Is 3D TV Here To Stay?

Nielo Gan

In the keynote speech at Panasonic Convention 2010, Bill Foster from Futuresource Consulting presented a persuasive argument in favour of 3D TV, and I happen to agree with him (for the most parts). The images below contain the highlights of the event, which are relatively self-explanatory.

3D The Real Deal?3D, is this the “Real Deal”?

  • There have been several attempts to launch 3D TVs
  • All have failed
  • A key reason… the technology wasn’t there
  • This time it’s different, thanks to digital
  • Digital Cinema makes it viable to screen 3D movies
  • Cinemagoers are voting for 3D with their feet
3D CinemaDrivers for 3D: Cinema

  • Avatar now the biggest grossing movie ever… much of the revenue has come from the Avatar 3D version
  • When given a choice, people choose 3D
  • Hollywood producing increasing numbers of new 3D titles, and also re-releasing 2D blockbusters in 3D
3D Home VideoDrivers for 3D: Home Video

  • Blu-ray the perfect vehicle for delivering 3D to the home
  • High capacity and able to carry 2 high-quality Full HD video streams
  • Video-on-demand and downloads will follow
3D Market Forecast 1
3D Market Forecast 2
3D BroadcastDrivers for 3D: Broadcast

  • Only a limited number of 3D titles will be released on Blu-ray in the first 12-18 months
  • Consumers will look for alternative sources of 3D content
  • Pay-TV operators interested in 3D as premium event-driven experience, e.g. sports, movies, music
  • Orange, France has conducted several trials including Roland Garros tennis tournament
  • Sky had a high-profile public event last month with live Premier League soccer match shown on polarised displays in 9 pubs across the UK
  • Sky has announced it will launch a service to the home later this year

The majority of us who are in the know are aware that 3D is nothing new. It is in fact older than our great-grandparents, and the reason for its continued failure was due to a number of factors. The primary obstacle however was the analogue domain, as it was difficult to capture, edit, master and display large sequences of 3D via film without inducing any serious adverse effects to the audience.

The method of perception was also limited to linear polarized filters and anaglyph 3D, which failed to win the hearts and minds of the mass audience. Furthermore, it was not possible to produce high-quality 3D on consumer grade-CRTs due to flicker and limited resolution among other factors.

The ColorCode system widely used in the US and recently used by Channel 4 to promote 3D is an improved version of the anaglyph, but even such undertaking failed to produce the level of quality required to satisfy the average consumer.

As time flowed, the thrust for 3D did not diminish, but the hardware simply was not capable until now. Between 2005 and 2009, we’ve witness numerous technological transformations across multiple fields. Flat panels became widely accepted, GPUs for the first time were able to compute general purpose coding (limited maybe but a step in the right direction to help reduce rendering time), cinemas upgraded the age-old mechanical film to digital (and enabled rich digital contents), and so forth. It is the combination of such technologies and the quality of the content which can be created that is powering the re-imagined 3D dream.

Note: This is the first of our 4-part article series which looks into 3D TV technology. In our next article, we’ll outline the 3 key challenges hindering 3D uptake.