Page last updated at 11:45 GMT, Friday, 9 January 2009

Do-it-yourself 3D movies at home

By Mark Ward
BBC News technology correspondent, Las Vegas

Minoru webcam
A visit to Disney World was the inspiration behind the Minoru webcam

3D films may soon no longer be the sole province of movie studios with big budgets.

At CES, two firms have been showing off ways for home users to make and share their own 3D films.

One is a webcam with two lenses that mimics human sight and turns the images it captures into 3D footage.

Another firm is producing software that it hopes will make it far easier for home users to show 3D movies on many different types of screen.

Manchester-based PDT has created the Minoru webcam that has two lenses set roughly the same distance apart as human eyes. Software included with the webcam turns the two images into what is known as an anaglyph.

If someone gave you an iPod with one ear piece you would think they were nuts
David Holder
Minoru

To see the resultant footage in 3D, viewers must wear the familiar spectacles with red and blue lenses. This ensures that only one of the two images being shown is seen by each eye and forces the brain to turn them into a moving 3D image. DIY 3D movies shot with the Minoru can be shared on YouTube.

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Jolie Myatt demonstrates the 3D webcam

The webcam can also be used as a more conventional 2D image grabber or as a video conferencing tool with Windows Live, Skype, AOL and many others.

David Holder, the creator of the Minoru webcam, said his children were the inspiration for the gadget.

"I took my kids to Disney World two years ago and they loved the 3D attractions there," he said. "They just loved the idea of things coming out of the screen, even though they had to wear the glasses."

Explaining why he embarked on the project to create the camera, he said: "If someone gave you an iPod with one ear piece you would think they were nuts."

He added: "I've never made anything that's grabbed so much attention."

Diverse screens

Also at CES, American firm TD Vision showed off a software codec that makes it much easier to show 3D movies on many different screen types.

Ethan Shur, spokesman for TD Vision, said the company had also developed a prototype 3D camcorder that would work with the software to turn footage into a 3D movie.

To ensure the film can be played back on different screens, it stores information about the anaglyphic characteristics of each scene separately from the standard images.

The firm's breakthrough is finding an economic way of storing only information about the parts of each frame that change to evoke the 3D effect.

"The magic is in the method of how it compares the left and right view," he said. "It takes only the differences, the delta, the changes."

Having the 3D information stored separately means that the footage can be played back as 2D on a normal television or as 3D on more capable screens.

Initially, said Mr Shur, TD Vision was working with broadcasters and DVD makers to use the 3D codec but had plans to address consumers in the future.

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