Tech Interview: PlayStation 3D • Page 5

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

Eurogamer: 3D is an emerging technology. Here we've got a 120Hz screen, but we've already seen 240Hz displays. The glasses are going to evolve. People are talking about circular polarisation as the next possible step and eventually there won't be glasses at all - that's the aim. Can we assume that what you're doing now will be forward-compatible with these new technologies?

Ian Bickerstaff: In terms of what the PS3 produces, it's just a video standard. It's up to the display mechanism to work out what to do with it. You could theoretically plug it into your Odeon cinema and have a game experience on that. There are some other challenges there, but theoretically you could do that. We might be sounding a bit evasive on the TV side of things but we're just generating video that can be interpreted in any way by whatever product is out there.

Simon Benson: HDMI 1.4 should serve us for a long time. What's going to be the next big thing? Maybe more resolution but it'll be a while before a standard comes along that changes the concept of having an image for each eye.

Eurogamer: From my perspective there are only a couple of things I think need to evolve. First up is support for the native resolution of the screen. The other thing is the one dividing factor between what I'm seeing here and what I'm seeing at the cinema... the field of view. The TV is still a box in the room whereas the cinema screen occupies most of your sight.

Ian Bickerstaff: It's a funny one really because with the cinema you've got an enormous screen a long way away from you. That can be a problem. It's certainly a problem that people like Sony Pictures overcome routinely with their movies, but it's a problem because 3D is about objects that are very close to you. And yet you're looking at it on a screen a long way away from you.

In the earlier implementations (naming no names!) it can be a recipe for discomfort because you're trying to focus on a screen that's a long way away, but you're converging on to an object that is close to you and that's not natural, whereas here with a TV screen it's much more of an intimate experience. The objects are going to be fairly close to you in depth along with the screen itself, so the converging and focusing is going to be much more natural.

So, in that sense it can be... not superior, but different to the cinema experience. You're right though, longer term, potentially, you'll get the field of view. Who knows? The simulators we used to have [at British Aerospace] had 180-degree screens and complete immersion. It is a different experience and some people find the 3D better on the television compared to the cinema and maybe easier to view. You have to make up your own mind on that one, I guess.

Eurogamer: What you're doing here is something I can really appreciate... taking something that's there in the home and being pushed beyond its original design specifications. Although having said that, the original PS3 specs talked about dual HDMI ports and 120Hz outputs. Ken Kutaragi really was thinking ahead of his time there.

Ian Bickerstaff: When I joined Evolution Studios, that was one of the reasons I joined. It's got two outputs! Connect that to two projectors and you've got 3D! It's ironic because the format that's now in PS3 is actually much more elegant and simple than that. Only one HDMI but it's producing that quality. It was a happy ending but it was a little annoying when I discovered that they'd removed that second HDMI port.

Eurogamer: In terms of the rollout to the third-party publishers, obviously there'll be a new SDK update, presumably with a lot of your expertise embedded in that. With third-party you're typically talking cross-platform and Microsoft has shown very little interest in 3D thus far. Is your focus on third parties or just first parties and closely affiliated developers like Housemarque?

Simon Benson: Because the likes of Avatar have been shown on this TV, third parties have been involved to some degree. But to what degree, we're not the right people to talk to. But we do talk to our internal dev support teams so all the learning we have goes out to them. But to what degree it's been rolled out to third parties or what the plans are, we don't know.

Ian Bickerstaff: I suppose it depends on their business models really doesn't it? Sony can't force people to have 3D - they don't have that power. It's up to the public to want it, to think that looks great and buy it.

Simon Benson: We've tried to make sure we have good coverage of genres that you can see and try out at the Sony Style stores.

Ian Bickerstaff: One of the important messages is that we're not going to desert "2D people". I mean, I've got a 2D TV at home and still want fantastic 2D content. It's just going to depend on the take-up of 3D televisions and how much bias is given towards it. We can demonstrate the capabilities of what 3D can bring but we can't force it on people.

Simon Benson: One thing that gives us a lot of confidence is that you look at all these numbers people come up with to project 3D penetration into the home... gamers tend to be a lot more aware of technology and the benefits it brings, like how many people bought HDTVs for the consoles rather than what was being broadcast or whatever. I think 3D will run on a similar sort of parallel. Proportionally the gamer demographic will probably have a higher take-up in the short term.

Eurogamer: I think there's a marketing challenge though and the fact you have a high-street presence across the UK is an advantage. You'll be able to get people sampling. Even on the enthusiast sites there are still the naysayers who reckon it's a gimmick...

Ian Bickerstaff: We're very interested in people's feedback. You look on the forums and you get people saying it's rubbish but for the most part they're people who haven't actually seen it.

Eurogamer: Or they've seen the old red/blue anaglyph system... or Channel 4's "3D Night".

Simon Benson: Or they've seen internet videos where the glasses have been put in front of a camera lens...

Eurogamer: Yes, a slight misunderstanding there... like the fact we have two eyes...

Ian Bickerstaff: [Laughs] Clearly it's rubbish. But we take very seriously the comments from people who've actually seen it. There's still time to tweak it and change direction to an extent based on user comments.

Simon Benson is senior development manager and Ian Bickerstaff senior programmer on the Evolution Studios 3D team.

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