3D HD: The Next Big Entertainer, Money Maker

As high-definition (HD) content takes a foothold around the globe, already broadcasters are looking for the next generation of HD-related entertainment. An early technology and revenue leader looks to be 3-D programming. The concept of 3-D HD broadcasts has been around for more than a decade, but developments in the sector have ramped up within the past few years.

In March, Eutelsat Communications provided capacity on its Eurobird 3 satellite to broadcast a live music performance that was filmed, transmitted and projected in stereo 3-D HD on a cinema screen and on prototype models of stereo 3-D HDTVs. OpenSky managed the encoding, decoding and projection of the event, while dBw managed the shooting and production.

In June, GlobeCast, in collaboration with Orange Labs, delivered a live 3-D HD feed of a performance of Don Giovanni from the Rennes Opera house in Brittany, France, via satellite to cinemas in France. The multi-camera operation, organized by Orange Labs and filmed by AMP, involved combining two video signals into a single feed using a Sensio 3-D Cinema encoder. A GlobeCast satellite newsgathering vehicle outside the opera house delivered the feed to a pair of cinemas in Paris, as well as theaters in Avignon and Brest.

With these demonstrations becoming more common, 3-D HD entertainment, especially broadcasts of live events in movie theaters, looks poised to become that next great entertainment medium and revenue producer for the broadcasting sector.

Technology Development
While the roots of 3-D HD can be traced to the 20th century, the pace of development has ramped up since 2007, when International Datacasting Corp. and Sensio Technologies Inc. signed a letter of intent to develop a satellite solution to broadcast 3-D digital and e-cinema. The Superflex Pro Cinema, is IDC’s family of modular products that can be configured to deliver file-based movies and live events over a broadband satellite network, includes the 3-D Live encoder and decoder, with Sensio 3-D technology. The unit supports 2D and 3-D live and pre-recorded events.

"You do not need Sensio technology to display a 3-D movie," says IDC CEO Ron Clifton. "That comes from Hollywood. The files already are divided into left and right eye, and when you play it out on a projector/server combo, it has technology as well. This works with any scheme — RealD, Dolby, XpanD, Master Image. All of these guys are fighting for market share. All have pluses and minuses. In the United States, RealD is the leader. In Europe, Dolby has done most of our 3-D. XpanD is coming into Europe, and Master Image started in South Korea but now is strong in the United States. With that kind of variety, all you have to be is interoperable."

The Sensio technology comes into play with live entertainment, which many are targeting as a new revenue stream for broadcasters and theaters. The traditional way of delivering live content is to broadcast separate streams and combine them at the receive site. However, this takes up twice as much bandwidth and opening up a host of potential problems throughout the delivery chain. Some of those problems could be alleviated by combining the two HD images prior to transmission, but that generally worked with "infinite bandwidth and lots of money," says Clifton.

Sensio patented a technology to compress the left and right eye HD images into a single transmission at the source site. "This is done before encoding into MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 right after the camera," says Clifton. "It’s done in a way that if you look at the left and right images, there is a lot of redundancy that is shifted a little. If you don’t compress it vertically, you can get 1080p-type HD resolution. If you only compress it left and right and not up and down, it’s virtually lossless. The idea is if you compress it to the same bandwidth as 2D, you can use all the same infrastructure for video grabbing and transmission. This allows for the transmission of 3-D stereoscopic images over existing HD infrastructure."

Harmonic also is looking at 3-D offerings, though its approach may be considered a bit more cautious than the one others have taken, says Ian Trow, the company’s director of broadcast solutions. "One of the things that attracted us to HD was the basic requirement to sync to the existing channel. Our 8000 series of encoders have the ability to take anything and synchronize whatever 2-channel implementation people want to use. The encoder can sync two views of the piece of content. We really started to explore it by talking to broadcasters just to see what their interest is and offering the ability to use 3-D distribution encoders. We’ve been speculatively looking at it and have had a number of big broadcasters approach us. We think a lot of people looking at 3-D are concentrating on the production aspect — what looks good, and most are concerned with cinematic release. We want to see the demand and then see if the market wants us to develop this functionality. I have no doubt broadcasters will find a model that will work, because judging by people’s reaction to films, there is a very clear market there. What clouds the issue at the moment is that most of the engaging 3-D content takes significant post-production work."

There is no real standard for 3-D HD technology, but the industry is moving forward, says Clifton. The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers is setting up some standard, focused mainly on direct-to-home networks, but IDC’s work in the cinema sector will help the company there as well. "People are buying 3-D-enabled TVs now. The question is, ‘Can you get ahead of the competition?’ The industry is working on this."

The initial revenue streams from 3-D HD content are expected to come from cinemas, but with many broadcasters still trying to find their return on investment from their upgrade to HD, providing 3-D HD content over an existing infrastructure is key to helping the market develop, says Trow. "The speculation is that 3-D will be a low-key launch. Broadcasters will try it in the same way they tried HD. They will see what works and see what kind of revenue model they could try before upgrading to it. A lot of it is trying to test user reaction to it without making a huge user investment or ripping up existing infrastructure.

IDC and Sensio forged the partnership to target the market for broadcasting live 3-D sporting and cultural events, as well as movie files, to the international digital and e-cinema market. In 2008, IDC began working with Cinedigm, creating a product dubbed CineLive that combined IDC and Sensio components to convert live 2D and 3-D feeds delivered via satellite into on-screen entertainment. Today, the technology is part of the largest 3-D satellite-delivered network around the globe, says IDC CEO Ron Clifton. CineLive has been installed in 100 markets in the United States, and a network in Europe has between 40 and 50 sites. "We have done a lot of 2D live events, mostly the Royal Opera out of London and the Met out of New York. We broadcast 1:30 p.m. matinees in New York, which begin at 7:30 p.m. in Europe. It’s a perfect time. We were one of the early adopters of the technology, and we have proven that digital cinema is important."

Hollywood has predicted that they will be around 24 3-D movies produced per year, and theaters will have to make some investment in infrastructure to handle that. But to help recoup that investment, as well as make up for lost revenue due to attendance declines, the live event market will offer a new revenue stream for theater operators. The showing of live events from around the globe, whether concerts, operas or sports events, provides the theater owners a chance to charge a premium price for a special event. The other good news for the satellite communications sector is that the delivery of live events will require satellite bandwidth, says Clifton. "Once they have made the investment, they will be looking for more revenue — religious events, sports events, etc. You can charge a little bit more for that, and that’s what is driving the market."

Bryan McGuirk, senior vice president of media services for SES Americom-New Skies, believes 3-D HD, which will involve two cameras filming at 1080p60, will be the next big move for the sector. SES Americom-New Skies was involved with the broadcasting of 3-D episode of the TV show Chuck that was broadcast after the Super Bowl, and there have been 3-D events such as the broadcasts of the U.S. college football championship game and performances of the Met broadcasts to theaters around the country. "I see it as part of a continuum — just as HD seemed far away a few years ago. I was on planning team for launching HD at NBC in 1999. A few years later, we have huge bundles of HD being sold across the industry. We have gone from HD as a novelty to HD as must-have building block of technology. We see the same thing happening with advanced HD. We’re dreaming about it today. When is 3-D going to come? We see the building blocks for the same type of evolution, and it begins with things like movies."

McGuirk has no doubt that the broadcasting of live 3-D HD events will be the way to fill underutilized theaters, and the growth of 3-D movies will be a catalyst. "3-D movies doing well at the box office. To date, there are 11 HD films in CGI animation releases. Some are more live action like Harry Potter, and there are movies like Up, Toy Story coming, Ice Age 3, and Monsters Vs. Aliens. Those 11 features have created, in essence, an industry in the theatrical business around HD. From what I’ve been told, they are getting nice premiums per seat for this type of release, which is what drives expansion of the genre. Theaters are getting more dollars per seat. You create some really good opportunities for the theaters, which can be 10 to 12 screen sites that are challenged by downtime."

The key to expansion of more forms of 3-D HD entertainment will be creating a pipeline for the content, says McGuirk. "The nice thing is that 3-D equipment is being rolled out. Texas Instruments has a product coming to market around their DLP technology. It requires special active shutter glasses and creates a really high-quality experience. From where we sit in the distribution chain for satellite, this will be a very good for business that creates opportunities for content partners as it uses more satellite bandwidth. Also, distribution chain technology will advance in ways that will reduce the amount of bandwidth required to deliver the content, inevitably it’s going to be double or more the bandwidth for delivery, so it’s good for satellite," he says.

In the Asia-Pacific region, HD content is in the early stages of growth, but already companies like SingTel are looking at 3-D content, spurred on in part by government interest, says Titus Yong, SingTel’s vice president of satellite. "We’ve seen the transition from [standard definition] to HD, and we believe that the next evolution would be 3-D. In Asia, there are many cinemas equipped with 3-D screens. We are also looking into 3-D digital cinema distribution using SingTel’s hybrid delivery solutions via satellite and MPLS services," he says.

Beyond the Theater
While the theater opportunity is at the forefront of most of the 3-D HD revenue-producing efforts to date, the broadcasting sector also has visions for 3-D HD in other areas, both entertainment and scientific. "From a market perspective, we believe the two major opportunities for satellite-delivered 3-D are digital cinema with live events and direct-to-home," Clifton says. "2D direct-to-home networks are eager to go to 3-D. What is driving this is Hollywood is making a commitment to produce 3-D events. There is some frustration because theaters are not moving fast enough to take advantage of all this. Pretty soon, the home market guys will be wondering how to do it. The technology is there."

