The beat . A blog by premiumbeat

April 9, 2012
IndustryVariousVideo Editing

YouTube Adds 3D Video Capability and Nobody Cares

YouTube has now added 3D to 100,000s of videos on their site, but will anybody actually watch them?

In the last few years, there’s no question that 3D has gained some traction in the movie theaters, what with the rampant success of Avatar, Toy Story, Hugo and Harry Potter (among others).  Television has followed suit, with new cable channels offering 3D only content.  So with this tremendous push for 3D on all media fronts, it’s not entirely surprising that online video has joined the bandwagon.  But the big question remains, do YouTube users really desire it?

YouTube’s “parahawking” example video:

Any videos that have been previously uploaded to the site in 1080P are now available to be viewed in 3D.  You read that right…by clicking the 3D button in the video viewer, monoscopic (2D videos) are given a little stereoscopic (3D) “magic” by the power of YouTube’s processing.  The actual way it processes this video is a bit technical but here’s the gist (check out the YouTube blog for all the details):

We use a combination of video characteristics such as color, spatial layout and motion to estimate a depth map for each frame of a monoscopic video sequence.  The generated depth map and the original monoscopic frame create a stereo 3D left-right pair.

Viewers can choose from a variety of 3D viewing methods

YouTube 3D

Why YouTube 3D Seems Unnecessary

The majority of these viewing options require the viewer to wear 3D glasses, arguably one of the biggest deterrents for many users.  They’re uncomfortable, expensive and – surprise – they make everything in real-life look disorienting!  You do have the option to watch YouTube in 3D without glasses, but this approach requires you to cross your eyes.  You’re going to have to hold your eyes like that for the entire viewing experience to get the “3D effect”.  Doesn’t sound very pleasant.

Converting 2D to 3D is cool tech, certainly, but will users actually sit down at their computers and don the glasses to watch a 3D video of a little British boy biting his brother’s finger?  I’d guess not.

3D works well when it’s done right, with high production value and with content that actually merits a stereoscopic viewing experience.  Most amateur videos on YouTube certainly do not fit this description…but what about the higher quality content that is published on such sites as Vimeo?  Ok, now we might be getting somewhere.

3D Video on Vimeo

In fact, there’s already a few Vimeo channels dedicated to shorts of this nature.  Vimeo doesn’t “3D-ize” the footage like YouTube does.  Rather, 3D videos on the site are a true stereoscopic video image (2 cameras are used to record the same action from slightly different angles and then combined in post).  Although it’s obviously much more time and labor intensive to shoot and edit stereoscopically, this provides the most true to life 3D image (hint: it’s the way James Cameron does it).  Check out a few 3D videos on Vimeo (glasses required):

The Stereo 3D Channel on Vimeo

The Stereoscopic 3D Channel on Vimeo

For many filmmakers, 3D may be the future.  It allows for visually stunning effects that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.

But do you really need to take your Rick Rolling to a whole new dimension?

Will you be taking advantage of YouTube’s new 3D option?
We want to hear from you in the comments.

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  • Steadicamjr

    Yawn….  3D is a boring fad that has long died.  Let James Cameron and Peter Jackson do it and the rest of them can leave us alone–especially on YouTube!

    • Danny Greer

      Thanks for the input. Yes, I do believe your thoughts are echoed by many in the industry. :)

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  • Urban Cowgirl

    I have an LG 3D tv which has passive 3D technology, meaning that the glasses are simple light-weight sunglasses-like and don’t need any battery.   After a moment, you don’t even know they’re on your face. I’ve tried the active glasses at other people’s homes and much prefer my tv.  More manufacturers are giving up on the active shutter glasses technology and going to passive 3D because it has advantages and consumers seem to prefer them.  The passive 3D has a wider viewing angle, so more people can sit in the living room and still get a good 3D effect.  In spite of the passive screen delivering only half the resolution of an flat tv or active 3D tv, the images on my 3D tv are beautiful in HD 3D.

    Apple’s iPad3 has 4 times the resolution of the iPad2, much more resolution than you really need in a tablet.  Why do you suppose?   It makes for near film-quality images, sure, but I think this is the preliminary step toward making a 3D iPad.   By adding a parallax barrier layer in front of the screen, the screen would provide 3D with no glasses.  Here’s the story of parallax barrier: .   The barrier uses half of the resolution for one eye and half for the other eye, so having this very high resolution screen behind the barrier would not be a problem for the iPad3′s screen.   So, I predict that 3D is coming to the iPad 4 or 5 or ….   YouTube will be ready to deliver 3D content.   Sure, right now YouTube is priming the pump with 3D converted from flat videos, but YouTube also is getting uploads of true stereoscopic 3D videos.  The YouTube player lets the viewer chose the 3D mode and resolution.

    I’ve been taking my own 3D videos using an excellent but inexpensive 3D camcorder and watching them on my 3D tv and uploading to YouTube.   I have to say, the 3D is not just a gimmick any longer.  It does add a more life-like realism to the videos I’ve taken.   I really thing this is going to be like the transition from black-and-white tv to color tv.   It wasn’t perfect when first introduced, but who now would say that color is just a gimmick or fad in tv?   3D will be that way, too.  Give it a little time.

  • Urban Cowgirl

    My biggest complaint about YouTube’s 3D content is that YouTube just isn’t pushing the bytes out to me fast enough for the player to show without pauses for rebuffering.   I can watch Hulu streaming in 480p without pauses.   Why can’t YouTube do even that well.   Trying to watch in 1080p on YouTube is sometimes nearly impossible due to the slow data rate, and I have an Internet connection that downloads at 6 to 20 Mbps (according to tests using so I can take HD 3D as fast as YouTube can push it out.   YouTube needs to squeeze the toothpaste out of its tube faster!

  • tubesweet

    Wearing glasses doesn’t bother me.  3D is cool.  I just uploaded a 3d video to youtube last night.  It studders at  720p on a fast connection.  The videos don’t display well on phones, either iphone or android.  The appear squashed and side by side, with anaglyph not an option.  Youtube, keep working on it.

  • Derek Wilson

    i have a 3DTV with active shutter glasses. I don’t have any issues using them and they are as light as a feather and I don’t even notice them, they are lighter than sunglasses. I like active shutter glasses better because they don’t cut the resolution in half when watching 3D like the passive glasses do. They also have stronger 3D . I love gaming and watching movies and TV in 3D and feel it was a better upgrade than going from standard to high def.
    The only people I see moaning about 3D and calling it a fad are people who don’t have a 3D set, go figure eh?

  • Derek Wilson

    Oh and if people think its a fad I wonder what they will make of the info regarding PS4?. It’s being built to spec to handle 1080p 3D at 60fps, so thats 120fps 2D. While the next Xbox is being designed with augmented reality glasses that are….3D.
    That and the fact that when movies were advertised in the cinema the text would say 3D in some cinemas, it now says 2D in some cinemas.

  • Checksum

    Look 3dtube on ipad, it bring youtube video on ipad !

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