13 Oct 2009

A future roadmap for 3D

Author: will | Filed under: 2009, business, creativity, format, movie, photo, technology, television

Tony on TechTV101 complained that 3D in movies are currently a waste of time will never take off (see correction in the comments). I don’t think so.

Lets get the cynical bit out of the way first. Studios and cinemas love 3D as its impossible to do the “camera in the theatre” pirating trick with them. Just try watching a movie without the polarising glasses and you’ll see what I mean.

At the moment there are no movies that are greatly improved by the use of 3D. Just as the Jazz Singer was a gimmick where there was only 5 minutes of sound tacked in to a silent movie in 1927.

Try to imagine a modern movie done as a silent now? How much dialogue could be removed to work with those cards with the few lines? Exposition would need to be simpler in order to cope… etc.
Sound, widescreen and colour were all gimmicks once.

The entire production in photography would have to change in order to make the most of 3d. Since all movies have to be capable of being displayed on a 2d screen (DVD sales, Sales for tv broadcast, legal download) there isn’t going to be much use made of 3d, just as there isn’t much use made of IMAX.

So keeping that part of the market in mind, what is needed for 3d to take off?

The first big leap will be 3d home displays or 3D computer monitors. Then 3d still digital photography displayed on these home screens, and 3D games and interfaces on computers and consoles.
The still experiments will be what teaches the photographic and lighting requirements to the DPs (remember that lighting a black and white movie is a completely different technique to lighting a colour one. Something taken for granted today, but hard learned when it came in).  The gaming and interface side will show what can be avoided an what people do and don’t notice.

Just place your bets on a 3D chess game being an early release… slow rendering is possible as most of the pieces can be pre-rendered. A slow moving game like this, well slow moving when compared to a first person shooter should be fairly easy… at most 2 pieces move at once. Then things can get faster.

Then, live action 3D comes to play… (at the moment it is limited to CG and stop motion animation).

Suddenly 3d editing becomes a desirable (and probably new found skill).  Set budgets will soar (as the limited field of view is killed, as will be digital matt painting, unless they go 3d too.

Expect “AR” style commentaries on home released by that time too.

At the moment there are competing standards for home 3d, just as there were competing standards for sound in the 30s. And technicolor fought with de luxe for years. Give it time, and remember that the technical best does not always beat the good enough.

Tony points out that HD is still not ubiquitous. Well, the  HD argument is flawed because of “good enough”. Few broadcasters use it, and its coming out at a time when the low definition YouTube channel is the most successful one at the moment. In other words its not being used. It may look great, but its not being used.

However, would one second of 3d and one second of HD have the same bandwidth/spectrum cost? The HD broadcast protocols might just be useful yet.

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9 Responses to “A future roadmap for 3D”

  1. Tony TechTV101 Says:

    AH Now Will. You’ve completely misquoted me. NOT once did I say that 3D was a waste of time. What I was saying is that I don’t think it will ever take off, not truly, not in a home sense – you yourself say above that the first big leap will be 3D home displays and this is where I pointed out and still think that the tech will fall down! There’s what maybe a couple of dozen HD Channels on Sky (and may be 4-5 that have anything worth watching from time to time) – what makes you think that anytime soon there’ll be a viable amount of 3D content that could justify 1) Manufactures making sets to view it on at home and 2) the extra cost to the end user?
    Anywho, just needed to come back and clarify – I did summarize that “It’s a fun novelty that’ll stick around” – Not a waste of time.

  2. will Says:

    I’ve corrected the post above to say “will never take off”. However “novelty” seems to be another word for “waste of time” as in “novelty boxer shorts”. I stand corrected.

    We agree that 3d is currently a gimmick.

    But going to home tech. HD was promised for a long time, and the TVs were available for a long time before the broadcasts started properly. So it will be with 3D.

    The main delaying factor with home 3D is the fact that there are competing standards, we know thanks to NTSC and PAL that competing standards can co-exist, but you need a good stronghold to ensure that happens.

    What could justify manufacturers making the sets… well they are already trying them out. Owning the patents is a goal in itself.
    Given that 3D movies perform better than 2D ones, the thinking will be that 3D discs (what ever standard will be) would sell better than 2D.
    3D games will make a feature (look at the Wii projects of Johnny Chung Lee for examples of 2D as 3D and extrapolate) that could sell the hardware. Sounds wrong but the PS3 is believed to have tipped the balance in the Blueray vs HDDVD battle (how the internal Chinese standard deciding on HD changes things is another matter). So a TV / monitor that can do both 2D and 3D would sell.