Trow believes that it will take some time before 3-D becomes accepted in the home. "The cinema and home viewing environments are very, very different. Delivery to the cinema is far easier than delivery to the home, especially when you take into account the infrastructure put into place for HD. This is a big challenge technologically and standards-wise to get the same kind of experience people appreciate in the cinema to the home. BSkyB and ESPN are experimenting with it, and for good reason, because if you can make it work, it’s a good draw, particularly for live event coverage. I think they probably will do it as an overlay to their existing infrastructure rather than proposing a new set-top box and new transmission systems," he says.

In late July, Sky announced that it plans to launch the United Kingdom’s first 3-D channel in 2010. The decision to launch the service was based off record growth of its Sky+HD service, and the 3-D content will consist of movies, sports and other entertainment broadcast using Sky’s existing HD infrastructure and be available via the current generation of Sky+HD. To watch 3-D, customers will need a 3-D-ready TV, which are expected to be on sale in the United Kingdom beginning in 2010. "3-D is a genuinely ‘seeing is believing’ experience, making TV come to life as never before. Just like the launch of digital, Sky+ and HD, this is latest step in our commitment to innovating for customers," Brian Sullivan, managing director of Sky’s Customer Group, says.

McGuirk expects gaming to drive 3-D technology into the home. "Everyone who got the [Sony] Playstation 3 got a 1080p player. Then TV showed up to allow the experience to be played out. I think 3-D games will be the be obvious next step because of the ease of conversion of CGI graphics into 3-D. It will feel like you are fully immersed in the game, and I think people will pay for that."

SingTel also is a believer in video games as part of the 3-D HD future, and Yong sees the delivery of consumer 3-D content coming through fiber-to-the-home. "This will enable consumer to enjoy real 3-D games and movies without glasses. With glassless 3-D technology, we could also bring future education to the next level. Just imagine, if we can bring real 3-D simulation into the classroom for complex modules such as biology, engineering and architectural technology, we’ll be able to nurture more doctors and engineers in the near future. Apart for this, there are many direct applications we are exploring. For example hotels, banks, shopping malls, airports, advertising billboards, just to name a few."

IDC also is involved in non-entertainment possibilities for the technology. In June, IDC unveiled that its Superflex 3-D Live Encoders and Decoders with Sensio technology were used in a live 3-D demonstration of a robotic surgical system held at the 9th Annual Conference of Laparoscopic Gastrointestinal Surgery Group in South Korea. The surgery was performed using the da Vinci S HD Surgical System, which was developed by Intuitive Surgical and integrates HD 3-D endoscopy with robotic technology, and broadcast in live 3-D using technology developed for digital cinema, took place at the Korean National Cancer Institute and was transmitted through the Hyper Research Network, a terrestrial IP network, to the conference site at the Korean National Information Society Agency, where doctors and medical students were participating in a session on surgical techniques. IDC’s Korean partner, Digipeg Corp., provided the technology used for the capture and broadcast of the demonstration. "The use of off-the-shelf 3-D live broadcast technology as a real-time diagnostic tool for the medical profession as well as a teaching tool for doctor training has now been successfully demonstrated," says Clifton. "The same benefits of bandwidth compression and HD video quality inherent in the Sensio 3-D technology for digital cinema applies equally well for this application. We are happy to see the market potential for our 3-D products expanding and that our technology can have this kind of positive impact on the health care profession."

By Jason Bates, Satellite Today

FreeD Vision: Hand-held 3D Without Glasses

The Swiss brand nvp3D presented the FreeD Multi-Media Player, the first portable autonomous 3D monitor for viewing without glasses. Innovative in its format, its autonomy (no need of a computer connection to view) and its enhanced picture quality, it is also priced accessibly for the public at large.

“We have been using larger autostereoscopic screens for more than two years,” says Philippe Nicolet, director of nvp3D. “But their price remains high and it wasn’t easy for people to acquire content.”

The FreeD Player is offered on their site freedvision.com, already loaded with several short 3D films, for 450 Swiss francs.

nvp3D FreeD Multi-Media Player

To develop an optimum solution for providing easy access to quality 3D content for viewing on the best screens, the Swiss company, based in La Croix-sur-Lutry near Lausanne, has worked jointly with Pavonine (Korea), Vestel (Turkey) and Inlife (China). This international collaboration acknowledges nvp3d’s experience and achievement over the past years in the domain of 3D documentaries. They piloted the new player in the final development phases for Inlife, inventor of the product. Initially designed by Inlife as a Photo Frame, the player has evolved in the direction of a high performance 3D video reader.

“As a small Swiss business, we are please to have been involved in the development of this product, which marks a turning point in the history of 3D,” says Nicolet.

www.freedvision.com, the first site dedicated to the world of 3D without glasses, offers free downloads of content in the appropriate format, to be transferred to the SD card of the autostereoscopic monitor.

“At first, we will provide videos produced by nvp3d so that FreeD Player users will have a regular stream of new 3D material to view. But we hope very quickly to expand the offer to other source of both videos and photos from amateurs and professionals alike, explains Nicolet. The site will also post general info on the world of 3d without glasses and communicate new developments in products, films, etc.

Swiss Watch TV, owner of the nvp3D brand, is currently seeking investors to finance a project to create live 3D television in Switzerland.

Source: Free Press Release

3D Screen Installs Gaining Critical Mass

Recently, I have been hearing all kinds of conflicting numbers as to how many 3D screens there are out there for theatrical exhibition. So I decided to try to find a better answer myself by contacting a number of key players involved in rolling out 3D cinema screens worldwide. I was surprised at the larger-then-expected number of 3D screens out there for first run movies (about 6,500). Here’s a rundown of what I learned.

XpanD, which uses an active shutter glasses approach and a conventional screen, reports about 1,100 3D screens installed today. About 90% of all of the 3D screens in Asia use the XpanD system, says Ami Dror. In this region, XpanD has a distribution agreement with Singapore-based server manufacturer GDC Technology to incorporate their 3D systems into the growing base of digital systems in Mainland China.

For Europe, Dror estimates their market share is probably about 50% (~600 screens). Real D has about 250, Dolby about 200 and MasterImage perhaps 50, said Dror. By October, Dror estimates perhaps 1,500 total XpanD 3D screens. The roll out is currently limited by production of active glasses to equip these theaters.

MasterImage uses a rotating polarizer wheel that it places in front of the DLP cinema projector along with a polarization-preserving screen and passive polarized glasses. Spokesman Paul Panabaker told us the company is "well over the 300 3D screen mark, with perhaps 40% of those installs in North America.

Dolby modifies the Digital Cinema projector to install a rotating color wheel that has a special narrowband RGB filter set. Each filter set is slightly offset to allow separation of the left and right eye images, which are visible by a user wearing matched filter glasses. This approach allows the use of a conventional screen. As of July 2009, Dolby had over 1000 Dolby 3D screens installed globally with over 350 installed in North America. However, the company has also shipped an additional 500 systems that are in the process of being installed now. Dolby’s strategy is to focus on small- and mid-sized exhibitor organizations, independent cinemas and specialty screening rooms.

Real D dominates the 3D screen market with over 3,200 installs as of the end of July. Real D uses an electro-optic polarization rotator placed in front of the projection lens of the DLP projector, a polarization-preserving screen and passive polarized glasses. According to Rick Heineman, Real D accounts for over 90% of the 3D screens in North America. It has a total of 8,700 3D screens under contract, so expect the installed base to grow significantly. Europe has been a particularly active market for Real D, with sales reportedly up 400% since the opening of their London office in February 2009.

Sony’s approach to 3D is based on their 4K projection system. To achieve 3D, a complex optical assembly is placed in front of the standard projection lens of the 4K projector. Two images representing left and right eye images are formatted in an above/below configuration on the 4K imagers. These are then optically combined and overlaid, with orthogonal circular polarization states. This 3D approach requires a polarization-preserving screen and passive polarized glasses.

Sony reports that they currently have over 500 4K screens worldwide, and expect this to reach about 1,000 by year’s end. Prior agreements with AMC Theatres and Regal Entertainment Group to install Sony 4K systems across their entire circuits over the next three years means Sony has a backlog of at least 11,000 screens.

How many of these 4K screens will be 3D capable, too? Probably 50% is a good number to use for now, so let’s say 500 by the end of the year. Sony didn’t say how this is distributed geographically, but it seems likely the vast majority will be in North America. But there is some action in Europe. In Germany, for example, Sony just reported that the best-known multiplex cinema operator, CinemaxX Group, plans to equip 56 of its cinemas with new 3D versions of its CineAlta 4K digital cinema projector by this November.

IMAX’ approach to 3D is a dual projection system. These two projectors are aligned to overlay each other, with orthogonal polarizers placed over the projection lens of each projector. This also requires a polarization-preserving screen and passive polarized glasses to separate the two images at the eyes. Classic or original IMAX screens are the largest format and many still use film-based projectors — even for 3D. The newer screens are located in multiplexes and still offer a larger format screen and improved sound system, but the screens are not as large as the classic theaters. These new venues are all digital, too, featuring twin DLP projectors.

According to IMAX spokesperson, Jessica Boyer, as of June 30, 2009, there were 284 3D IMAX theaters worldwide, with 102 of these being digital versions. Of the 284, 189 are located in North America, 36 in Europe and 31 in Asia, with another 28 spread around other regions. An additional 100 IMAX sites exist worldwide, but these do not support 3D. The backlog for IMAX is 170 screens and these are going in at the rate of about one screen per week.

These installation numbers are changing daily. The table below is a rough summary of what should be available as of the end of August 2009 using the various systems. Not included are data from some of the newer and emerging markets like Latin America, Australia, Russia and Eastern Europe, where almost 100% of all digital installations are 3D. These numbers are small now, but growing rapidly.

By Chris Chinnock, Display Daily

'Full 3D' vs 'Half-3D': Is it all a Headache?

