“3-D has picked up steam, in large part driven by the amount of movie-theater content out there,” says Mark Hartney, managing director of the 3D@home consortium, an organization created in 2008 to speed up adoption of the technology. Hannah Montana and Journey to the Center of the Earth were both released in 3-D in 2008, and Hollywood is responding with more: three times as many 3-D movies are planned for 2009 than showed in 2008.
The movie industry has already tackled some of the biggest production and postproduction challenges by building effective 3-D camera rigs and software for cleaning up the artifacts that arise when a movie is shot with two separate cameras. (See “Making a Modern 3-D Movie.”) People are becoming more accustomed to seeing movies in 3-D, Hartney says. “Now the question is, how do we translate that into home?”
One way may be to simply broaden the variety of 3-D content available. Yesterday at CES, Sony and production company 3ality presented a 3-D version of the FedEx BCS Championship game between the University of Florida and the University of Oklahoma at a Las Vegas theater. The game was also broadcast live in 3-D to more than 80 theaters around the country.
But in-home 3-D also faces a significant technical challenge: twice as much information is needed (one video image for each eye), so footage has to be compressed before broadcast. This means developing standards to ensure a uniform viewing experience across types of displays. “There are a handful of companies working on [compression] formats,” says Hartney, including Sensio and TDV. “They’re trying to be compatible with existing televisions … to convert 2-D to 3-D for broadcast.”
Chris Chinook, president of Insight Media, a display consultancy, predicts that 3-D in-the-home technology will gain traction in 2009, but won’t break out into the mainstream for another couple of years. “A lot of it’s evolutionary and stuff we’ve been expecting,” Chinook says of CES. “But seeing stuff supported and demoed by major companies is a milestone.” In 2009, 3-D momentum will build, he adds. “But most of the stuff at the show is going to be demos of products that will hit the market in late 2009 or in 2010.”