After a tentative start, Europe is embracing 3D in-theater advertising. Most territories are lining up 3D spots to catch the Avatar wave in December, with expectations of growth in 2010. Some territories have embraced the potential of having cinema advertising match the films screening, while others have reservations.
In the Netherlands, advertisers are unwilling to invest in the more costly format. And in Italy, ads are shown on different projectors from the main feature, and these are not 3D-ready. Price is commonly mentioned as a barrier, with advertisers worried that 3D spots are expensive to produce, yet only play with a few films on a small proportion of screens.
"Our greatest challenge is to get advertisers (and media agencies) to understand that 3D productions are affordable," says Espen Strand Henriksen, marketing manager with Norway movie ad distribution company CAPA Kinoreklame.
The country's first 3D campaign, for Hennig Olsen ice cream, ran over the summer. France also kicked off a 3D spot from candy company Haribo. In the U.K., cinema ad company Pearl & Dean found the range of 3D options, and therefore costs, too broad for advertisers. Over the past year it has worked with production houses to produce a more structured offer.
"That has given advertisers a bit more confidence, and with the number of screens increasing quite dramatically they are able to get a better return on their 3D commercials than a year ago," says Mike Hope-Milne, enterprise director.
Pearl & Dean also ran its first campaigns during the summer, a promo for Nickelodeon and an ambitious interactive 3D game for telecom company O2.
In Portugal, there's concern that family films, which rep the largest number of 3D releases, aren't the best vehicles for splashy screen ads.
"Most 3D releases, at least in 2009, are family and animation movies, which exclude some important brands and segments. For example alcoholic drinks, which represent a huge percentage of cinema advertising," says Mafalda Malafaya of Screenvision in Lisbon.
In Belgium, Screenvision began wooing advertisers for Avatar in October. Aware that time is short to produce 3D spots, it is suggesting simpler options such as pulling 3D scenes out of 2D spots or adding a 3D logo, with ad costs starting around e10,000 ($15,000).
By Ian Mundell, Variety
After a tentative start, Europe is embracing 3D in-theater advertising. Most territories are lining up 3D spots to catch the Avatar wave in December, with expectations of growth in 2010. Some territories have embraced the potential of having cinema advertising match the films screening, while others have reservations.
Theater owners are scrambling to make sure they have enough 3D screens to make it a happy holiday season. This past year, moviegoers have proved their willingness to pay extra coin for a 3D ticket -- particularly in foreign markets. So exhibs around the globe have been adding screens as fast as they can before the Nov. 6 release of Disney's A Christmas Carol, starring Jim Carrey, and the Dec. 18 bow of James Cameron's Avatar, from 20th Century Fox.
At the beginning of the year, there were 900 theaters in the U.S. equipped to play 3D titles. That count has more than doubled in the months since, with Robert Zemeckis' Christmas Carol expected to open in approximately 2,000 locations.
Fox expects there to be 2,400-2,500 3D locations in the U.S. by the time Avatar unspools. (Domestically, exhibs tally the number of theater locations, while overseas distributors use screen counts.)
Internationally, the number of 3D screens should more than triple by the end of the year, from 1,000 at the end of 2008 to roughly 3,200. That makes a worldwide screen count of approximately 6,700.
Fox and Disney had hoped for more locations to be in place -- domestically, 3,000 locations would have been ideal -- but not enough theaters had converted in time.
The U.K. and China have the most number of 3D screens of any foreign territory, at 400 each. They are followed closely by France at 380, Germany with 225, and Italy with 200. Russia's count is on the rise, since many of its newly built multiplexes were equipped with digital capability from the start. Presently, Russia has 185 screens, followed closely by Mexico at 180.
Japan, the biggest international box office territory, lags behind with 150 3D screens. Korea has 120 and Australia, 100.
By next spring, there should be enough 3D locations to make studios happier as they fill up the 3D pipeline. There are 16 3D titles slotted already for 2010, starting with Disney's Alice in Wonderland on March 5.
There is a huge advantage to 3D screens, which can outperform a regular screen 3:1. For example, the 3D screen count for Monsters vs. Aliens repped only 20% of the total, yet accounted for 43% of the total gross. Similarly, Fox's Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs earned $240 million of its massive $682 million global B.O. from 3D screens, which repped only a fraction of the screen count.
However, the contentious debate between exhibs and studios over who should foot the bill for the conversion has been a major factor in the delay to get screens converted to digital projection. Studios ultimately agreed to pay a "virtual print fee" to U.S. exhibs, which will help offset the cost of switching to digital. Then, just as the three largest U.S. theater chains -- AMC, Cinemark and Regal -- were going to use the VPF deals to secure a $1 billion line of credit for the conversion, the economy crashed. The three circuits are working together through a consortium, Digital Cinema Implementation Partners (DCIP), which in turn is working with JP Morgan on the credit facilities. Insiders say JPMorgan and DCIP are close to announcing a line of credit valued at somewhere around $500 million.
