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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

3D Still Looking for a Foothold in the Home

In March we posted a report that touched on the future of 3D in home theater technology. That article suggested that 3D would not be a mainstay in the home until 2014 at the earliest. Since then, the news hasn’t been fantastic for proponents of 3D, with sales of 3D televisions and media players falling short of expectations.1 However, a number of recent innovations and announcements have surfaced that aim to jumpstart the burgeoning 3D market

Improving Technology
One of the roadblocks to widespread adoption of 3D is the glasses that are required to make the three-dimensional illusion possible. In general, these glasses have worked in part by reducing the resolution of the images seen by the viewer. In a viewing culture where high-definition images have recently become the norm, this resolution reduction was a clear step backwards, no matter what effect it produced. However, Samsung has recently partnered with RealD, a leading manufacturer of 3D technology, on an “active technology” pairing of displays and glasses that provides the 3D effect in full high-definition.2 These displays are expected to enter the market early in 2012.

Vizio, on the other hand, is putting its effort into “passive” 3D technology that puts the burden of producing the 3D effect on the television more than the glasses.3 Active technology, such as the Samsung/RealD glasses mentioned above, require batteries or some other type of power source, making them bulky and inconvenient. The passive glasses do suffer from the reduced resolution, but are more convenient to wear and generally less expensive to purchase.

More Content
Another complaint of those shunning home 3D technology is the lack of content available for the format. This is something that content providers are working to correct. Discover, Sony, and IMAX, for example, recently launched a channel (3Net) that offers 3D programming exclusively.4 ESPN also offers a channel showing some sporting events in 3D. Despite the increased costs associated with producing content in 3D, filmmakers—particularly documentary filmmakers—are embracing the format.5

Sony, a longtime leader in home entertainment technology, is investing in the 3D concept on many different levels. Along with their participation in 3Net, plus their production of 3D televisions and Blu-ray players, they also plan to launch a line of 3D-capable still and video cameras, allowing consumers to create their own 3D content.6

The driving force that has been most successful in getting 3D into homes so far is the availability of 3D films on Blu-ray. Fortunately for 3D fans, films in this format show no signs of slowing down. The summer blockbuster season will certainly provide plenty of content in the coming months, with Cars 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and Captain America being just a few of the titles on their way into theaters.7 As these and other upcoming films expand the library of 3D Blu-ray titles, consumer interest will increase. (And if you’re really into 3D film technology, check out this conversation between film giants Michael Bay and James Cameron on the process of filming in 3D.)

On the Horizon
The main issue for 3D technology manufacturers and content providers is getting people past their preconceived notions of cost and inconveniences to try out the 3D experience for themselves. Studies show that once consumers have the technology in their homes, they absolutely love it.8 This is good news for the 3D market: 3DTV sales are expected to grow 500% this year.9 While it will still take several years for it to become a mainstream technology, libraries can expect growing patron demand for 3D media as the format becomes more common.

Have your patrons started looking for 3D Blu-rays? Tell us about your experiences in the comments section below.


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