A Cannes Quiz: What’s Wrong With These 3D Glasses?

(Originally posted on “Cannesterist”, July 19, 2013)

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We’ve all seen those old-fashioned 3D glasses with the red and green lenses – called the “red-green anaglyph” technique. They’ve been pretty much replaced in the film world by more sophisticated technologies like polarized lenses or active shutter glasses. The glasses above, shown at the SAWA presentation this week in Cannes, use the anaglyph technique, but not to separate the left/right visual channels – they use the two colours to separate story lines.

Finch Company showed the new technique, and a film that used it, as part of the SAWA (Screen Advertising World Association) presentation. This year’s presentation focused on new technologies in cinema, including mobile app integration, converting 2D content to 3D, Dolby’s new Atmos audio, and some tap dancing – literally – from the incredible Fabien Ruiz, choreographer of the “The Artist”. It was a great seminar, but the thing that probably intrigued the jaded Cannes audience the most was the glasses you see here, and film technique that uses them.

Called “bifocal anaglyphs”, the glasses allow a viewer to tilt his or her head very slightly to switch between two simultaneous video streams, running concurrently, visible separately. The spot they showed, “Big Wednesday”, for the New Zealand lottery, featured one story line showing a day in the life of a man who had won the lottery, while the other channel showed a day in the life when he hadn’t. Tilting your head allowed you to see some really entertaining contrasts, all set to Queen’s song “Don’t stop me now”.

You can see how the video looks in the theatre unencoded (without the glasses on) here. The link here shows you the two channels separated side by side, so you can see the storyline clearly, but of course, without the magical effect.