This year’s IBC technology fest (and IFA in Berlin) are just days away. The two shows, one focused on industry professionals, the other on consumer electronics, will both feature 3D technology in all its glory.

It is already known that BSkyB will introduce a 3D service in 2010. There's no information on an introduction date but a mid-Summer soft launch ahead of the 2010-11 Premiership soccer season would seem to make sense. Such a date also allows the manufacturing sector to get suitable displays into the retail sector, and also permits the HDMI 1.4 technology to settle down and for consumer linking cables to start appearing.

However, BSkyB's system, while extremely appealing for a number of reasons, is not 'Full 3D'. Some flat-panel manufacturers, notably Panasonic, are urging caution in this regard. Eisuke Tsuyuzaki, Panasonic's CTO is one such advocate. While happily admitting: "all 3D on TV is good for 3D" he also argues that consumers risk buying into an interim technology if they adopt 'half 3D' too speedily. There are also advantages for the satellite industry if ‘Full 3D’ ends up being the 'standard' used for transmission, while 'half 3D' has few demands on extra capacity.

He might be right. There are plenty of consumers (like your editor) who have bought into 720p, 1080i and now 1080p displays and while ensuring the trickle down effect of redundant displays makes the rest of the extended family very happy, does little for his bank balance or the planet's well-being!

3D on TV, in our view, is going to happen. Hollywood's studios are not simply fully backing 3D but looking to convert back-catalogue films to 3D, such is the financial appeal of cinema revenues and the all-important Blu-ray market. And by the way, it isn't easy to video a 3D movie from a cheap camcorder at the back of the theatre, and so another piracy option is curbed. Hollywood is also enjoying something of a creative renaissance as far as 3D is concerned. Output is no longer focused (if that's the word) on 'in your face' stunts and extravagant special effects, but in enhanced reality that emphasises the natural story line.

But the oldest advice in the entertainment industry is to 'follow the money', and Hollywood knows it has a winner in 3D. Dreamworks' Monsters vs Aliens did well at the box office. Internationally just 18% of the screens delivered 44% of the revenue. They were all 3D. In North America 28% of the screens (all 3D) turned in 58% of the movie's overall revenue. Much the same figures and ratios apply to almost all the past year's releases. There are also a rapidly growing number of suitable screens for theatrical release. When Chicken Little was released in 2006 it was shown on 3D on just 40 North American screens. Beowulf was exhibited on 400 screens in 2007. Bolt from Disney was exhibited on 1600 screens in mid-summer 2008, while Avatar last winter achieved 2200 3D screens. By 2013 Screen Digest forecasts that North America will have 8400 3D screens. Europe will top 7400, and the suggestion is that French, German and Italian local film studios will by then be wholly getting the 3D message. In other words it isn't just Hollywood that will influence our 3D entertainment.

Packaged console games are also embracing 3D. There have been extensive trials of 3D coverage of sports, and this coming winter's Vancouver Winter Olympic Games will see extensive 3D coverage (Beijing's coverage, while spectacular, was limited). London's 2012 Games is expected to have an even greater element of 3D programming.

Standards, however, are a problem. While few now expect any further progress on the old-fashioned Anaglyph (cardboard) glasses with their Red and Cyan lenses, most now predict all activity to be on Passive glasses. But here there are very real industry arguments as to which way the industry should go. Polarising systems (either left-right or top-bottom) need a new TV and a switching method (and will be used by BSkyB). Existing HDTV systems then deliver line-by-line left and right eye information, but result in 'half 3D' given that half the resolution is delivered to each eye with each eye taking 50% of the available transmission signal. Some argue that a similar system, but employing a checkerboard transmission pattern is a better visual alternate. But it is still only 'half 3D'. The 'Full 3D' proponents argue that only full-frame alternate images delver true high-definition 3D, and they might be right. This frame sequential technology will need active shutter glasses that are more expensive to produce, and needing batteries to be charged.

There was also the Philips-backed multi-camera 3D system, that needed no glasses and might still have a role in public spaces, shopping centres, point-of-sale, digital signage, etc, but few see a theatrical role for such technology.

Meanwhile, the pay-TV broadcasters are looking for another revenue stream, and as a method to win - and hold onto - their male-skewing viewers, those keen on sports, films and games. There's now a huge audience who own flat-panel displays, mostly LCD but also Plasma. And the argument goes that viewers are ready for 3D.

At present, 3D content producers have to hand-build their own 3D production systems by physically connecting multiple 2D production devices. Panasonic, for example, is currently developing a professional Full HD 3D production system, which consists of a twin-lens P2 professional camera recorder and a 3D compatible High Definition Plasma display. The twin-lens P2 camera recorder enables the capturing of natural and high-quality live 3D images. One can expect the items to be on show, perhaps only in advanced prototype form, at IBC.

Technologies and expertise obtained from their use in post-production has enabled Panasonic to further develop high-quality 3D viewing performance in its Plasma technologies. As a result of this process, Panasonic say their 3D Plasma display system will help 3D content producers to quickly and easily evaluate the image quality of 3D content.

But which 'standard' might win? HDMI's 1.4 version recognises 3D and - when connected with the correct equipment - can provide the switching tags that can take the TV set into and out of 3D. Retail ready products will appear in 2010. The Blu-ray Disc Association is also working on its 3D standard although has yet to set a finishing timetable. Membership of the BDA's 3D Taskforce comprises all the usual suspects, not least Panasonic, Disney, Fox, Warner Bros, Sony Samsung, Pioneer, LG, Mitsubishi, Intel, Dell, HP, Apple - and others. Everyone accepts that BD's 3D protocols and 'standard' are needed, and soon. The protocols are need for the pressing and authoring plants as well as the consumer goods end of the value chain.

Panasonic is pushing hard for 'Full HD', not simply because of the end-result quality issue, which is important, but also because its suits their Plasma display range. With refresh rates climbing beyond 120 Hz, and ever-larger screen sizes, and the speed of pixel response that Plasma achieves, they think these elements are also key and place Panasonic into a winning position.

Time will tell. Certainly Panasonic is making a few major statements at IFA in Berlin on Sept 3 and at IBC a few days later, and most observers expect them to be making a major push on 3D (helped by an exhibition of their fabulous 103" Plasma display).

Satellite operators are somewhat passive. They give their broadcasting clients whatever the client wants. But in our view they should also be pushing (sorry, educating) those clients as hard as possible to deliver the full 'Wow' factor of 3D, and then happily supplying the extra bandwidth needed for 'Full 3D'. Much the same education process was needed, at least over Europe, to inform consumers and broadcasters of the merits of full HD. Gabriel Fehervari’s Euro 1080 channel made its debut in 2004. Here we are barely 5 years later with more than 150 HD channels on air amongst Europe’s major satellite operators. That’s progress. 3D will not generate as much activity, but one or two initial channels per platform could quickly grow to a half-dozen over the next few years – and that can only be good news for the industry.

By Chris Forrester, RapidTV News

Edmeades cuts in at Tech Shop Kerner

Entrepreneur Eric Edmeades has purchased a controlling interest in Lucasfilm spinoff Kerner Group and has assumed the CEO role there. Kerner Group began as the former Industrial Light & Magic models-and-miniatures shop. Its businesses also extend to advanced video compression software called FrameFree and 3-D camera rigs for stereoscopic movies. In addition, Kerner has plans for a 3-D TV network.

Terms for the acquisition were not disclosed. Edmeades closed the deal and assumed the CEO post last week. Kerner's current management will otherwise remain in place.

Edmeades told Daily Variety that the deals for Kerner's 3-D broadcasting plans had to be put on hold while he completed his acquisition. He said those efforts are now being resumed, though what approach Kerner will take to 3-D broadcasting is still being investigated.

"We are also getting back into film production," said Edmeades, "which is something that Kerner largely left behind when it left the Lucasfilm family. We are excited about getting back to moviemaking and, of course, we will be focusing on live-action 3-D feature films and, when the time comes, television programming."

The company's FrameFree compression software is also going to be applied to 3-D, he said.

"The next release of FrameFree will allow anyone who wants to get in on 3-D to produce HD commercials in 3-D that can be shown in cinemas, on the coming 3-D laptops or in homes as the 3-D home cinema industry takes off. Nothing is more convincing than a genuine explosion or a genuine textured practical effect combined with great composition and CG," Edmeades said.

Edmeades also said the surging number of 3-D titles will create demand for high-quality 3-D camera rigs, which are in short supply. Kerner's staff, most of whom have been there for many years, have extended their experience in electronics and engineering to fields far beyond f/x. For example, their creature shop is working on extremely lifelike dummies for training combat medics, and their electronics experts are working on a new approach to autostereo (3-D without glasses) flatscreen monitors.

By David S. Cohen, Variety

ESPN Tries Live 3-D Coverage of College Football Telecast

ESPN will present a 3-D telecast of a college football game Saturday, Sept. 12, between the No. 4 ranked University of Southern California (USC) at No. 6 ranked Ohio State to specially equipped theaters across the country. The production will employ Sony HDC-1500G HD cameras specially modified for stereoscopic production and transmission of the game as well as 3-D image processing software developed by Vince Pace (with director James Cameron) and his company Fusion 3D. The game will also be televised in SD and HD on ESPN and ESPN HD, respectively, for viewers at home.

Anthony Bailey, VP of emerging technologies at ESPN, said the game is serving as a full-scale trial and will allow the network to determine what it takes to produce, transmit and enable a compelling 3-D experience (eventually at home).

The production will be ESPN’s first 3-D telecast after more than two years of testing the technology in live game applications. It also will provide ESPN with the ability to evaluate workflow operations, 3-D camera positioning and transmission changes and gauge fan reaction to a 3-D telecast.

