3D TV gets cold shower from Avatar man
Geek spec chic will have to wait
CES 2010 Judging by the avalanche of hoopla thundering out of last week's Consumer Electronics Show, you'd think that 3D television is done deal. All the wrinkles have been ironed out, and all you need to do is don a pair of geeky glasses and your boob tube will immerse you in three-dimensional movies, sports, and reruns of "The Office."
Not so fast, say industry insiders. Have a listen to Josh Greer, president of RealD, the technology provider behind James Cameron's übersuccessful Avatar, which recently finished its fourth straight week as the top-grossing film in the US, with worldwide receipts now totaling $1.34 billion.
RealD is also active in bringing 3D to television. But when speaking on a panel at CES last Friday, Greer told his audience: "There's so much misinformation and misunderstanding out there about what [is required] for a 3D display. It's a little bit of Wild West right now."
And that Wild West is rapidly filling up with a crowd of cowboys and
Indians Native Americans. At CES alone, 3D TVs were on display from Panasonic, Sony, LG, and Samsung. Toshiba was promoting its new Cell processor–based 2D-to-3D TV and 3D-capable Blu-ray player, while LG was pushing its single-lens 3D projector.
In his CES keynote presentation - perhaps not choosing his words as carefully as he might - Intel CEO Paul Otellini told the assembled thousands that "I think that 3D...is the next thing that's poised to explode in the home." He also noted an earlier announcement by Sony chairman and CEO Sir Howard Stringer of 3D TV channels in the US that are about to be launched by Discovery Communications and sports powerhouse ESPN.
Otellini even went as far as to host a "3D tutorial" on an Alienware PC equipped with a Core i7 processor running Cineform's FirstLight, a consumer-level component of that company's neo3d editorial workflow software for stereo video. In that demonstration, happy moppets danced around in a 3D home video while being color-corrected in real time.
Stringer's press conference was a veritable 3D orgy: Jimi Hendrix in 3D, a live performance by sweetheart-of-the-rodeo Taylor Swift framed by a live 3D projection of her and her glitter-encrusted guitar, announcement of future Sony Pictures and Sony Music Entertainment 3D efforts, a reminder of the 3D-enabling firmware upgrade coming for PlayStation 3, and such puffy pronouncements from Sir Howard as "When it comes to entertainment, there really is no experience like 3D."
RealD's Josh Greer contributed to the 3D TV hypefest when he said: "When people see a good 3D experience, it's not really much of a question for anybody." Taken as a whole, however, his comments about 3D in the home were more detailed and more realistic than those of Otellini and Stringer.
Greer reminded his listeners that the road to acceptance of 3D cinema wasn't without its bumps. "Five or six years ago," he said, "if you were one of the guys walking into [a movie studio] saying you were in the 3D business, if security didn't walk you out, maybe they would listen to you for a few minutes. It wasn't taken very seriously."
That disinterest ended after RealD's first major foray into 3D cinema - Disney's Chicken Little - opened in 2005 on 100 test screens. "In that first weekend...we saw three times the revenue coming from the 3D screens than we did from the 2D screens."
In other words, there's plenty good money to be made in 3D cinema. As Greer put it: "Jim [Cameron] told me very frankly a few years ago that 'I'm never going to shoot in 2D again.'"
But although there's a vast technical chasm between 3D cinema and 3D in the home, there's a tempting pot of money to be made by bringing those 3D movies to 3D TVs. "The problem with [studio executives] now," Greer says, "is they've spent a few billion dollars on 3D content and they're used to having those other windows in the home - second, third, and fourth markets. Those don't exist yet."
And so RealD started working on opening up those "windows" in the home. "This didn't happen overnight," Greer said. "We started actively persuing the home about two years ago. We showed up here at CES two years ago, took a lot of meetings, and I don't think there was a single company in the world at that point that really believed that 3D was going to be a serious thing."
But there's one huge problem that looms larger in the home than it does in controlled environments such as those enjoyed by 3D cinema: standards. As one Panasonic engineer told The Reg, with tongue thrust deeply into his cheek: "A standard? This is America - we'll have dozen of standards!"
Next page: Standards committees? We've heard of 'em
Too dorky, too expensive
I watched Avatar in 3D. I actually felt that this was the first 3D movie in which the technology was not used in an abysmally gimmicky way. Nonetheless, I didn't feel like it added THAT much to the experience. I don't foresee this technology actually catching on in-home until we can ditch the dorky glasses.
Also, like many others, I have I forked a lot of money to buy an HDTV. So, I'm not even going to consider buying a new set until my new one is 5 years old, explodes, gets a Wii remote through it, etc...
If I may...
What about the eye strain? This stuff is a public health hazard, especially if people (especially kids) sit around the TV watching it all day long.
As for the technology itself, it's still pretty gimmicky. The 3d glasses are very uncomfortable, and even though OK for the cinema every once in a while, they're not ready for prime-time in the home. If they can get rid of the glasses, I'll be more excited about this development.
I'm hanging on for holographic wall screens.
"...and I certainly will never purchase a 3D TV." You won't have a choice. In about 5 years, almost every new TV with be 3D, and buying a TV without 3D will be like buying one without HD now. Because it'll be cheaper to make only 3D TVs than a mix of 2D and 3D ones, and there's enough interest in 3D to ensure that happens.
You'll be able to use it in 2D mode, of course. People will be putting on the glasses for occasional special films and events, with most watching in 2D.
Cool idea, but...
I think 3d TV is a really cool idea, but i don't know really see it going that far quite yet. As stated they still have to work out the problems such as the funky 3d glasses (which could be easily lost and or sat on and broken) and also the lack of quality material content. http://www.3dtvinformation.com/ has some neat info on it too though.