$10m Fund for 3D Media

Singapore's Media Development Authority (MDA) is setting up a $10 million fund to support upcoming 3D projects, including content, production and training initiatives over the next two to three years. Announcing this on Wednesday at the inaugral 3DX: 3D Film and Entertainment Technology Festival, Dr Lee Boon Yang, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, said the fund will "help local media companies gain a presence in the 3D content market, build a cluster of 3D professionals and develop more 3D expertise in Singapore".

He added that a piece of land has been earmarked for media infrastructure at One-North - an integrated development for research and innovation spread over 200 hectares. This will be a private-public endeavour. "The Government will provide the basic infrastructure and private developers will be invited to build and operate the media support facilities. We believe there will be growing demand for such facilities from international content creators," said Dr Lee.

There has been a resurgence of 3D technology in the last two years, with major Hollywood studios churning out a slew of titles, from Journey To The Centre Of The Earth 3D, to the upcoming Bolt by Disney, Monsters vs Aliens by Dreamworks Animation and James Cameron's Avatar.

The 3D format projects two simultaneous images, one for each eye. When viewed through a special pair of polarised eye glasses, the footage seemingly solidifies and pops out of the screen at the viewer.

With other countries jumping on the 3D bandwagon in terms of TV broadcast and home entertainment, the potential for the technology is tremendous, said Dr Lee. "I believe it will not be long before 3D becomes pervasive in other spheres such as sports, military training, medicine and digital advertising," he added, and this warrants new investments in R&D, content production and dedicated 3D solutions.

His vision was exactly the one shared by the Hollywood guests of 3DX, which included Dreamworks Animation CEO, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Walt Disney Motion Pictures president, Mark Zoradi and IMAX Corporation's president, Gerg Foster. They were part of an entourage of Hollywood bigwigs, who includes actor Brendan Fraser, here to present 3D to the 700 attendees from around the world.

In his keynote address, which included a presentation of two previously unseen clips from next March's Monster vs. Alien, Mr Katzenberg reiterated Dreamworks Animation's stand on the format, in that all new movies from the studio will be in 3D. "Within the next five to seven years, I expect all movies out of Hollywood to be in 3D," said Mr Katzenberg.

But the various Hollywood luminaries pointed out that the problem lies in converting movie halls around the world to be 3D ready. In the US, the studios have committed US$1 billion to convert 20,000 cinema halls to the digital format, a precursor to 3D.

"Internationally, the world is 12 to 24 months behind but with new movies being released, 3D will be rolled out," said Mr Zoradi, but most of the cost will be borne by the individual exhibitors.

The same goes for Singapore said Mr Chistopher Chia, CEO of MDA, as the $10 million fund is mainly for content and will not be used to upgrade local halls. But with 14 per cent of local halls already in digital format, Singapore is on its way.

Thanks to the festival though, movie viewers here will be one of the first to view 3D movies, as at least five halls here will be 3D ready. Aside from the 3D rollout of Bolt, re-releases of Journey To The Centre Of The Earth and Beowulf are slated in the next few months. The catch though is that ticket prices for 3D screenings, at $14 each, will cost more than the normal $9.50.

By Sherwin Loh, The Straits Times