ESPN will use separate production trucks, supplied by NEP Supershooters, technical crews and on-air commentators for the 3-D and SD/HD productions. One of the main NEP trucks will feature a Sony MVS 8000 switcher that will be used to handle two uncompressed HD signals at about 3Gb/s. Various display types and transport mechanisms for 3-D viewing, including cinema projection, large-scale arena viewing and consumer-sized LCD monitors, will be employed across the different venues.

The telecast is the third 3-D test screening of a football game in the United State. Last fall, the NFL tested the technology in theaters for a playoff game. Then in January, thousands of people in 30 cities nationwide paid about $20 to watch a 3-D airing of the 2009 BCS championship game. That game was shot using Sony HD cameras and image-capture technology from 3ality Digital and transmitted live via Cinedigm’s CineLive satellite distribution network from Dolphin Stadium in Miami to an event sponsored by Sony in the Paris Hotel and Casino’s RealD-equipped Theatre des Arts in Las Vegas to coincide with the annual Consumer Electronics Show.

Pace also worked with the NBA on a special All-Star Game presentation of the 56th annual NBA All-Star Game at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas in 2007.

By Michael Grotticelli, BroadcastEngineering

The Patent Covering SENSIO 3D Technology is Issued by the USPTO

SENSIO Technologies Inc., inventor of the SENSIO 3D technology, announced that it has obtained its U.S. patent number (#7,580,463). This is the final step confirming that SENSIO’s technology is now patented in the American market. Following the delays encountered with regard to issuance of the patent, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is granting an extension of 600 days so that the patent will be valid for a longer period. The patent will be valid starting from the date of filing of the patent application, which was in 2003, and will remain valid for twenty years not including the extension period.

The patent obtained by SENSIO covers more than just the SENSIO 3D technology. It gives SENSIO exclusive operating rights over its whole method of compression, decompression, formatting and playback of stereoscopic content for various 2D and 3D screens, and applies to the markets for home theater, professional movie theaters, personal computing and mobile telephony.

“Our intellectual property is at the heart of our licensing strategy, so this patent is a major tool that will greatly facilitate the implementation of that strategy. Also, due to the scope of our patent, it enables us to explore new application development possibilities in order to make our intellectual property respected in various markets”, says Nicholas Routhier, President and Chief Executive Officer of SENSIO.

Source: SENSIO Technologies

BSkyB Denies 3DTV Format War

BSkyB denies suggestions that its 3DTV service will ferment a standards war, instead encouraging broadcasters to launch 3D services using its platform.

"There's no sense to any suggestion that we don't think standards are important," said Gerry O'Sullivan Sky's director of strategic product development. "In fact we are using one of the most common standards - MPEG-4 - which is the way in which most of the world's HDTV is delivered. Other broadcasters should join with us. We have pioneered HD and DVRs and we make no apology for innovating again."

O'Sullivan continued: "Sky is taking a lead here. We've created some fantastic content to huge acclaim just as we did with HD. Then we took risks and we're doing so again. The alternative is to sit back and still be waiting for 3D to happen ten years from now."

In Sky's model the left and right images are squeezed side-by-side into a single HD frame and transmitted by satellite via Sky+ HD boxes to select 3D Ready TVs where the images are re-interlaced and viewed with polarised glasses.

The BBC and ITV favour an implementation that uses 1080p resolution for both eyes, and crucially, that allows existing HD viewers to see the same pictures in 2D. This is likely to require that consumer's purchase new set-top boxes.

Sky, said O'Sullivan, has moved from an R&D phase to trial phases and is moving toward a launch phase for its 3DTV service. It is working with TV set manufacturers to bring 3DTVs compatible with Sky's system to the UK market next year. Currently only JVC and Hyundai sets are available. It is also talking with Hollywood studios to ensure that Sky can show 3D movies on its service from launch.

"We are totally focused on getting content," he said. "There must be some content. We are all learning what are the most efficient ways of producing 3D at the same time as conventional HD programming. We want to learn how to create 3DTV with minimal effort and we want to learn what works when we put this in front of consumers."

Sky's latest trial is a simultaneous 3D and 2D production for a single programme in the Sky 1 series Noel's Are You Smarter Than A 10 Year Old?.

By Adrian Pennington, TVB Europe

Dashwood Stereo3D Toolbox

Dashwood has produced a new video effects plug-in, Stereo3D Toolbox, based on Noise Industries' FxFactory platform. The software converts footage from After Effects, Motion or Final Cut into stereoscopic 3D. Possible output formats include side-by-side, over/under, checkerboard, interlace and anaglyph; controls adjust for the requirements of each one, tweaking details such X-, Y- and Z-axis convergence, or zoom levels for each eye.

An auto-scale function compensates for convergence settings, and users also have access to components that maintain text resolution, or adjust flip, flop and swap between eyes. Supported 3D capture formats include the likes of Cineform's neo3D and Inition's Stereobrain.

The plug-in costs $389, but can also be tried in a free version that watermarks output.

Source: Macnn

Panasonic's Full HD 3-D

Panasonic Corp. executive Bob Perry told me last week that the company's Full HD 3-D technology is "the next big thing in consumer electronics" and coming to the home by fall 2010. "There will be no format battle this time," Perry vowed, in my visit to Panasonic's Secaucus, N.J., headquarters for a preview of the technology. "Sony is with us on this. Our 'Full HD' will be a de facto standard for displays, and a 3-D Blu-ray Disc format will be standardized in the next few months."

Perry predicted for about 100 3-D movies to be prepared for disc release along with the hardware for the 2010 holiday shopping season.

Peter Fannon poses with the Panasonic 3D Full HD Home Theater

The "Full HD" part of their branding relates to the fact that alternate left and right images are rapidly fired off the screen, 120 times a second in full 1080p resolution (that's 60 frames per side). A viewer wears infrared-light-triggered, liquid shutter glasses that consecutively blink open and shut, left and then right, in sync with the screen images. The brain puts these alternating images together and, voilà, we see pictures with the same three-dimensional depth that our two eyes take in the world.

"Unlike other 3-D systems that have been put out there," (talking about Samsung, or your former employer Mitsubishi, Bob?) "there is no compromise in our image quality," said Perry.

That's the kind of talk that makes movie purists like Cameron very happy. And it probably doesn't bother the movie studios that cable and satellite broadcasters will be reluctant, at least for a while, to devote the extra bandwidth it takes to deliver a Full HD 3-D channel to subscribers. All the better to sell hard-copy discs and the pricier, pay-per-view 3-D versions that CinemaNow and Vudu plan to slowly download onto consumers' hard drive devices.

Yes, a TV has to work harder, run faster to process 3-D images. "Our current 600 Hz" (600 cycles per second) "plasma technology is well suited, but we'll still have to upgrade components for the new sets," said the Panasonic guy. "The bonus is that the added power will make conventional TV look better, too."

And he predicts that makers of LCD TVs will also speed up their display technology to cope with 3-D. Perhaps to this end, Samsung (and maybe others) will introduce 400 Hz displays at the IFA electronics show in Berlin next week.

Of course, a new breed of Blu-ray Disc and player will be needed to deliver this more data-intensive content load - "though it's not exactly double a regular high-def movie," explained Perry. "First you encode a full frame. That's the left side image. Then for the next, right eye frame, you only have to deliver the difference in the picture from that perspective." Today's 50 GB capacity Blu-ray Disc will suffice to hold a 3-D movie, "though we may have to sacrifice a few of those prized extras everyone watches," Perry said, tongue-in-cheek.

The 3D Full HD active-shutter glasses and 3D Blu-ray player used in Panasonic's 3D FHD demonstration

A new standard HDMI 1.4 connector cable with slightly different connectors on the ends will also be required to get components connected and the show going. That requirement will slow the introduction of 3-D on video game consoles - hey, Sony has just introduced the PlayStation 3 Slim - though Perry said the growing number of 3-D titles for PCs, including Ubisoft's G-Force and upcoming Avatar: The Video Game, will be playable on his Panasonic 3-D TVs through a multi-pin computer jack hookup.

In my recent time in a Panasonic Full HD 3-D theater, I found the image quality to be razor sharp, deep and involving. A clip from Disney's Bolt was especially loaded with shot-out-of-the-blue, in-your-face treats. My only complaint is that, as with 3-D movies shown theatrically on "silver" (really aluminum) surfaced screens, the picture brightness is significantly diminished by those blinking left/right shutter lenses. Think about it. The glasses effectively blackout one eye's view whenever the other is open, reducing light intake by 50 percent.

For current demos, Panasonic is using another vendor's 3-D shutter glasses, pretty comfortable, which run on a 250-hour capacity button battery and have a tinted, sunglasses look about them. Hopefully, when Panasonic's own viewing spectacles come out of the lab, they'll let a little more light shine in our eyes.

By Jonathan Takiff, Philly

3D Will Be Big, Very Big, for TV

It is a fair bet that almost anywhere and everywhere you look at this year's IBC there will be examples of 3D in action. Indeed, the green shoots of 3D on TV are everywhere around us. In Europe satellite operator Eutelsat has been running a free-to-view experimental 3D channel for the past 18 months. It is the same in Japan. Now BSkyB says it will have a dedicated 3D channel on air next year, while DirecTV and Fox in the US are known backers of 3D, as is Discovery Channel. Even the UK's Channel 4 is about to get into the act with a week of special 3D programming including previously unseen images of Queen Elizabeth in 3D.

Hollywood's enthusiasm for 3D is obvious as movie after movie is released to adoring fans prepared to pay a premium to visit 3D-equipped theatres. But how important will 3D be on TV?

One recent study (Strategic Impact of 3D) helps answer the question, suggesting that more than 10% of homes in the USA and Japan will be equipped with 3D-enabled TV sets, and just as importantly Europe with its massive number of TV households "will not be far behind" says research consultancy Futuresource.