    Extra cost?
    To the content creators…(TV, movie and others) they can sell it for more, and so adsorb the cost, at first anyway. I assume that things get cheaper as they become more common. And given the profits made in format changing, (e.g. LP/tape to CD, VHS to DVD) you can be sure that the idea of a new hardware format will be greeted warmly by the studios and their lobby groups.

    To the consumer? It depends on how much the cost is. And how good it looks. That will get the early adopter. Remember that Laserdisc players sold. Then as manufacturing costs come down, it can be put if cheaper models, until… Once flat panels were hugely expensive, now, can you find CRT TVs easily anymore? How many standard def TV are available for sale? They all seem to be HD ready too.

    Ready for digital broadcast is another matter.

  3. Nicola-T Says:

    I’m surprised neither of you have mentioned but Sky is pretty much intent on pushing the 3D TV through. Their plan is to launch at least 1 3D channel in 2010 and they have been filming football matches, other sports events and even the National Ballet in 3D since 2007.

    Now I don’t know how likely the 2010 date is at this stage… I guess it really depends on the availability and price of the TVs… but let’s not forget – they have managed to push through HD to a public who, lets face it, weren’t asking for it…

    I don’t believe the plan in the near future is to have fully 3D schedules though. The projection I read was that they think 10% of the TVs in the US and Japan will be 3D enabled in 2012, so we’re a bit far off the mainstream…

    Also, quite apart from the fact that it would be unnecessary, it would simply be far too expensive to start filming normal shows in 3D.

    Movies, big sports and other events. I wouldn’t be surprised if they will be negotiating hard at the moment to film the London Olympics in 3D, I gather there was some 3D filming in Beijing. Obviously the London Olympics would be the perfect push for Sky. I don’t know how practical filming a lot of the Olympics it would be from technical sense vs. live spectator enjoyment though.

    I do believe though that while people might not think they want 3D in their homes now… Sky will try their damnest to make sure that those same people think you need it soon.

    But anyway, I babble, as usual… I’ll stop now.

    It’s mostly blurb but here’s a few articles for anyone who might be interested…

    Sky 3D TV to be launched in 2010

    How Sky 3D is drawing closer: Interview with their Head of Product Design and Innovation

  4. will Says:

    Its unlikely that Sky will be filming in 3D at the Olympics, as the BBC have stated that they want to do that for themselves (no link sorry).

  5. Nicola-t Says:

    Hey there,

    I tried to edit my last comment after I posted it however I couldn’t…

    I’d have to imagine BBC will be covering all the Olympics, I presume they have the all the rights, national broadcaster and all. I just think that Sky will be trying hard to get their foot in there as well and their current experience in 3D might be good leverage for them.

    I don’t know what kind of 3D experience BBC has – I know they have done a bit and that they have demonstrated it as well – but Sky is certainly trying to make it sound as though they are ahead of the game in the UK.

    Interesting times for TV anyway…!

  6. will Says:

    and games too. Acer 3d notebook news on Konplette.ie. I don’t know if 3d is easier for games, but if you have a working display tech… more media comes next.

  7. WillKnott.ie » Blog Archive » More on 3D TV Says:

    […] said that there are competing standards in 3D TV. Hatchai Full Parallax 3D Display seems to be up and […]

  8. James Corbett Says:

    I dunno lads, I think 3D is going to be huge and the days of it being considered a gimmick are fast coming to an end. Watching Pixar’s UP recently in glorious polarized 3D was the most exhilarating experience I’ve had at the cinema in a long time. Not just because the movie itself was excellent but because the 3D truly drew me into the fantasy world in a way that 2D never could.

    Now whatever about animation, James Cameron’s Avatar will be the movie that heralds the here-to-stay arrival of 3D for live action (yes, I know a large % is computer generated). Cameron has pioneered his own camera system and understands that the language of film needs to be re-invented for 3D (less zooming, jump-cuts, etc). If there’s one guy I have faith in to revolutionize how movies are made it him.

    After watching UP in 3D I never want to see an animation in 2D again at the cinema. After Avatar comes out I’ve a feeling I’m going to feel the same way regarding live action.

  9. will Says:

    I agree partially. 3D can be a deal breaker, but until its a) easy to do live action and b) able to feed in to secondary revenue stream, )at the moment, that means DVDs mostly (in Avatar’s case, the games are another potential funding source using the same source files)) then its not going to be huge.

    Think about it, the DVDs are currently 2D. This might be the big break for Blueray… more information (3d) needs more storage space.

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