Tuesday 10 November 2009

Channel-4 3D Week

I was at Sainsbury's today (unusual, but I happened to be near one) and came across a big point-of-sale bin thing with loads of FREE 3D glasses in it. Apparently Channel-4 is hosting a 3D week, which according to my 3D glasses arm will feature "never-seen-before archive footage and continue[s] through the week with loads of awesome 3D films and concerts to enjoy".

Anaglyph TV

Now, the image below (from the C4 website) doesn't look like anything special to the naked eye, but when viewed through the special Sainsbury's glasses will take on a 3D appearance. It is an anaglyph.

To view anaglyphs you need special "3D glasses" that have coloured filters. But there are several different colour combinations around, and you have to make sure you get the right one for what you are watching. You can get Red Blue, Red Cyan (the most popular), Red Green and, as I learned today, Blue Ochre (sometimes called Blue Amber, or Blue Brown).

And guess which ones Channel-4 have opted for?

Blue Ochre of course - which means you probably don't have an old pair of 3D glasses hanging round the house which will work for 3D week. Your "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" glasses will not work, and neither will your "Shark Boy and Lava Girl" pair.

Better get yourself down to Sainsbury's and get some Blue Ochre.

But what's with all the different types?

Why not just stick to one type and have done with it? Simply put, different colour combinations have different benefits. Red Cyan is probably the most popular because it allows the creation of both colour and B&W anaglyphs (as does Red Green). Red Blue only allows B&W and the images are very dark.

But more information on the different types can be found here:

However, and this was news to me until today, Blue Ochre when viewed in a dark room, has better colour transmission than the others. So this is probably why Channel-4 opted for it. After all, if you want people to think that 3D is more than just a gimmick, it needs to look good.

Blue Ochre not free but very clever

While all the other anaglyph colour methods are pretty much public domain, the Blue Ochre combination is apparently patented. Not the idea of the anaglyph - that has been around for too long, you can't patent that - but according to this website it is the method for converting an image for Blue Ochre is patented:

What makes it patentable (the "secret sauce") is the mathematical formula that modifies the luminance of the right eye record and the luminance and chrominance of the left eye record to best transmit the colour information. The darker brown is necessary for balance, because blue is low luminance.

Whilst I haven't read the patent (http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/6687003/fulltext.html) thoroughly, their process doesn't seem to attempt to determine which point in each image represents each point in the three dimensional scene, so it seems to me that they are effectively presenting a luminance-based stereoscopic pair combined with a flat chrominance image based on the average of the two views.


Apparently this method was invented at the Technical University of Denmark, and has been branded as ColorCode. More information can be found here: http://www.colorcode3d.com/.

What makes it so clever, and therefore worth paying for perhaps, is explained on their website:

The ColorCode 3-D system is the only in the world to reproduce high quality 3-D Stereo images and movies with full color- and depth information on all display types.


And I can't argue with this claim. I know from experience that Red Cyan may work on a CRT or TFT monitor, but utterly fail on a projector. You can also get a fair amount of ghosting. If ColorCode (Blue Ochre) can crack this, it will be worth the license fees for TV companies who want good quality 3D without a trace of gimmick.

I will test my new Sainsbury's ColorCode glasses on the LCD projector at work, and if the result is good I will be very impressed and let you know.


  1. thanks for the explanation! i've missed out on channel 4 week now but i've downloaded the shows and i'm awaiting the *correct* glasses from ebay thanks to this post! 8)

  2. Glad to be of service zombiefly. Hope you enjoy the shows :-)