"Consumers are starting to experience the new wave of 3D technologies at the cinema and through Digital Out of Home advertising, and it won't be long before there's a groundswell of demand for 3D within the home," says Sarah Carroll, Director of Continuous Services, Futuresource Consulting. "With over 200m new TVs sold across the globe every year, the potential is huge, but the industry needs to overcome some serious obstacles in order to kick start and fully realise the revenue streams.

"Most notably, technical and standards issues still need to be resolved and there is a limited supply of 3D content, with the current economic climate making new investment in production and distribution a challenge, particularly for the broadcast industry. That said, there is a real feeling of excitement surrounding 3D and here at Futuresource we believe this will translate into commercial success within the next three to five years."

All eyes will be on the consumer electronics industry, with ‘3D Ready' TVs a prerequisite to consumer adoption in much the same way as ‘HD-Ready' sets were used to seed the high definition market five years ago. An early decision on the Blu-ray 3D standard will also be critical, as packaged media will be necessary to help drive the market.

"Custom chipsets can be embedded into net-gen hardware at relatively low cost," says Carroll. "Combine this with an integrated consumer awareness programme and a coherent ‘3D-Ready' branding strategy, and the resulting price premium on hardware will more than offset the additional manufacturing costs."

Futuresource suggests that 3D on TV will definitely NOT be a niche category, and will gain traction from 2011 onwards with Blu-ray releases available as well as an increasing number of studio remastered film ‘classics' into 3D. Moreover, it sees Japan and South Korea's TV set suppliers learning lessons from the past and building multi-format sets suitable for all the likely standards. By 2015, it suggests we'll be seeing a wider portfolio of content available, embracing sport, films, wildlife and studio-based drama.

"Our analysis points to the emergence of two distinct phases as we move through the diffusion curve," says Jim Bottoms, MD of Corporate Development at Futuresource. "Currently, we're easing into the preparatory phase, which will stretch out to 2011. Here we'll see 3D movies primarily being made for theatrical release and the continued rollout of 3D digital cinema. TV manufacturers will start to roll out multi-format ‘3D-Ready' sets and glasses from 2010, VoD delivery systems will begin to include limited 3D movie, concert and sport content, and the market for 3D PC games will continue to develop.

"Our probability modeling shows the permeation phase will kick in from 2011, where - among other initiatives - we'll see new 3D movie releases on Blu-ray, re-masters of classic blockbusters like Star Wars, The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings, a wider range of 3D TV content for sports, wildlife documentaries and concerts, and studios introducing selective production of 3D TV shows and series.

By 2012, more than 10% of US and Japanese homes will be ‘3D enabled', and Western Europe won't be too far behind, with 6% household penetration. Moving forward, a new generation of videogame consoles will begin to emerge, fully embracing 3D technologies, and in the long term we'll see the industry shift to autostereoscopic (no glasses) displays."

By Chris Forrester, RapidTV News

Nordic Digital Alliance Merges with IntelliNet

Digital-cinema service provider Nordic Digital Alliance (NDA) and digital-cinema advertising service provider IntelliNet agreed to merge to jointly offer a fully comprehensive package of digital-cinema deployment, content-management software and digital-delivery services for exhibitors, distributors and advertising companies in Scandinavia and beyond.

With Arts Alliance Media (AAM) as a leading shareholder and integrated technology provider, the combined group will be more capable of meeting pan-European demand. With the merger the Nordic Digital Alliance and Arts Alliance Media group now serves more than 1,000 screens across France, Spain, Holland, Denmark, Norway and the United Kingdom.

Oscar Hovland, IntelliNet’s chief communications officer, will become managing director of the combined entity, which will retain the name Nordic Digital Alliance. Former NDA managing director Jan-Robert Jore was appointed chairman of NDA.

Software development teams at Arts Alliance Media and IntelliNet are working together to integrate IntelliNet’s advertising Campaign Distribution Engine (CDE) into AAM’s digital-cinema Theatre Management System (TMS). The final result will be an end-to-end solution that enables exhibitors to receive and schedule pre-show ads, trailers and feature films on their digital-cinema projectors.

“Over the past few years our commercial collaboration and mutual admiration have resulted in us joining forces today. Our six years working with digital advertising solutions and NDA’s comparable endeavors in digital-cinema services are compatible and strengthen both parties. We are excited about the prospects of working closer with Arts Alliance Media in expanding our reach across Europe,” NDA’s Hovland stated.

Source: FilmJournal

Cameron to Bring 3-D into Living Rooms

James Cameron is taking his 3-D mission beyond the multiplexes, aiming to get a toehold in American homes with 3-D TVs and Blu-Ray players in a partnership with Panasonic while tubthumping his Avatar pic. The manufacturer has been named exclusive audiovisual partner for the 3-D film and will promote it along with several of its upcoming products, including its Full HD 3-D technology, in a global advertising campaign. A truck tour showing a clip from the film on a 103-inch 3-D HDTV will be part of the promo push.

"Any attention to 3-D is good," said Eisuke Tsuyuzaki, chief technology officer of Panasonic. "A tie-in with a landmark movie sends a strong message not only to consumers but to the industry in general."

Panasonic is betting big on 3-D's future in homes. The company has established a division to help studios develop 3-D Blu-ray technology and is investing heavily in home electronics to take advantage of those features.

Cameron predicted that 3-D will become ubiquitous on all screens and made a point of making all video displays seen in Avatar 3-D.

While 3-D has commanded higher ticket prices at cinemas, there has not yet been a homevid release using the latest 3-D technologies, so there's no precedent for 3-D Blu-ray disks to also be sold at a premium price.

A Fox spokesman said the studio would announce the date of the Avatar homevideo release after the pic's theatrical window has closed, as is its usual policy, and all announcements pertaining to price and 3-D would be made at that time.

While this partnership is centered on Avatar, Tsuyuzaki noted that it is not an exclusive relationship with Fox.

"Content is the driver and we're certainly looking forward to working with not only Fox's Avatar, but with Disney, Lionsgate and other companies," he said.

Today, DVD or Blu-ray titles have to be downgraded to lesser anaglyph 3-D technology to bring 3-D into the home. Coraline and Jonas Bros: The 3-D Concert Experience are among 2009 titles that have featured such technology, which produces what some observers deem murky images with poor color.

Panasonic, though, is preparing to launch a stereoscopic 3-D plasma home theater system, which would more accurately re-create the theater experience. While the company has not announced a launch date beyond 2010 for the system, which is dubbed "Full HD 3-D," the marketing relationship with Fox suggests the technology will available before the home release of Avatar.

Cameron and Panasonic worked together during the filming of Avatar, with the helmer relying heavily on the company's equipment. The director is also working with vidgame producer Ubisoft to create a stereoscopic game tie-in. That game will hit stores on Nov. 24, more than three weeks prior to the film's Dec. 18 bow.

Avatar is expected to be among the first, if not the very first, stereoscopic Blu-ray releases. The Blu-ray Disc Assn. is developing universal specifications for such titles so they will work on 3-D Blu-ray players from various manufacturers.

Panasonic has privately been demonstrating its Full HD 3-D system using a 3-D Blu-ray version of Disney's Up.

By Susanne Ault and Chris Morris, Variety

Sony Launches Digital Service in Japan

Sony will launch a new digital projection system lease and support service for digital theaters in Japan on Oct. 1, the company announced on Monday. Sony plans to introduce the digital systems to 500 screens within four years. Targeted exclusively at the Japanese market, the service will bow with the cooperation of the local offices of Fox, Disney and Sony Pictures Entertainment. The aim is to speed the digitalization of Japan's exhib sector.

The first to use the service will be multiplex operator T-Joy, which will introduce the Sony SRX-R220 digital cinema projector in its theaters in October. The company, an affiliate of Toei, plans to outfit all 15 of its sites -- 16 counting the one skedded to open in Kyoto at the end of 2009 -- with Sony digital projection systems. By 2011, T-Joy plans to have the systems on 150 screens.

One selling point of the support service for pic distribs and producers is a high-quality, reliable digital environment, as well as guarantees of DCI standards and support for new 3-D and 4K projection technologies. Another advantage is savings from eliminating print production and shipping costs, as well as more efficient theater management.

By Mark Schilling, Variety

Technicolor Dreams of a Bright Future in Digital Cinema

Technicolor has been a fixture since the early days of Hollywood. The company brought color to the big screen in such classics as Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz. When its pioneering "three-strip" color process fell out of favor, Technicolor reinvented itself as a successful film processor. The company later became a leading duplicator of VHS tapes and DVDs.

Now, after 94 years of serving Hollywood, Technicolor Inc. has planted itself in the heart of Tinseltown, leaving its nondescript headquarters in an industrial neighborhood near Burbank Airport. Its new digs -- a modern, six-story structure at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street -- are a symbol of the company's latest transformation.

Technicolor is now refashioning itself to keep pace with the digital revolution that has reshaped the entertainment industry. It has invested more than $200 million in digital post production and visual effects facilities, including in Bangalore, India, London and the company's new Hollywood headquarters, as well as in a sound editing facility that is slated to open next year on the Paramount Pictures lot on Melrose Avenue.

"People say Technicolor, it's just fighting to stay in the old business and they will never make it in the digital business," said Frederic Rose, chief executive of Thomson, the French media technology company that owns Technicolor. "In reality, we are pushing harder than anybody else in the industry to go digital."

The global expansion comes at a time when many other companies that service Hollywood are scaling back in the face of a severe production slowdown. Not that Technicolor has much alternative: The bulk of the company's business derives from replicating DVDs and processing film prints for theaters, both challenged segments. DVD sales are slowing and more movies and TV shows are being shot digitally.

