LG and Panasonic Pursue Divergent 3-D Paths

As a flurry of chaotic jockeying and positioning continues among leading consumer electronics companies on the flight to the Third Dimension, it became clear at this week's Consumer Electronics Show that LG Electronics and Panasonic are following two sharply divergent directions in their plans to bring 3-D video to the home. LG is eager to go for an interim approach for 3-D by using a proprietary method. Panasonic, in contrast, is proposing a full-blown 3-D HD standard based on what the MPEG group has already developed as Multiview Video Coding.

LG Electronics' chief technology officer Woo Paik outlined his company's phased-in approach. Rather than creating a whole new generation of Blu-ray players, LG is first developing a stereo 3-D chip set that will go into LG's plasma, LCD and DLP projection televisions.

"There are only finite signals coming out of Blu-ray," said Paik. "We know what they are. Our 3-D chip set will shuffle the video on the right locations" to create 3-D images on TV, he told EE Times.

Paik, however, acknowledged that this method is an interim step. He said, "I don't want to mislead you. If you really want really high quality 3-D, you need a brand new Blu-ray player and a brand new TV." But this ideal must await the future, Paik suggested.

Meanwhile, Panasonic is pushing "3-D full 1080p HD," with no compromise. Paul Liao, chief technology officer of Panasonic North America, said Panasonic's proposed 3-D TV standard is using MPEG's Multiview Video Coding (MVC). While Panasonic is adding a few things to MVC to fill in the gap, "the bulk of the work is already done," said Liao. "If we wanted, we wouldn't have had to wait until next year."

Panasonic is planning on the introduction of 3-D Blu-ray and 3-D TV in 2010.

Eisuke Tsuyuzaki, managing director of Panasonic Hollywood Lab, believes proprietary methods exist, enabling 3-D TV the way LG envisions, but it won't be high quality. Tsuyuzaki said, "My question is why you go for that, when you can do a full-blown, high-quality 3-D?"

Liao was even blunter in his view of LG's approach. "It could kill 3-D," he said. He characterized interim 3-D -- anything short of 3-D full 1080 HD -- as another gimmick. The gimmicky nature of 3-D movies is "what killed 3-D in 1950's." In Panasonic's 3-D Theater at the booth, the Japanese company is offering 3-D demonstration using Panasonic's 103-inch plasma display panel and Blu-ray player. Both were modified by Panasonic engineers to bring a 3-D theater experience to home. Viewers will require a pair of active-shutter glasses to watch 3-D content. The glasses, estimated to be about $100 each, come with batteries and electronics that synchronize the shuttering function with the display.

By Junko Yoshida, EE Times