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Blu Skies for 3D

7 Oct, 2009 By: Thomas K. Arnold

I trust you all saw the report from the research firm GigaOM that predicts enormous growth for the home 3D market, with projections that by 2013 some 46 million homes will have 3D HDTVs. What makes this projection even more startling is the fact that it's being issued at a time when 3D for the home is still in the development stages. Sony is preparing to release its first 3D Bravia TV sometime next year, along with a 3D option for all of its PlayStation 3 games. And Panasonic has announced plans to ship a 50-inch 3D HDTV with a plasma screen sometime in 2010, as well.

In a proverbial nutshell, the study bases its optimistic projections on the overwhelming success of 3D in movie theaters. The powers that be in our home entertainment industry have taken notice as well and, more and more, seem hell-bent on recreating in the home the first-class 3D experience that moviegoers get in theaters. That means no more red-and-blue anaglyph glasses; instead, viewers will have to don high-end polarized glasses and, by the way, stock up on a new TV as well. And the vehicle to bring 3D movies into the home: Blu-ray Disc. Indeed, there are some who believe 3D may be the elusive "killer app" that makes Blu-ray a must-have commodity--a killer app for which some of the best minds in our industry have been searching for years.

Here's how the 3D experience works in theaters, courtesy of Wikipedia: "The projector alternately projects the right-eye frame and left-eye frame 144 times per second, and circularly polarizes these frames, clockwise for the right eye and counterclockwise for the left eye. A push-pull electro-optical modulator called a ZScreen is placed immediately in front of the projector lens to switch polarization. The audience wears recyclable circularly polarized glasses to make sure each eye sees only its own picture...The result is a 3D picture that seems to extend behind and in front of the screen itself."

I've experienced this myself, several times, most recently with Final Destination--and let me tell you, I, for one, am hooked. But before we get all worked up about 3D in the home, there's an awful lot of work to be done, not just on the CE end but also on the studio end, making Blu-ray Discs ready for the third dimension. But from what I am hearing, everyone is working at breakneck speed to achieve this, and I am fully convinced that by the time the first 3D HDTVs arrive in stores there will be 3D Blu-ray Discs to play on them.

If there aren't, our industry is going to be in bigger trouble than anyone could have thought.

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