Technicolor is the largest manufacturer of DVDs and remains one of the largest processors of film -- it processed 1.8 billion feet of film during the first half of this year.

But the company also has emerged as a market leader in the processing and distribution of digital cinema. Its new headquarters includes nine digital scanners, which cost more than $1 million apiece. They are part of a "digital intermediate" process that Technicolor developed several years ago that allows film to be color-corrected and edited on digital equipment as opposed to in a film laboratory using chemicals. The process is less expensive and faster.

As part of a strategy to expand into creative services, Technicolor in March hired Tim Sarnoff away from Imageworks, Sony Pictures' visual effects and computer animation unit, to lead its new Digital Productions division, which creates visual effects for movies, television shows, commercials and video games.

"They could have put their head in the sand and said, 'This is what we do.' But they didn't," said Randi Altman, editor in chief of trade publication Post Magazine. "They've adapted and evolved with the industry."

Technicolor's outlook brightened recently when its parent company reached a deal with creditors to slash 45% of its $4.1 billion in debt. Thomson, a provider of digital set-top boxes and other telecommunications equipment, amassed the huge debt after a string of costly acquisitions. As part of a restructuring plan, Thomson is focusing more resources and marketing on Technicolor, which generates $3billion in yearly revenue and accounts for about 45% of Thomson's revenue.

Rose, who keeps offices in Hollywood and Paris, wants to position Technicolor as the French company's cornerstone brand. That's a departure from his predecessor Frank Dangeard, who struggled to transform Thomson into a "one-stop shop" of digital equipment and services for movie studios, TV channels and cable and telecommunications companies. Dangeard resigned last year as Thomson's losses mounted. The board tapped Rose, a former top executive with French telecommunications firm Alcatel-Lucent, to turn things around.

To highlight the Technicolor brand, Rose insisted that all references to "Thomson" be removed from Technicolor signs and employee e-mails. He's also marshaling Thomson's researchers, who helped develop the technology for the MP3player, to create and patent new technologies for Technicolor's customers, such as finding ways to deliver 3-D entertainment in the home.

Technicolor also is shedding businesses that don't directly involve its key customers -- studios and filmmakers. That includes Premier Retail Networks, a company that manages video networks for retailers including Wal-Mart; and Screenvision, a joint venture with British broadcaster Carlton Communications that provides advertising for movie theaters. Thomson also plans to unload its Grass Valley unit, which supplies digital cameras, routers and switchers to the broadcast industry.

"The company had stopped focusing on its customer and instead focused on diversions," Rose said. "The new Technicolor is focused exclusively around content creators. What do these people want and what do they need to grow?"

Some aspects of Technicolor's digital strategy haven't worked. The company last year pulled the plug on a planned rollout of digital equipment in theaters, concluding that it wasn't economical and that it veered too far from its core business.

Instead, Technicolor recently devised a system that can show 3-D movies using conventional film projectors, potentially saving exhibitors from spending $75,000 on a digital projector. The rollout of 3-D screens has been significantly delayed because exhibitors have had difficulty funding the conversion, raising concerns among studio executives who are releasing dozens of 3-D films in the next two years. Technicolor's system will be tested this fall at an undisclosed theater in Los Angeles.

Industry insiders say reaction among studio executives and exhibitors has been mixed. But at least one studio executive who has seen a demonstration of the system is impressed.

"The solution they are working on today could potentially be very helpful to the deployment of the new 3-D platform in theaters across the globe," said DreamWorks Animation SKG chief Jeffrey Katzenberg, who is an outspoken proponent of 3-D.

Technicolor has 13,450 employees, including about 2,000 who work in various offices throughout Los Angeles. Its chief rival is Deluxe Entertainment Services Group Inc., the post production house owned by Ronald Perelman's holding company, MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc. As the world's largest film processing company, Deluxe has faced similar challenges as Technicolor, and also has moved heavily into digital services.

Like other service companies, Technicolor's business was buffeted by last year's labor unrest in Hollywood and the effects of the recession, which slowed film production and further damped DVD sales. The company cut 1,200 jobs at its North American facilities in 2007, largely because of the slowdown in DVD sales. The mastering and replication of DVDs generates about 40% of the company's revenue. Technicolor saw a 22% drop in DVD replications in the first half of this year.

Yet the company's earnings (before taxes, depreciation and amortization) rose 13% to $77 million in the first half of 2009, according to a company filing. One reason has been growth in Technicolor's digital asset management business, which involves encoding movies and TV shows so they can be distributed in various formats, including video on demand and over the Internet.

Another small but growing area for the company is visual effects and computer animation. In late 2004, Technicolor bought the Moving Picture Co., a leading London visual effects house known for its work on Super Bowl commercials as well as films including the Harry Potter movies and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

Moving Picture Co. has offices in London, Vancouver, Canada, and Santa Monica. It also works with an effects and animation house in Bangalore, India, called Paprikaas, which is partly owned by Thomson. Technicolor in 2007 partnered with DreamWorks to build and staff the facility, which has become another production outlet for DreamWorks, animating DVDs, the successful The Penguins of Madagascar cable TV series for Nickelodeon and, eventually, feature films.

To be sure, Technicolor is entering an arena dominated by larger, more established players such as Sony Pictures Imageworks and Industrial Light & Magic. A number of visual effects firms have struggled with the high cost of producing effects and overseas competition, and some, notably the Orphanage in San Francisco, have gone out of business.

Sarnoff, who is working to integrate the various facilities, says Technicolor can compete by offering high-quality effects at a lower cost than rivals.

"Technicolor has a distinct advantage in that it is truly a global company," he said. "It has facilities in places where they already have tax incentives and strong talent pools."

By Richard Verrier, The Los Angeles Times

Sony 4K: Resolution and Determination

The industry debate over the value of resolution in digital-cinema formats reached a turning point this past June, when Texas Instruments’ DLP Cinema division and its three projector manufacturing partners, Barco, Christie and NEC, announced that they were developing new 4K technologies. The news came within a few months of top theatre circuits Regal and AMC signing a deal to install thousands of Sony 4K systems, which offer a resolution of 4096 x 2160 pixels, compared to 2K’s resolution of 2048 x 1080 pixels.

For our annual special section on digital cinema, Film Journal International went directly to the manufacturers to get their vantage points on 4K vs. 2K. Our coverage begins with the company at the forefront of 4K, Sony Electronics. FJI asked Gary Johns, VP of Sony Electronics’ Digital Cinema Systems Division, to elaborate on his company’s development of 4K technology and offer a glimpse of the road ahead.

How many 4K installations do you have to date? How many are expected by the end of 2009?
Our current base of installed 4K systems is now well over 500, and we expect it will be over 1,000 by the end of the year. Recent months have seen tremendous commitment and growth for Sony 4K digital cinema. We announced agreements with AMC Theatres and Regal Entertainment Group to install our 4K systems across their entire circuits over the next three years. Those two agreements bring our number of planned 4K screens to about 11,000. In addition, we continue to work with existing clients to expand their Sony 4K deployment and are in negotiations with many other national and regional theatre chains who are interested in offering their customers the premier cinema experience. Contracted theatre chains include Muvico Theaters, Landmark Theatres, Channelside, Alamo, Camera Cinemas and Lincoln Square, and we expect to make several new announcements shortly.

What are the major advantages of 4K?
From an audience perspective, it starts with improved quality: unprecedented levels of resolution and contrast and, ultimately, a much more dynamic, engaging and immersive entertainment experience in a movie theatre. For exhibitors, offering 4K projection is a significant competitive advantage, offering the best image quality available. Sony 4K digital cinema systems are just that -- complete projection systems designed and built to work together from the ground up...backed by Sony, a global leader in electronics.

Another important benefit of Sony 4K systems is that they are extremely scalable and flexible. Of course, our 4K system is able to play back 4K content, but it is also able to play back 2K content -- better than 2K projectors -- as well as a variety of other formats to meet our customers’ needs. One other advantage of our 4K system is the ability to create stunning 3D presentations. 4K allows the use of two 2K images for full-time display of left eye/right eye images. This, coupled with high-quality image processing and optics, creates 3D images that are recognizably superior.

Sony’s 4K 3D is relatively new, tell us about its progress in the past year.
The 3D landscape has exploded, with new releases being announced each month. Sony has joined forces with another company that is leading the 3D revolution, RealD, on a sales and distribution agreement that combines our 4K projector with RealD’s 3D technology, offering exhibitors the best technology solution on the market. Since we announced our single-projector 3D lens solution, we are confident that Sony’s 3D on 4K absolutely delivers the best 3D experience available, which should drive the installation of over 500 Sony 3D systems by the end of the year, establishing Sony as a leader in 3D presentation.

What 4K-related technological advances can we expect in the future?
As a total entertainment company, Sony is committed to developing a full 4K system and workflow components, including a camera, storage and post-production products, and of course, 4K projection. We are also working diligently to develop and offer the next steps in product development, including alternative light sources, expanded software offerings and state-of-the-art monitoring systems, to name a few.

What kind of co-existence do you expect for 2K and 4K technologies?
Clearly, we believe that Sony 4K provides the ultimate offering for moviegoers and research shows that most customers can see the difference between Sony 4K systems and 2K systems, regardless of screen size. We have published a white paper, available on our website which clearly explains the science behind this reality. As a further sign of recognition of the superiority of 4K technology, other projector manufacturers have announced plans to make 4K projectors in the next couple of years, so it would appear there is a clear move toward 4K. Fortunately, we have been committed to 4K from the beginning and are confident that we will continue to make the best projectors in the business.