New Jersey-based Cinedigm Digital Cinema, which works with medium-sized and smaller circuits, found itself in the same boat, but last week announced it had secured a credit line of up to $100 million from GE Capital Media and Societe Generale Corporate & Investment Banking. Monies will be used to install up to 2,133 digital systems as part of Cinedigm's rollout of 10,000 screens.
"In the last six weeks, things seem to have eased. They are doing everything they can to get these screens up and running," says Paramount prexy of international distribution Andrew Cripps who is prepping the release of DreamWorks Animation's How to Train Your Dragon in March.
Distribs across the Middle East are scrambling to get 3D screens ready for Avatar. In Egypt, there are no 3D-equipped digital projectors, but 15 are expected by December. The United Arab Emirates has only two 3D locations, but will add more by Christmas.
By Pamela McClintock and Ali Jaafar, Variety
Sony introduced a new 4K digital-cinema projection system that offers enhancements in performance and functionality. The new system features the SRX-R320 4K SXRD projector and LMT-300 Media Block. It incorporates similar features and design elements of its predecessor, the SRX-R220 system, but measures approximately half the size and weight to give exhibitors more installation options.
According to Gary Johns, VP of Sony Electronics’ Digital Cinema Systems Division. “With extremely high resolution, outstanding security and operational versatility, this new system is ideal for creating an immersive digital cinema experience—in 2D or 3D—on any screen.”
The new system incorporates the 4096 x 2160 resolution of its SXRD counterparts and delivers a high contrast ratio of more than 2000:1. It is designed to be compatible with the same lamps and lenses used for the R220 model. The system is FIPS 140-2 compliant and its secure enclosure design allows the LMT-300 server to be seamlessly integrated into the projector’s chassis, providing a high level of security that meets the SPB-2 anti-tamper regulations stipulated by Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI).
A choice of six optional automated zoom/focus lenses and selectable 4.2 kW, 3.0 kW, and 2.0 kW Xenon projector lamps allows for screen coverage of up to 20 meters (65 feet), providing a SMPTE-standard brightness level of 14 ft-L on a wide screen. Using an optional anamorphic lens (LKRL-A001), screen coverage can be extended up to 21.4 meters (70 feet).
Using Sony’s 3D dual-lens adaptor, the SRX-R320 projector can deliver crisp 3D images on screens up to 15 meters (50 feet side-masked) in width at 4.5 ft-L brightness.
The new system offers the optional STM-100 Theater Management System software suite that allows theatre staff to manage multiple auditoriums from a central PC connected to a theatre’s LAN.
The SRX-R320 4K projector and LMT-300 Media Block are planned to be available in November.
Source: Film Journal International
3D television broadcasts are years away, but Motorola is already talking about delivering digital set-top boxes that would be able to convert 3DTV video into any other 3DTV format.
In a demo on the show floor here at Cable-Tec Expo, Motorola has a VIP 1225 IP set-top playing U2 concert footage viewable in 3D using active glasses from XpanD. A DCX3400 cable box is playing 3D trailer of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs which uses RealD glasses. While the set-tops can’t convert video from, say, a checkerboard interleaved 3D format to a top/bottom (or side-by-side) technique, there may someday be a need for that.
Jae Hoon Kim, senior staff engineer in Motorola’s San Diego-based advanced technology group, pointed out there’s no industry standard for 3DTV. “Each content provider will have their own preference,” he says. In addition, TV manufacturers are using different 3D rendering technologies — CableLabs’ 3DTV showcase at the show, for example, features demos by Panasonic, LG and Hyundai.
In theory, a 3D-capable TV set could instruct the set-top which format or formats it supports using HDMI. Such a 3D-aware set-top could also produce a 2D version of the video, according to Kim.
By Todd Spangler, Multichannel News
Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp. has secured a line of credit of up to $100 million to help theater owners make the transition to digital, a prerequisite for showing films in 3D. GE Capital Media's Communications & Entertainment business and French company Societe Generale Corporate & Investment Banking are providing the funds.
Once the deal for the coin is finalized, Cinedigm will use the credit to support the deployment of up to 2,133 digital systems next year as part of its 10,000-screen deployment. GE Capital's commitment covers up to 1,600 digital systems, and Societe Generale's up to 533 systems.
The line of credit was secured after all the major studios agreed to pay exhibs a virtual print fee for digital prints, helping to offset the cost of digital and 3D conversion. Cinedigm's announcement is good news for exhibs and distributors, since it heralds the thawing of credit markets.
Insiders said that the Digital Cinema Implementation Project -- a consortium formed by mega domestic circuits AMC, Cinemark and Regal -- also is close to securing a line of credit that will be used to convert auditoriums to digital. DCIP, through JPMorgan, was trying to secure the facilities when the economy tumbled.
