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A 3D Vision – What We Can Expect to See Coming Soon from the 3D Industry

There are a few things needed if the transition is to move more quickly

During the last few years 3D has progressed a huge amount. Most mainstream films are now released with a 3D version. In most cases outperforms 2D at the box office– for instance the biggest grossing film of all time is Avatar, which was primarily released in 3D. It is also making inroads to the television market with some sporting events being broadcast in 3D to pubs and, albeit in a limited number, homes with 3D equipment.

But that is where we are at the moment. In the months to come we are going to see further development of 3D technology. Below is a sample of what I think we can expect in 2011.

Passive viewing 3D TVs will become widely available

HD 3D televisions were projected to fly off the shelves in 2010, so the slow and steady sales were deemed to be a sign that perhaps the medium was not really going to take off. From my point of view, the projections were radically inflated to enable business cases to work, but they were not realistic.

There are a few things needed if the transition is to move more quickly. The number one item on that list is content. No one buys a 3D set because they think the electronics are cool, they will buy them because they enable a viewer to watch their favourite programming in 3D. Without a lot of content available, the transition will move slowly forward as it is doing now.

Another piece of the puzzle that will help the transition move more quickly is the deployment of passive view 3D monitors. While there was an economic reason for the first wave of 3D monitors to be active viewing, new technologies now make possible passive viewing without a major increase to the cost of the monitor.


At CES in Las Vegas earlier this month, many of the manufacturers showed passive viewing monitors

Passive sets can be viewed using inexpensive polarised glasses similar to the ones used in movie theatres. This technology is being used for 3D in pubs and clubs at the moment, but towards the middle of this year we will see sets for the home market being released.

At CES in Las Vegas earlier this month, many of the manufacturers showed passive viewing monitors, which are likely to hit the market this year. It just now boils down to what price they will enter the market.


Episodic television series will begin shooting in 3D

This year I think we are likely to see producers experimenting with the idea of shooting episodic TV series in 3D. In episodic TV, the schedule is king, with studios on average churning out an episode every two weeks. At this point it has been proven through the various feature films that have shot in 3D shooting can be done on a 2D schedule. So, if the cost differential is the only other barrier and this is not too high, then it makes sense to film in 3D.

These costs pay for themselves, because even if a series is aired in 2D, the 3D version can be subsequently released on Blu-Ray - giving regular viewers a further reason to buy a disc. The way I see the business migrating across to 3D is like this: producers will want to shoot one test episode of their show; they will then digest the consequences and reaction to that and will start trying to fit it into their next season. We will see movement on this, this year and in the next 18 months I believe there will be a few episdoics committing their seasons to 3D.

The first sporting event will shoot with only one crew on the field instead of two crews (2D and 3D). The one crew will transmit BOTH the 2D and 3D images

Right now when a sporting event is filmed in 3D there is always a 2D crew on the opposite side of the field, to get both sets of shots. Two complete crews and setups to film one game, obviously doubles the cost of production. That has to change for the business to succeed.

Both types of filming can be made on one rig. On a 3D rig there are two cameras and the 2D broadcast will simply be the output from one of those. Creatively there are differences between how you shoot a 2D and 3D game. So there has to be a compromise in camera positions that makes both a good 2D and 3D broadcast.


3ALITY rigs with broadcast cameras for 2D and 3D productions

I believe we will see producers experiment with this soon, but it will not be a major sporting event, it will be either a regular season or friendly game where the risk factor is lower.


Mobile devices - smartphones, gaming devices and tablets (eg, the 3D overlay for iPad screens) will hit the market to energise both 3D gaming and shorter-form scripted entertainment

3D gaming and shorter-form scripted entertainment


There’s 3D TV and cinema, but what about the other everyday visual media we use? This year will see the proliferation of mobile devices with 3D capabilities. Personal devices, such as Android phones and tablet computers, are ideal for autostereo technology. As there is only one viewer you will be able to easily find the optimum angle. There are already some examples of mobile 3D on the market. These will become more popular as the price comes down and after all, the end result is pretty cool. This will really take off towards the end of this year.

Home 3D camcorders will become widely available

Many manufacturers have either already released a 3D camcorder or are looking to do so. These are really good for the home movie market. Despite there being some limitations to them due to the fixed lens distances, you can easily figure these out by either trial and error or simply reading the manual and produce a really nice picture. If you have a 3D TV it makes sense that you would want to shoot your home videos in 3D also.


Home 3D camcorders

Finally, looking further ahead to 2012, I believe the Super Bowl will be shot entirely in 3D. The NFL by next year should be ready to do this. A few games have already been shot in 3D, so there is already the experience of shooting NFL games. This would be the whole event including pre-game and half-time entertainment.


Steve Schklair, CEO/Founder, 3ALITY Digital

Steve has been working at the front edge of new technologies for most of his career, and has left a mark in movies, special effects, and in interactive media. As the founder of 3ality Digital Systems, he is regarded as one of the world’s leading experts in digital and live action S3D and is one of the primary catalysts behind the recent resurgence of 3SD in Hollywood films.Steve served as 3D and Digital Image Producer on U2 3D, and was the driving force behind groundbreaking projects such as the first live S3D broadcast of an NFL game, BSkyB’s adoption of 3ality Digital technology to power the world’s first 3D broadcast network, and 3ality Digital’s partnerships with major broadcast technology providers. Prior to 3ality Digital, Steve was a senior executive at Digital Domain, the special effects studio responsible for films such as Apollo 13, The Fifth Element, Titanic, and Terminator 2:3D; creative director for R/Greenberg Associates; and executive producer of The Columbus Project for computer graphics and interactive media pioneer Robert Abel.

Steve is a frequent speaker on S3D and new entertainment technologies at leading international digital and entertainment technology events. He is an award-winning member of the Visual Effects Society (VES), an associate member of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), and is an alumnus of the USC Cinema Master’s program.