Tech Interview: PlayStation 3D • Page 2

Evolution Studios on how Sony is building a 3D future for gaming.

Eurogamer: The glasses are battery-powered then, right? How do they synchronise with the screen?

Ian Bickerstaff: We don't know. According to the website they're battery-powered. This one's connected via infrared. These are standard VizSim glasses. In the dim and distant past we would've used something very similar to this at British Aerospace, but we don't know about the consumer items. There are loads of technical details on the Sony Style US website.

Eurogamer: I had a look at Avatar on PS3 and 360. They had five different forms of frame-packing, all of them effectively half-resolution.

Simon Benson: That's the interesting thing with the Sony solution because we're supporting the HDMI 1.4 3D set, which takes all that complexity away. We're not expecting users to know how to configure pages and pages of 3D settings. You'll select 3D, and that'll be it.

Eurogamer: So is your 720p, 60Hz per eye solution effectively the HDMI 1.4 standard? Or are there varying standards that developers can use?

Simon Benson: HDMI 1.4 on the 3D side of things... you have a 720p60, 720p50 and also a 1080p24 standard I think. So we've got all of those to call on basically.

Eurogamer: All of those fit comfortably within the bandwidth capabilities of the HDMI 1.3 controller in the PS3.

Ian Bickerstaff: Exactly. There may be other things it can do beyond that, but certainly those specs are accurate.

Eurogamer: I am sure you've seen the Avatar's set-up screens. It seemed to be quite an involved operation to set it up correctly and it even asks you for the size of your screen. Is HDMI 1.4 essentially taking care of all of that for you?

Ian Bickerstaff: Yes, but you have to be a little bit careful about this. The first thing to say is that when you saw our games, you didn't see a big set-up screen and that is the aim. That you won't have to go through millions of different settings with the core PS3 games. We want to make it as straightforward as possible for people and in truth it isn't really rocket science to make it look comfortable on people's screens.

But it is true that screen size can be important. The 3D settings that we are using at the moment are optimal for a wide range of normal TVs but obviously the aim is that we're not doing our job properly if it won't produce a stunning 3D experience on everyone's screens.

Eurogamer: So, the PS3 we have here running the demos. It's using a prototype version of the new firmware that will enable 3D gaming, right?

Simon Benson: This is our internal R&D system, yeah.

Eurogamer: So the firmware is just the conduit for the PS3 to communicate with the display? In terms of the actual software engineering, this is all down to the individual developer to double their pixel throughput to enable 3D. What sort of involvement do you have with developers? Do you supply the conduit or do you help with the engineering challenges?

Simon Benson: We certainly work closely with them on these sorts of points. A lot of the work to date has been on retrofitting existing games, taking a big game and adding 3D visualisation. You can't go back to the base render pipeline and do all the best possible optimisations. Sometimes they're almost done on a sledgehammer-type basis. We're lucky that PS3 has so much power that this has been possible.

The future holds a lot more possibilities, particularly if you built the engine from the ground up to support 3D. You might even put other things in there and get more out of the 3D effect. I think it's Pixar that quote that for their animated movies it's a one-third overhead for rendering their stereoscopic 3D.

Ian Bickerstaff: You'd have to have a look at their notes on render numbers. In the movie industry there's a lot of optimisation that's done on their render pipeline. In fact, they're slightly more mature than we are in terms of their 3D. If you think about it, the 3D movies such as Beowulf are relatively old now. Of course, the naive approach is to render the image twice and that gives you a quick result.

Eurogamer: Render your image twice or halve your frame-rate...

Ian Bickerstaff: Yes, exactly.

Eurogamer: Speaking of frame-rates in your video presentation, Super Stardust HD didn't look as smooth as the actual gameplay...

Ian Bickerstaff: Ironic but yes, the video does look a bit "steppy". It's rendering very mildly compressed video streams off the PS3's disc which is why it's "steppier" than you'd like. The final Blu-ray video solutions won't be like that, they'll be silky smooth.

Simon Benson: If you play the movie several times you'll notice that the stepping is in different places. It's the decoder basically. It was put together so we could use it at shows and stuff like that. We'll put it in the bin eventually.

Eurogamer: So it's a portable showcase in effect?

Ian Bickerstaff: Yes, it'll never be seen by consumers.

Eurogamer: Housemarque says Super Stardust HD is native 720p resolution at 60Hz. What's actually being output from the HDMI port here? The PS3 is still running at 60Hz, so two frames are being output at once...

Ian Bickerstaff: Yes that's right, so we look after the PS3 bit...

Simon Benson: In Housemarque's case it's full 720p per eye at 60Hz.

Eurogamer: In terms of the frame-packing, why two 720p images? Wouldn't 960x1080 or even 1920x540 be easier for a native 1080p screen to scale and process? They'd only need to scale one axis rather than both of them.

Ian Bickerstaff: That's one for our Japanese colleagues!

Simon Benson: We're just working within the confines of the SDK that's supplied to us.

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