I'll just reference some of the more interesting stuff, though I can recommend the whole thing:
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 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: So just how difficult is it to convert a game to 3D?
Simon Benson: I think the content out there shows that we can retrofit 3D. Your worst case is taking an existing game. Something like WipEout: retrofitting 3D onto something as vast as that is your absolute worst case. And we've proved that's possible, it's been achieved.
Eurogamer: But the viability is going to be on a game-by-game basis isn't it?
Simon Benson: Absolutely. I think that's the big thing. The short answer is "it depends". It's very much on a game-by-game basis. What we try to do is look at reasons why 3D would make the game much more than just a visual nicety. To get a proper core advantage in there that's worth doing.
Eurogamer: There's a lot of emerging technology in Sony. We've seen Polyphony discuss head-tracking within Gran Turismo 5. How difficult would it be to marry the stereoscopic tech you have here with the ability to track head movement and literally look around the scene on-screen?
Ian Bickerstaff: Before I was mentioning virtual reality "caves" and that's exactly how they work. It's typically 120Hz shutter glasses with a head-tracking system and a 120Hz projection screen that you can move around and it's constantly adjusting the image based on your viewing position.
From a viewing point of view you don't notice that you're in a cube at all. It's constantly recalculating the perspective. So that's been done for many, many years now and it's something we've been familiar with in the simulation industry. It's almost bread and butter really. We can't comment on future R&D but you could imagine the way it could go.
Eurogamer: We've seen quite a few crazy "glimpse of the future" demos from Sony. We've had Gran Turismo 5 running on at 240FPS, we've had a full 4K (4096x2160) demo of the same game, all using networked PS3s. What is the structure within Sony for doing all of this stuff?
Ian Bickerstaff: With the networked giant resolution display thing, I think that is a standard product developed at Sony Basingstoke. They do these big video walls, a genlock video solution. They can do giant screens using lots and lots of PlayStation 3s. I think that is a standard product.
We can call on that and benefit from it. We work very closely with Sony Basingstoke who develop a lot of very exciting tech for covering the World Cup in 3D for example. Real-time processing of images and all this sort of stuff. They've got a three-camera system that stitches together a panoramic view of an entire football pitch in real-time, and make it 3D as well using a depth-map solution. It's very clever.
Simon Benson: All these divisions are really happy to share, talking to us about their technologies. They'll give us source code, expertise. It's brilliant really. It's unheard of in some companies of this sort of size.
Ian Bickerstaff: I'm supposed to be flying out to Sony Pictures tomorrow to go to the 3D technology centre that they've opened up there. Again, comparing notes, cross-pollinating ideas, that sort of thing. The "Sony United" policy where everyone talks to one another does actually seem to be happening. It's not just hype, it's really working. It's amazing.
Eurogamer: Have there been any 3D implementations you've had back where you've seen something that's genuinely surprised you?
Simon Benson: We've basically been approaching people who have the right games for 3D. What we've found over time is that the majority of them have a case for having the right kind of title. Often we'll talk to a dev team and you'll be thinking, "Yeah it'll be all right, but what's the reason why? Why would you put that game on in 3D? It would look good, but if that's all [then] it's not strong enough.
So you'll talk to their game designers and game directors and they'll explain how we do the 3D bit. And it'll be like, "Ahhh yes." It's been really interesting and creative in how the teams that we've spoken to have considered the 3D aspect and it's really encouraging that nobody's looking to just switch the game to 3D and that's it. They're always thinking about what it enables in their particular title.
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'tforce 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.
I like it, I'm really looking forward to seeing some 3D games on my PS3.