of equipment and errors in the movie. The first kind is explained by a natural desire of the distributors to lessen their expenses, which inevitably leads to a lower quality of the stereo show. Bad glasses, cheap projectors and other tools of improper kind tend to worsen the quality of viewer's experience.

The reasons of the second category are more complicated, diverse, and unfortunately are not always detectable and preventable. Among them, one of the most painful (and happily, one of the rarest to be seen) blunder is reordering of the left and the right views of the 3D video, that may sometimes happen even in the most professional production. And that is far from the only disadvantage of contemporary 3D-movies. As the main achievement of his team, Dmitry Vatolin names a creation of 'metrics' - programs allowing to track such errors, minimizing the time of 3D movies technical control.

With the help of these metrics the research team scanned the present Blu-ray productions and compiled statistics of the main problems. 105 Blu-ray discs were scanned using the metrics, and more than 10,000 potentially problematic scenes were found. In particular, 65 scenes with the left-right view swap were found in 23 different movies. Some problems were found even in such top ranking movies as Avatar, The Chronicles of Narnia, Stalingrad etc.

'That means, that the probability of buying a Blu-ray 3D movie with at least one scene with swapped left and right views is about 21%, which is quite significant for sensitive people,' explains Dmitry Vatolin.

A lot of various errors were detected in horror movies, Vatolin tells, which can be explained with their relatively low budgets.

'Stereo movies go through their transition period now,' the scientist comments. 'Cinema producers start preferring stereo format, it became particularly popular after a fantastic financial success of Avatar. Of course, the quality of the movies increases, and as well does the quality of cinema equipment. Now the quality is often higher, than Avatar had, but significant decrease in problems may take about 2-3 years more. Right now looking for a good 3D quality you need to choose high budget movies and properly equipped cinema halls. Wish you fewer headaches!'

Lomonosov Moscow State University

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