How do you see the digital rollout proceeding over the next 12 months?
The entire industry -- manufacturers, exhibitors, studios and other organizations -- are all working extremely hard to ensure that digital cinema is rolled out in the most effective way. Everyone understands that this is the industry’s direction and that the movie theatres of the future will be digital. Now that the industry has recognized the value of 4K, the final hurdles will be meeting the financial realities of conversion, implementing an effective business model and tackling the logistics of rolling out digital technology in a theatre. We’re optimistic that soon, this industry will be well on its way to being a -- mostly 4K -- digital community.

How supportive is today’s exhibition community of the digital transition?
Exhibitors are extremely supportive of a digital conversion, realizing the benefits that a digital environment can bring, including operational efficiency, expanded format offerings (like 3D) and alternative content to increase traffic to theatres.

What are your predictions for the future of live events projected in 4K?
As 4K cameras come onto the market, 4K workflow costs decrease and more Sony 4K projection systems get deployed, we expect it to become more and more common for live events to be delivered in 4K. There has already been tremendous progress in this area and we expect that we will see significant 4K live content in the next few years.

What is Sony doing to encourage more 4K content from the Hollywood studios?
We continue to work closely with each studio on delivering the right digital solution. The studios are very supportive of digital distribution, and specifically 4K resolution, with many executives citing that as their future direction. For example, Sony Pictures Entertainment has already made 4K a centerpiece of its distribution plans for the majority of its motion pictures. But perhaps the best example of the growing acceptance of, and demand for, 4K content occurred recently when three major studio motion pictures -- which were all released within a month of each other -- were made available to theatres for 4K projection.

Source: FilmJournal

Barco: Projecting the Future

Barco’s 2K digital-cinema products offer customers a wide range of choices, with the ability to customize systems for individual auditoriums. Using the 2K solution, the economic paradigms and cost reductions have helped Barco achieve broad market accolades and acceptance, but the focus is now shifting to a new challenge -- optimizing the big screen experience. In a recent side-by-side test, Barco’s 2K projector delivered superior image quality and higher resolution than the competitor’s 4K system, yet our customers have asked us for a 4K, premium-quality solution for very large screens -- specifically, 90+ feet for 2D presentations, and up to 75 feet for 3D.

In response, Barco Digital Cinema, in partnership with Texas Instruments (TI), will proudly introduce “Enhanced DLP Cinema 4K” in 2010. This is the next step toward strengthening and expanding our product portfolio -- with image quality and light levels exceeding anything seen to date.

To inaugurate the 4K deployment, Barco will have next-generation “4K Ready” projectors available in Q1 2010. By performing a software upgrade and exchanging the light engine, these projectors may be easily updated to Enhanced DLP Cinema 4K. Given Barco’s proprietary modular design, the engine swap will be simple to perform, taking less than five minutes. Although Barco is dependent upon TI timelines, delivery of new Enhanced DLP Cinema 4K projectors should commence in late 2010, with Barco being the first to market with production 4K DLP systems.

Exhibitors should never have to mask down their largest screens, nor should they be required to pay 4K prices for 30-foot screens -- where 2K projection remains ideal for their customers. With these principles in mind, Barco creates the right solution for the right-sized screen. Our research suggests that exhibitors will place Enhanced DLP Cinema 4K systems on their showcase screens, while 2K projection systems will continue as the industry workhorse -- excelling at total cost of ownership, with flawless DLP Cinema image quality. Barco’s Enhanced DLP Cinema 4K products will be designed to bring first-class, luminous visual experiences to the largest screens, where the approximate 20% price increase is appropriate -- remaining a true value proposition.

Building upon the ingenious modular design of our existing offerings is a three-tier introduction: the incorporation of many exciting features into our next-generation DLP Cinema 2K equipment, an innovative line of “4K Ready” projectors in Q1 2010, and a new family of Enhanced DLP Cinema 4K projectors in Q4 2010.

Currently, exhibitors worldwide are eagerly transitioning to digital projection technology, and DLP Cinema is enjoying considerable growth -- with nearly 1,000 screens being converted each month. In the coming year, we expect those numbers to rise even higher, because theatres are tailoring their business models to include digital at all their locations, rather than selected cinema complexes.

This trend is driven by 3D, as well as the patrons’ expressed desire for sharp, clean, pristine presentations. We welcome the advent of Enhanced DLP Cinema 4K to provide an all-encompassing solution for our customers’ auditoriums, regardless of configuration or screen size. We will continue to project the future -- it is our commitment to you.

By Terri Westhafer, Director Business Development Barco Digital Cinema, FilmJournal

Christie: A Practical Roadmap to 4K

For Christie, 4K projection has always been on our roadmap for the future, but our first priority is always to understand the needs of our customers. We are focused on providing high-quality products with a proven track record of reliability. Our 4K projection solutions will be built on the same reliable high-performance DLP Cinema technology that is currently used in our 2K projectors. Leveraging industry-proven, time-tested technology with a modular design that offers our customers flexibility will ensure Christie’s 4K resolution projectors continue to be the industry leader. Like our 2K solutions, our 4K projectors will continue to deliver the lowest cost of ownership of any digital projector and provide ease of serviceability.

As we announced recently, Christie 4K resolution digital cinema projectors will be ready for sale in the fall of 2010. We have added engineering resources and are focused on completing our development with a projector design that exceeds our customers’ expectations. In the meanwhile, while 4K resolution may have a place in the future of the industry, 2K DLP Cinema still represents the better value proposition. Remember that today, less than 5% of cinematic content is distributed in 4K; and 3D content, which is currently driving digital-cinema installations, is only available in 2K resolution.

Even more significant are the tests and surveys that indicate most patrons do not notice any difference between 2K and 4K images in most cinema environments. This is due to a variety of reasons, but mostly because cinemas show motion pictures, not still pictures. For exhibitors, therefore, there is no real benefit to installing more expensive 4K systems today because they don’t provide the same return on investment that 2K does.

Meanwhile, our new DLP Cinema Series 2 projectors will handle 2K data rates as well as those required for 4K content. All that is needed is for Texas Instruments to introduce the 4K imager for Christie to complete the final design and begin the manufacturing process. When Christie introduces its 4K systems, they will be based on proven DLP Cinema technology, backed by millions of hours of “pre-testing” on the world stage, offering the highest level of reliability and performance to our customers.

While we wait for the 4K technology from Texas Instruments, we are continuously seeking ways to improve our existing 2K projection systems by adding further cost-of-operation enhancements, such as full-panel triple-flash capability -- which we call Christie Brilliant3D -- to ensure the brightest image for 3D applications. We have also developed the fastest, most accurate motorized lens system in the industry, making Christie projectors easier than ever to operate. These enhancements provide our customers with the lowest cost of operation because lower-power lamps can be used. Christie projectors also offer a simpler, single-lens solution regardless of the format of the material being displayed. The Series 2 platform will allow both Christie’s mid- and high-power models to be 4K-upgradeable right out of the starting gate.

By Brian Claypool, Senior Product Manager Cinema Christie, FilmJournal

NEC: A Place for Both 2K and 4K

At NEC Display Solutions, we believe digital cinema has truly changed the game for exhibition. Digital cinema has created new revenue opportunities from 3D to alternative contact as well as providing audiences a more satisfying and consistent moviegoing experience with the higher picture quality available from digital-cinema projectors.

NEC Display Solutions’ product development culture is based on customer input and feedback. This customer-centric culture has helped us continue with developing leading-edge digital-cinema projectors. Recently, our NC2500S-A was developed when customers requested a brighter digital-cinema projector for 3D as well as not leaving the installed base stranded either.

Exhibition partners, such as Clearview’s Ziegfeld Theatre in Manhattan and Mann’s Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, use NEC, and many other exhibitors also rely on NEC as their digital projector technology supplier.

Now that Texas Instruments has announced an enhanced 4K technology solution as an extension of its next-generation electronics platform for DLP Cinema projectors, we’ll continue to collect and study customer input on their interests and potential applications for 4K.

While it’s early to decipher, we expect 4K will be well-suited for the larger screen, premium theatres, and those exhibitors will likely be the early adopters. There is interest from our exhibition customers; yet we haven’t seen a significant groundswell of demand for an immediate move up from 2K DLP. This is a testament to exhibitor satisfaction with current Texas Instruments 2K DLP technologies. However, appropriately designed, a DLP-enhanced 4K solution can be well-disposed to screen sizes of 75 feet to 100 feet. Overall, we think adoption will partly depend on the local market and competitive conditions. Regardless of the date or speed of enhanced 4K development, we are certain that 2K DLP technology will remain a viable solution for exhibitors for many years to come.

Clearly, one of the big immediate drivers in the digital transition is digital 3D. That is a demonstrated revenue opportunity for both exhibitors and the studios -- just look at the recent movie releases Up, Ice Age and G-Force. NEC has provided financing to help fund the move to digital. These funding efforts have proven very popular. Additionally, the DCIP rollout, which may start late this year or in early 2010, would fuel even more interest from local, mid-sized and regional theatres. NEC is a great choice for helping both small theatres and big theatres go digital to capture this market.

By Jim Reisteter, General Manager Digital Cinema Projectors NEC Display Solutions, FilmJournal

Doremi: The 4K Server Perspective

How well-positioned is Doremi for the coming wave of 4K projectors?
Doremi is the best-positioned server manufacturer in digital cinema. We have a commercially available 4K server today. We only need to repackage our technology into an Internal Media Block (IMB) for the DLP 4K projectors. We also have a patent pending for the 4K decoding scheme.

What modifications, if any, are you making to your current line of servers?
We will modify a DCP-2000 server to become the ShowVault. The ShowVault will be an external server which will house the content storage and Doremi Cinelister software for show control.

What kind of co-existence do you predict for 2K and 4K?
We feel the majority of screens will still be 2K. However, Doremi is the only server manufacturer today which can offer 2K or 4K for DLP projectors to the exhibitor. This allows the exhibitor to stay with one server technology for the entire multiplex if they start with 2K and move to 4K on some screens. This is very valuable for the exhibitor.

