Monthly Archives: September 2011

Mark Changizi, Huffington Post – Article Comments

Neuroscientist and author Mark Changizi wrote an article on September 1st that raises some issues I’d like to comment on. First, read the article here:

He tries to make the point that 3D is more than stereovision (aka stereopsis) and that it is “binocular vision”.  And furthermore that this should make it possible to “…render what it is truly like to view the world from the perspective of another…”

There are some fundamental problems with that. The way human DNA is currently “programmed” we do primarily two things when we observe. We lock onto an object and track it as it moves (or we move) and we jump around with our eyes to focus on parts of our field of view – usually influenced by something that suddenly moves. We don’t pan our eyes from left to right. We don’t zoom. We don’t converge our eyes and then over time adjust focus – we do both simultaneously. What we look at (and when we look at it) are influenced by our previous experiences and our interests. This makes everyone unique in terms of what they look at, when they look at it and so forth. The visual pans and rack focus, etc., typically done in a movie and as part of storytelling go counter to how we perceive the world and it is difficult to imagine predicting and exactly matching what is presented on screen in a way that an entire audience would focus and converge on. To “…truly see out of the eyes of another…” seems very unlikely or at best extraordinarly difficult and very limiting in terms of what the content could be (essentially creating a constant area of focus and convergence on the screen with content that invokes everyone in the audience to track something specific on screen).

As to including the character’s nose and other visible body parts as a way to “be the body of the character…” goes counter to real world experience (our brain blocks the visual awareness of seeing our nose in a unique way for each person).

All of this gets back to a common theme on this blog… the brain. The world can certainly be presented now with compelling 3D and binocular vision. But it is up to each individual’s brain to interpret what is presented and what parts of the scene capture the attention and imagination of the audience. It is far easier to influence where people look with a single perspective movie. Indeed, orders of magnitude easier! That’s why I think traditional filmmakers are going to have a hard time with 3D and many will turn away from it altogether – and for good reason!  Eye tracking data shows that people do not look at the intended area of interest on the screen during a 3D movie like they do with a single perspective movie.  For a 3D movie the eyes jump around all over the scene because with the addition of 3D there is simply a lot more to look at.

If you think about it, storytelling is not about taking in reality (which is the primary mission of stereopsis vision currently). Storytelling is about engaging the imagination and this really goes against what binocular vision is all about. There is a serious disconnect here that deserves thought and consideration. I think that the success of animation and surreal cinema depiction (Avatar) makes it easier to engage the imagination because the brain isn’t trying to interpret things as reality. Live action 3D motion pictures are different. The best ones seem to be about depicting a scene in a way to experience it in a real way. Documentaries in particular. But when the sizes of the objects depicted on screen create a disconnect with how things are perceived in reality, I believe the subconscious mind gets confused and negative feelings are evoked.

I am flying to CALTECH in Pasadena on Sept. 30 to talk with researchers there about studying these very things. Binocular vision imagery constructs and how the brain interprets them… It is highly complicated and we have a great deal to learn to push 3D imagery making into the next stage of development.


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