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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA software changes face of 3-D

    All you lovers of HDTV, take heed: It might already be time to say goodbye to the high-quality imaging and make room for a new technology developed in part at the UA.

    Electrical and computer engineering professor Michael Marcellin, along with a group of more than 20 UA graduate students and about 150 international Joint Photographics Experts Group (JPEG) affiliates, recently developed JPEG2000, a new way to compress film.

    JPEG2000 software – the second generation of the image compression technique created by JPEG – replaces the film used to screen movies in much the same way digital memory cards replaced camera film.

    “”Instead of big reels of film, it’s delivered on a disk drive or a magnetic tape,”” Marcellin said.

    JPEG2000 has been used in 3-D films produced in the last two years, including “”Beowulf,”” “”Meet the Robinsons”” and a remake of “”The Nightmare Before Christmas.””

    As far as the quality of the picture goes, Marcellin is quite confident: “”Better than HD.””

    Marcellin has been a member of JPEG in charge of the formatting standards for JPEG imaging since 1996.

    He and group members met all over the country over a span of 10 years, stacking up 1.5 million frequent flyer miles on Marcellin’s American Airlines account.

    The hard work paid off when Hollywood studios chose JPEG2000 as a standard for digital cinema. About 5,000 movie theaters worldwide – including theaters at Tucson’s Foothills and El Con malls – already use the software, Marcellin said.

    Though this technology has yet to reach consumers on a widescale domestic level, talks of integrating the technology in video cameras and other devices are already in the works, he said.

    In addition to improving the image quality on the big screen, JPEG2000 has reached astronomic proportions through the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) images of Mars produced by the UA’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

    HiRISE takes pictures of the surface of Mars in higher resolution than ever before, said principal systems analyst Bradford Castalia.

    Because the images were so large, typically in gigabytes, it was difficult to compress the images to a more manageable size in an efficient way.

    Enter JPEG2000.

    “”Dr. Marcellin was giving a presentation across the street in Optical Sciences, and a few of us decided that it sounded pretty interesting,”” Castalia said. “”We had what I call a ‘jaw-dropping experience.’ It just didn’t seem possible.””

    JPEG2000 was able to convert the unfathomably sized Mars images into more compressed versions that any interested computer owner can download via client software available on the LPL Web site, Castalia said.

    The technology has saved the project millions of dollars, he said.

    The HiRISE team also established JPEG2000 as an acceptable standard means of image-transmission to NASA’s Planetary Data System, which will allow other missions to use the technology, Castalia said.

    Marcellin pointed out other uses for the software: medical imaging applications, government reconnaissance and surveillance, even improving use in the latest version of Adobe Acrobat and as a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop.

    There isn’t much hope on the horizon for the technology to be brought into the living room, however.

    “”Studios don’t want you to have it in your house just yet,”” Marcellin said. “”They want you to keep going to the theaters.””

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