What kinds of locations are best suited for 4K?
I'll leave this one for the projector manufacturers to argue.

How do you see the digital rollout proceeding over the next 12 months?
We have seen 95% of our sales in 2009 going toward 3D installations. The sales have followed the various territories globally as tentpole 3D features get released. Indications are that funding will come soon in the U.S. to begin major deployments. This should allow 2010 to start off strong.

How supportive is today’s exhibition community of the digital transition?
Exhibitors are seeing huge benefits from installing 3D digital screens. As with most technological advancements in cinema, it all depends on content. The 3D pipeline is long enough to support the 3D screens for several years. Alternative content is also the key in many regions to help offset the exhibitor’s investment. However, without funding to help subsidize the rollouts, installations will be limited.

Interview with Michael Archer, VP Digital Cinema Doremi Labs, FilmJournal

Mitsubishi 3D Home Entertainment Promotion with IGN

Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America (MDEA) announced its 3D-Ready Home Theater TV promotion with IGN.com, the Web's leading videogame and entertainment information destination. The promotion showcases the capabilities of 3D gaming and movies, a feature becoming more in demand among consumers as 3D content production continues to increase. The promotion includes a sweepstakes for a chance to win a complete Mitsubishi 3D home entertainment package, including a 65-inch 3D-Ready Home Theater TV, Aspen media server, NVIDIA graphics card, an emitter and two pair of active-shutter 3D glasses.

The IGN.com 3D entertainment promotion with MDEA will run from August 28 to September 30, and is open to all U.S. residents. To enter, simply go to this website.

The grand prize winner will receive a prize package worth approximately $3,500.00, which will include:
- Mitsubishi 65-inch 3D-Ready Home Theater TV - WD-65737
- Aspen Media Server - Velocity Micro Edge Gx335 Desktop PC (2.83 GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 Processor, 6 GB RAM, 1 TB Hard Drive, 20x DVD burner, Vista Premium)
- Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX+ 512MB GPU
- Emitter - GeForce 3D vision USB controller/Infrared emitter
- 3D Glasses (two pair) - Custom engineered active shutter glasses with built-in electronics

MDEA continues to lead the competition with the largest Home Theater TVs available. The 737 Series includes 60", 65", 73" and 82" screen sizes, and the 837 Series features 65", 73" and 82" sizes - all featuring 3D-Ready viewing technology.

Source: Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America

Cineworld in Talks to Screen Live 3D Football

The UK's second biggest cinema chain is in talks to screen live 3D football next year. Cineworld wants to recreate the buzz of the big game for those who can't get a ticket. With 3D glasses and the roar of the crowd through speakers, bosses say it will be the next best thing to actually being at the match. Screening live boxing matches is also on the cards.

The 75-strong chain revealed its ambitious plans after announcing that profits had rocketed 33% for the first half of the year. Big hits like Slumdog Millionaire, Star Trek and Angels & Demons helped bring in 18% more cinema-goers in the past six months. And profits from ticket sales increased as people happily paid more for 3D films such as Monsters Vs Aliens and Coraline.

Film fans pay around £2 extra to watch 3D movies. Cineworld already shows live opera in about half its complexes and also sees this as a growing market.

Chief executive Stephen Weiner said: "We want something where fathers and sons can come along too and will probably take out the alcohol element. 3D is a very exciting concept, especially when it comes to sport, and we've been offered football."

By Graham Hiscott and Justin Harper, Mirror

James Cameron Plugging 3D TV Sets

Titanic director James Cameron has signed on with Panasonic to promote new 3D TVs. The deal disclosed Friday comes as Cameron and Twentieth Century Fox are aiming to break new ground with the release of Avatar, a movie shot entirely in 3D.

At the same time, Panasonic is making a big push to get consumers excited about three-dimensional viewing in the home -- excited enough to buy new flat-panel sets and new Blu-ray disc players. Consumers will have to wear special glasses to experience the 3D effect.

Panasonic is planning to start selling 3D TVs next year. Rivals, including Sony, which has its own movie division, and Samsung Electronics of South Korea have shown prototypes and may offer similar products. It's not clear how much 3D TVs would cost.

The manufacturers face a problem in that 3D content is scarce. There's also no agreement on a disc or broadcast format to bring the content to TV sets, though the industry group behind the Blu-ray disc may be close to finalizing a standard.

"I believe 3D is how we will experience movies, gaming and computing in the near future. 3D is not something you watch. It's a reality you feel you could step into," Cameron said on video.

Panasonic is hoping its collaboration with Cameron will give its brand an edge as a 3D leader, and give the company ideas for technological improvements for home TVs, GM Masayuki Kozuka said.

"We want to get global interest rolling," he told the Associated Press. "For people to want to watch 3D at home, the movie has to be a blockbuster."

Panasonic plans to have several trailer-vans driving around in the U.S. and Europe next month with large-screen 3D TVs inside showing Avatar. In Japan, footage from Avatar -- a science-fiction romance set in a futuristic jungle inhabited by creatures evocative of Cameron's Aliens -- will appear in ads for 3D TVs. Cameron developed a new computer-controlled 3D camera system for the movie.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

A Watershed Event for 3D?

Like many Display Daily readers, I grew up enthralled by science fiction and in love with the movies. In my case, I was also fascinated by 3D. These three continuing interests will all come together on December 18th with the release of Avatar. As has been well publicized, Avatar is a movie that is being filmed in photo realistic, stereoscopic 3D. It hopes to mix live action and CGI imagery in a seamless blend.

There has been no shortage of hype about Avatar. I offer two very different examples of items recently posted in the news:
- 20th Century Fox has budgeted $237 million for production alone.
- Director James Cameron told Time Magazine that the 3D viewing "is so close to a real experience that it actually triggers memory creation in a way that 2D viewing doesn’t."

This movie, more than any other single event that will occur this year, has the potential to affect the trajectory of the public’s appetite for 3D. The quality of the movie and the extent of its’ commercial success will impact the near term prospects for all of the 3D industry.

This article will take a quick look at some aspects of the 3D production techniques used in Avatar. To start, we note that making a film using digital 3D technology is still very new. This means that much of the filming process itself is being improvised along the way, with new technologies being developed as they are needed.

Consider first the Computer Graphics aspects of the film. Avatar’s footage is built from about 70% CGI. But it will also include computerized images from real human action, which is called "performance capture." This is accomplished by the cast donning motion capture suits, essentially leotards covered in sensors that feed the movements of the body back to a bank of computers. In Avatar, scenes were accomplished on a "performance capture" stage six times bigger than anything previously used in Hollywood.

The realism of the performance was enhanced by improving the way the suits captured the actors’ facial expressions. The new technique is called Facial Performance Replacement. The FRP process calls for the use of a skullcap with a camera enhancement that closely monitors the actor’s eyes and mouth as well as other small movements. Each frame is analyzed for facial details such as pores and wrinkles all of which enable creation of a moving, computerized image that better reproduces human emotions. In addition, FPR allows the director to digitally re-work an actor’s facial movements. Lines of dialogue that get changed after principal photography on a scene can still be seamlessly implemented into the finished scene, without the actors having to re-don their body suits and head rigs for another take.

The performance capture workflow on Avatar used a so-called "Simulcam" or "virtual camera." This tool allows the director to hold a camera (really a monitor) in his hands, point it at the actors and see them in real time as their CG characters. The virtual camera allows the director to move through, edit and record the computer generated 3D scene as if he were the actual cameraman. The virtual camera removes the need to wait for the computer to render the images. The effect on screen of this approach is that of a "shaky cam." The effect makes action sequences seem up-close and can be used to focus audience attention on a particular part of a scene.

Next consider the live action 3D capture aspects of the film.

When James Cameron directed his first 3D film, Terminator 2: 3D, for Universal Studios theme parks more than a decade ago, the bulky camera equipment made some shots awkward or impossible. The 450 pound contraption, had two film cameras mounted on a metal frame and was so heavy that producers had to jury-rig construction equipment to lift it off the ground for shots from above. The cameras, slightly set apart, had to be mechanically pointed at the subject and then locked into place to create the 3D effect.

To address the camera problem, Cameron collaborated with Vince Pace, a cinematographer and the founder of a Los Angeles based 3D production company. Together they developed and patented a so-called "fusion digital 3D camera system." This camera was first employed in Cameron’s 2003 documentary, Ghosts of the Abyss, and has subsequently been refined and adapted. The camera rig now weighs only 50 pounds. The complete filming suite consists of a number of stereoscopic cameras that each use two camera lenses that can dynamically converge on a focal point with the help of a computer. With these cameras, the cinematographer can capture two images simultaneously and with perfect alignment both of which are crucial in 3D for sweeping camera moves and action sequences.

During production, Cameron needed a way to review just-shot footage in 3D. Since no equipment existed to do this, Texas Instruments customized three large screen DLP TVs to allow a scene shot in 3D to be immediately reviewed, enabling on-the-spot directorial decisions.

Those of us on the "technology side" of 3D should remember a point well made by Director Cameron: "Ideally, the technology is advanced enough to make itself go away. That’s how it should work. All of the technology should wave its own wand and make itself disappear."

And, don’t forget that an Avatar 3D game is simultaneously in development. If the game replicates the same look (which it appears to do) and the game play is compelling (no feedback yet), this could drive a longer-lasting wave of 3D interest.

Today, August 21, is also being promoted by Fox Studios as "Avatar Day" — a 15 minute screening at a number of theaters designed to increase excitement for the movie. Tickets disappeared almost immediately.

The début of Avatar has the potential to be a very big day not only for the Avatar team, but also for the entire 3D industry. See you at the movies!

By Art Berman, DisplayDaily