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3D Biz Expo Reveals Updated 3-D Experience

By Chris Tribbey | Posted: 02 Oct 2008

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. — The exhibit floor at the third annual 3D Biz Expo included about a dozen HDTV and projector 3-D displays, every one of them with eye-popping images. But there was only one where the viewer didn’t need glasses.

The future for at-home 3-D may or may not be autostereoscopic (without glasses). But for now, glasses are definitely the way most companies are leaning. And 3-D technology is advancing way beyond the goofy glasses mom and dad once wore.

“The technology has come leaps and bounds from where it used to be,” said Buzz Hays, senior VFX producer, stereoscopic 3D, for Sony Pictures Imageworks.

As for the one no-glasses HDTV at the expo — Philips’ 56-inch QFHD 3D HDTV, available mid-2009 — both the good and the bad of current autostereoscopic technology was on display. Viewers have to sit at certain, spaced-out angles — no closer than 6.5 feet, no further than 16.5 feet and with at least a foot between each other — to see the 3-D image. Any closer or further and double the image shows up. While an outstanding 3-D picture shows up at optimal viewing points, even moving your head an inch or so will result in split images.

“It’s only a small thing to wear the glasses, but [autostereoscopic] is likely the future,” said Nick Norton, senior manager of brand marketing for Mitsubishi Electronics’ Laservue line of HDTVs. For Mitsubishi’s future HDTVs, 3-D readiness will be built in, he said, but for now his company is doing only 3-D glasses technology.

“The glasses we’ve been working on are easy on the eyes … if the content becomes available, if more big movies are moved from 2-D to 3-D, the demand for the technology will go up,” he said.

Studios are still struggling with 3-D content, both technically and strategically, attendees at the expo agreed.

“We’re close to convincing people 3-D is a real improvement at home,” said Brian Schwartz, marketing coordinator for projector company Da-Lite. “But it’s hard to push 3-D into the home market because there’s such a lack of content right now.”

It may be a matter of trial and error for everyone involved, Dominic Paris, producer and screenwriter for the 3-D animation Fly Me to The Moon, suggested.

“The technology of 3-D is new,” he said. “The studios are going through that right now, because there aren’t a lot of people who understand it.”

Calling the 13 3-D movies slated for release thus far in 2009 “a bloodbath,” he added that the studios will be pressured to find better ways of doing 3-D on DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

“The biggest challenge for the industry is the content,” said Felicion Farcutiu, an audio and visual technician for Sensio, which specializes in 2-D to 3-D conversions. “It’s the chicken-and-the-egg problem. TV manufacturers say there isn’t enough content to do 3-D, and [content owners] say there aren’t enough 3-D TVs.

He added his company has signed agreements with at least one major studio to turn 2-D films into 3-D for Blu-ray Disc, for release before Christmas. 3-D versions of Beowulf from Paramount and The Polar Express from Warner were playing at Sensio’s booth.

“Now that the war with HD DVD is over, we can say 3-D is the next step,” Farcutiu said. “Blu-ray is the only way to do the compression for 3-D.”

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