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3D Could Add Dimension to Disc

26 Mar, 2010 By: Stephanie Prange

The new 3D technology could add new life to disc, just as it has reinvigorated the cinema chains, which a few years ago were bemoaning competition from DVD and home theaters. Digital delivery backers are upping their attempts to take a bite out of packaged media, and 3D could offer Blu-ray Disc a killer app to hold off the onslaught. Consumers are hungry for the product, according to Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn, who noted shopper curiosity and enthusiasm for 3D TVs in the chain’s latest financial call.

But, as it did with high-definition disc, the industry must be very careful about how it approaches the new technology.

James Cameron, director of the 3D phenom of the year Avatar, noted that a 3D Blu-ray release would be premature. “There just aren’t enough people with those screens,” he said.

During the launch of HDTV (and indeed, DVD), this chicken-and-egg dilemma of hardware versus content made the introduction of Hollywood’s library to the new technology very tricky. Content owners seem to have gotten quicker to market with top titles in the high-definition battle than they did with DVD. It took much less time for such catalog gems as The Godfather to hit Blu-ray than it took for them to come out on DVD. Studios waited for the market to develop in each case.

Now, the studios are dipping a toe in the 3D market, bundling certain titles (by mail) with certain 3D-capable TVs. As Home Theater Forum’s Adam Gregorich pointed out, that may be like giving consumers only one bite of a treat when they would really like a healthy serving.

Unlike Gregorich, I see no immediate harm in these bundles. Early adopters are used to waiting for content to explode for their new gadgets. When my family bought our first VHS player, one of the only titles we owned was Alien, and we watched it over and over again (especially the exploding stomach part).

Where the roll out of 3D Blu-ray content will get tricky is when we near the end of the early adopter stage.  Will the studios choose to release some titles only on 3D Blu-ray because they also will play on 2D Blu-ray players? Will consumers balk at buying a 3D disc without owning the hardware? Will studios still include a DVD and a digital copy?

As if release windows aren’t enough, Hollywood has a 3D launch to navigate.

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