The State of 3D Web Series as Seen through ‘Safety Geeks’

By 06/25/2010
The State of 3D Web Series as Seen through ‘Safety Geeks’

Last week, Dave Beeler and Tom Konkle, the creators and stars of Safety Geeks: SVI debuted the new and improved 3D version of the series’ first season.

For those unfamiliar with Safety Geeks, it is an award winning and Streamy nominated web series, which follows the exploits of a team of crack “safety” experts who protect the world, and parts of Canada, from safety-related accidents. Sometimes billed as a live-action cartoon, the series embraces the absurd with zany antics and colorful characters.

The new 3D version expands upon the cartoonish nature of the series while enhancing the viewers experience through the use of cutting edge technology. Unlike the outdated anaglyph method, the old red and cyan blurry image, SVI utilizes the same stereoscopic polarized layer method familiar to modern moviegoers.


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A Little Bit About 3D Formats

Currently, there are two competing formats for delivering state of the art, 3D home entertainment.

The most popular format for 3D television is alternate-frame sequencing. The alternate-frame sequencing process is filmed like most 3D content, with two cameras placed close together, one filming for the left eye the other for the right. The frames are then placed in sequential order alternating between the left eye and the right eye frame. The viewer wears a pair of shutter glasses that receive a signal from the television or a stand alone box to open or close in rapid succession either the left or the right eye shutter depending upon which frame is being shown. Thanks to the persistence of vision, this creates a 3D effect.

Because of the complexity of the shutter glasses they are bulkier, require a power source, and are much more expensive then their polarized counterparts. The chief advantage to alternate-frame sequencing is that it translates full color and picture information since both images are not being laid on top of each other.

The alternative method, polarization, is the method employed by most 3D laptops and is the one used in the creation of the 3D version of Safety Geeks. It is also the method of choice for most movie theaters.

Polarization works by restricting the light that reaches each eye. Two images, one for the left one for the right, are superimposed and passed through polarized filters at right angles to each other. The viewer wears a pair of inexpensive glasses with polarized lenses with opposite orientations. Since each lens only passes through the light that matches its particular polarization each eye sees a different image. The chief advantage of this method is its simplicity as well as the inexpensive glasses. The primary drawback is that the polarization is never 100%, which at times can lead to a blurring effect or occasional dimness.

Either method involves cutting edge technology. Manufacturers are making a substantial push into the 3D market; however, the technology is far from mainstream. One of the major drawbacks is the lack of available content, which is slowly changing.

The specifications for creating a 3D Blu-ray disk were finalized in December. DirectTV has announced plans to create at least three dedicated 3D networks, and ESPN and Discovery have followed suit.

More About Safety Geeks 3D

Inspired by a 3D demonstration, Dave and Tom were convinced 3D would be a good fit for their series. The conversion process took six months and required some new shots and edits. According to Tom Konkle, the end result is a completely different experience for those who have already seen the 2D version. Amazingly, prior to beginning the conversion, only one member of Konkle’s three person team had any experience with 3D.

When asked if he had any advice for creators thinking of going the 3D route, Konkle’s advice was to wait.

Inexpensive 3D Filming Equipment

Prices are expected to fall when new technology is released, which will make the process more affordable and less difficult. For instance, Panasonic will release its an all-in-one 3D HD camera in the fall. While the expected $21,000 dollar price tag might place it beyond the reach of most web series budgets, it might be the simplest method of capturing 3D video.

How And Where To Watch 3D Web Series

The lack of 3D content currently available in the market works in Safety Geeks’ favor. Given there is not much else to watch, there is a greater likelihood that early adopters will discover the series. Furthermore, the very nature of the series appeals to the ‘geek’ mentality common among early adopters. Lastly, while 3D televisions are an expensive and not quite mainstream option, 3D computer monitors and laptops are relatively affordable. The recently released IdeaPad Y560d from Lenovo retails for around $1200 with less expensive models available from Acer and Toshiba, among others.

For those individuals who already own a 3D laptop or monitor, new episodes of season one of Safety Geeks in 3D are released every Tuesday on Yabazam, a site dedicated to 3D content distribution. Or, if you happen to live in either Australia or New Zealand, the producers recently finalized a deal to bring the series to TIVO on demand. The producers also expressed an interest in making the series available on 3D Blu-ray at some future point. And for those visiting Comic-Con this year, Dave and Tom will have a booth set up showing the series on a 3D laptop. Although, given how expensive Comic-Con has become, flying to Australia might be the more affordable option.

If one has the chance to watch the series in 3D, it is certainly worth the effort. While some may view 3D as a novelty or a fad, there is little denying that it is an impressive one.

[Editor’s Note: According to Safety Geeks’ Tom Konkle, you can view the 3D series in both passive polarized and active shutter systems, it’s just a question of what player you’re using.]

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