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Summary:

THQ is launching Saints Row: The Third at Comic-Con 2011 with a bang, including a giant booth with an adults-only booth show, a pimp dressed all in purple, and a multimedia showcase involving dual-screen 3-D animations introducing the game. Is 3-D ready to be everywhere?

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THQ is launching Saints Row: The Third at Comic-Con 2011 with a bang, including a giant booth with an adults-only booth show (pun there clearly intended), a pimp dressed all in purple, and a huge splash Thursday and Friday nights at PETCO Park in conjunction with Pearl Media. Pearl brought PETCO to 3-D life with a multimedia showcase involving dual-screen animations introducing the game. I spoke with Pearl Media CEO Josh Cohen about Pearl’s involvement with THQ and the future of 3-D media, from advertising to your television sets.

About 18 months ago, Pearl Media began making a shift from solely interactive technology media — large-format interactive media, gesture, touch, etc. — to 3-D projection mapping, in which the company measures out an entire building, or any service, then creates a 3-D rendering, or model, of building or surface, building a live 3-D atmosphere on top of it for people to see without the use of traditional methods, like stereoscopic glasses. Pearl has invested in tons of research for detailed, high-contrast imagery, which is what Cohen believes separates the company from the competition.

The company had less than three weeks to complete the 3-D mapping and execution for the launch of THQ for Saints Row: The Third, and also had to consider the audience as well as the game’s subject matter; it’s a very mature game. Pearl took the opportunity to use the platform as a unique way to introduce the game’s characters in a large-format way, focusing on the details of the execution, the coloring, the clarity of images, and the audio.

I asked Cohen about the issues some users are seeing with nausea and headaches with handheld 3-D experiences, such as the Nintendo 3DS, but he said it’s hard to compare Pearl’s execution: “It’s only in an exterior world. It’s large-format, with great clarity and high-definition. We’ve done a great deal of research and development, and use six projectors. It’s a completely different experience.”

Cohen thinks 3-D is the new HD: “People were very skeptical of HD as well. In the next three to five years, when the right price range hits, [3-D] will be the norm in everyone’s household. You are seeing networks and studios investing; hardware and content need to catch up. It will continue to evolve to where stereoscopic lenses won’t be needed, etc.”

As you can see from the video embedded above, the effects are cool: brick walls blowing out, letters popping out and dropping back in, but what I saw when I walked around was the same thing we’ve noticed here before at GigaOM: It was very dependent on angle. As I crossed the street and moved around, the animations looked spectacular in some areas and like 2-D in others. Compared with the stereoscopic-lens-requiring previews of the upcoming film Fright Night, filmed entirely with 3-D cameras? Even completely off to the side of the screen, the 3-D looked 3-D in all cases.

The technology has come a long way, but I think it has an even longer way to go before it’s as ubiquitous as Cohen believes it will be.

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  1. 3D is to movies what pop-up books are to books. It’s fun to see one every once in a while and go “gee whiz” at the things popping out at you… but I’m pretty sure nobody wants EVERY book they read to be a f@#king pop-up book.

    1. When it’s done well? I would really be okay with it everywhere. I’m old, old, old, and the difference between the 3-D filming in Fright Night and the 3-D effects in Disney’s Captain Eo are staggering, and I think over time it’s like the difference between watching 1970s-era movies and watching the video quality we get now with HD. We didn’t think we’d need it “all the time,” but we dont’ want to go back to non-HD, and now HD is pretty much the standard. In that respect, I think Cohen is correct.

      However, I do think we are still at the very nascent edges of the technology, and we just aren’t there yet. We need 3-D cameras and better technology that doesn’t rely on stereoscopic glasses and a certain viewing angle before we can get to that point.

      1. I dunno – I don’t think it’s the same as increased clarity, at least until directors learn to use it as something other than a gimmick. We were watching HP7.5 in 2D and it was glaringly obvious and incredibly distracting every time there was a shot designed for no other purpose than to serve as a “pop-up book” shot. Meanwhile, both of my kids have played with a 3DS for 5 minutes and gone… “Yeah, it looks cool, but… it’s kinda stupid and pointless”. So it’s not just me being old and grumpy, I don’t think.

      2. The difference, however, is that HP 7.2 wasn’t filmed in 3-D. It was filmed in 2-D and converted after. Fright Night was filmed entirely with 3-D cameras. If you have time, check out the Hall H coverage from Comic-Con with the director talking about how nuts it is trying to do some of the shots with those HUGE cameras, especially in tight places. It looks entirely different on the screen and less like a pop-up book, I think. Once the technology gets better and less kludgy, I think we’ll be closer to the place Cohen is talking about and less where HP 7.2 is.

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