Interview with Lenny Lipton on 3DTV

RealD Cinema, the company that provides the stereoscopic 3-D technology for about 1,600 movie theaters today, has "a very vigorous development program" for 3DTV, said its chief technology officer Lenny Lipton. The company is not ready to release any details of its plans, said Lipton. However, it did hire in January the former head of the DVD Forum who is helping RealD (Beverly Hills, Calif.) forge close links with Japan's TV makers.

Lipton shared his opinions on the outlook for 3DTV in a video interview in the lobby of Mann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood where he led a panel discussion on 3-D cinema:

Widely considered a guru of stereo 3-D technology, Lipton has worked in the field more than 30 years. He founded a startup in 1980 that explored monochrome stereo 3-D graphics for industrial uses, a company ultimately acquired by RealD.

"Twenty years ago you were in a deep hole if you were promoting stereo 3-D, but it has more respectability now," said Lipton.

Indeed, RealD has signed orders to install its 3-D system in 5,000 more theaters to date. The latest film to use the technology, Journey to the Center of the Earth, grossed more than $100 million in the U.S. alone, Lipton said.

Starting in November, major Hollywood studios have plans to roll out one major 3-D title every month, he reported.

"Half of my time is spent with studios and producers," said Lipton. "I get a call from a producer a week who wants to make a 3-D movie."

But the road is not without bumps. Studio executives complain they have to run RealD masters through an extra process to eliminate ghost effects. They complain about the hassle of needing to maintain an extra master for RealD titles, a problem the company has said it would fix for the last year, according to one studio executive.

"They have a right to want a single master," said Lipton. "We are working on the problem and will solve it with a product we will deploy for the projection booth. I don't know when it will be released, but it will be soon," he said.

As for 3DTV, the concept still faces many unanswered technical and market questions. Lipton expressed optimism products eventually will become mainstream, but it might take many years.

"It took color TV 50 years to penetrate half the market," Lipton said. "Today people are still digesting high definition. How long this economic downturn goes on will pay a big part" in any short term plans for rolling out 3DTV, he said.

By Rick Merritt, EE Times