Shadows: Compression and Decompression

The Problem with Everything

With all of the 3D video game graphics, movies, televisions, and hand-held gaming platforms it’s sometimes easy to forget that what we are experiencing through this technology is not true 3D. Stereoscopic 3D relies on some basic components of human perception in order to fake depth by showing two different images to each eye. These images are similar enough for the brain to realize they MUST be the same image, and then it corrects of the disparity in distance. This correction is what causes some people to get headaches or become sick when viewing 3D technology. This is because the the effect of depth where this is none comes at the cost of the eyes focusing at a length which does not correspond to the point of intersection of their eyes. This is a subtle difference, but our brains have been honed over time to ensure there are no subtle differences between reality, and our perceived reality – less we get eaten.


Where Did We Go Wrong?

There were some fatal flaws made back when film was first invented.


This is reality, when we view something or someone directly.


This is film. Where the images beyond the screen were captured from one particular vantage point, which becomes inconsistent when showed to an audience later. At the time no one was really concerned with this, because MY GOD sir, the pictures have come ALIVE!

2D 3D

Is there some way to circumvent this all the issues of perspective created by recording 3D in a 2D format? Can 3D really be compressed into 2D, and if so, can it be successfully decompressed afterwords? This idea brought to mind one of the best moments about transcending cinematic and digital environments.

Tron Digitalization Laser

Tron (1982)


In this sequence Kevin Flynn breaks into Encom in order to hack into their servers, but gets in the way of an experimental laser capable of digitalizing matter. He is zapped bit by physical bit into the digital world.


While the idea is overly simplistic, for our purposes, there is a point. A point source that is, of light. Flynn’s 3D form is pulled back to a single point within the laser where he is then supposedly transcoded into the digital realm.

But is we reverse the flow of information, and project from the light source, we are able to compress Flynn’s 3D form into 2D – a format which does not have any intrinsic problems of perspective.


We can record this 2D compression live – in 2D – without losing any information. Lossless! Print

When this video is played back, the only differences between the original and the recorded are the signatures of the medium – resolution and scan rate of the camera, and the resolution, scan rate, and contrast ratio of the projector.


To reinforce the effect, if we curtain off some physical space behind the screen, the recorded objects can’t be perceptually disproved – so long as you don’t look behind that curtain.


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About Joshuah Jest

Joshuah is a designer concerned with bringing digital information out of screens and into the tangible environment by perceptually integrating dynamic media systems into the physical world through architecture and sculpture. His current work synthesizes his architectural background (B.Arch. Rice University, Thomas Phifer and Partners) with his research on media facades and digitally augmented objects (Urbanscreen).