The conversion to digital was a hot topic this week at annual exhib confab ShowEast in Orlando. Also at the confab, 3D cinema technology company RealD announced it has struck a licensing agreement with Look3D, which will design, manufacture and distribute RealD premium eyewear for consumers.
By Pamela McClintock, Variety
Samsung’s innovative showcase at the FPD 2009 includes the world’s first 30-inch AMOLED TV that supports 3D picture as well as full HD resolution. The panel measures just 2.5mm and is developed by Samsung’s patented Simultaneous Emission with Active Voltage (SEAV) technology. The set also features Crosstalk tech that claims to reduce dizziness and eye fatigue.
Source: Samsung Hub
Back in the spring, Motorola brought its 3D TV demo to The Cable Show, along with information on set-top and encoding requirements. Here at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo, the demo’s gotten an upgrade. While before Motorola only showed 3D with active shutter glass technology, today it’s got active and passive 3D side by side. What’s the difference? Active 3D uses a transmitter on top of the TV to communicate with a viewer’s 3D glasses, alternately darkening one eye and then the other according to the screen refresh rate. Passive 3D uses half the image resolution for one eye and half for the other along with polarizing filters to create the 3D effect. The glasses are simpler and require no additional information from a separate transmitter.
In the photo from the Motorola demo above, you see active 3D on the left using an IP set-top, and passive 3D on the right using the QAM-based DCX3400. I tested out both, and my highly technical conclusion was that they both look good. The image from the passive 3D display seemed to delineate pretty clearly between foreground and background, which is something I remember from watching Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs in the movie theater. The image from the active 3D display appeared to make the transition between foreground and background a little more gradual. On the other hand, since the content wasn’t the same on both screens, it’s hard to tell how accurate that perception was.
On the bandwidth side of things, I learned for the first time about the role of Multiview Video Coding (MVC) in bitrate requirements. Without going into detail on how MVC works at the moment, when it’s used, 3D TV only requires about 30% more throughput than traditional 2D. That can easily be made up by moving to MPEG-4 compression. Without MVC, 3D apparently takes up about twice the bandwidth of 2D.
By Mari Silbey, MediaExperience2Go
Industry body the Digital Video Broadcasting Project (DVB) is to develop a set of technical standards for the distribution of three-dimensional video to the television set and the delivery of television content over the open Internet. The organization's steering board last week gave the go-ahead for work to commence on the two standardization projects.
Working groups will now start to set out commercial requirements for both technologies, with work on technical specifications to start shortly after that. The DVB expects to have a 3-D television specification ready in 12 to 18 months' time, with the standards for its broadcast Internet project expected somewhat earlier, in 2010.
Interest in three-dimensional television has grown in recent times and DVB director Peter Siebert said that there was now a "general consensus" among DVB members that 3-D television was an important issue for the future.
"You can argue about when it will come, but it is definitely coming," he said.
In the UK, pay-television operator BSkyB has already announced that it will launch a commercial 3-D television service toward the end of 2010, which will run over the operators' existing high-definition set-top boxes. At the same time, the growing importance of 3-D television for operators' and broadcasters' strategies has prompted calls for industry to agree on common technology standards.
Earlier this year, David Wood, head of new technology of the European Broadcasters' Union, warned that up-and-coming technologies like 3-D television stood little chance of success if Europe's audiovisual industry failed to find compromises and descended into a standards "Wild West".
Siebert said that although standards for displays and the production of 3-D television content were still some way off from being agreed by the industry, the "bit in the middle" that the DVB would work on - the distribution of 3-D content to the television - was less controversial and ready to be standardized. The DVB's 3-D project will focus on "first generation", that is stereoscopic, systems for 3-D television rather than multiview or holographic technologies.
On the "over the top" side, the DVB will work on defining the "architecture" for a "broadcast Internet" system that distributes television content over the open Internet.
"The problem with the Internet is that it is designed for point-to-point traffic," said Siebert. "If you apply that model to broadcasting, it means that every user who watches television over the Internet has, in effect, a separate connection into the studio. That kind of model requires enormous investment from the broadcasters and the network operators.
"The idea is to develop an architecture that makes use of the Internet's infrastructure but, at the same, allows for a more efficient transmission to the end consumer."
Siebert said that the DVB's decision to become involved in standardizing broadcast Internet technologies had been informed by two main factors: the increasing availability of high-speed Internet across Europe - championed by broadband policies such as the UK's Digital Britain agenda and France Numerique 2012 in France - and the fact that chipsets had become cheap enough to viably build the necessary technology into reception devices.
"Many city carriers are also now rolling out their fiber-optic broadband infrastructure to the end consumer," he added. "That is the ideal means of bringing television services into the home."
Source: Informa Telecoms & Media
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Every significant technology overhaul happens in fits and starts and the transition from film to digital in exhibition has been no exception. As with other global technological developments, there have been highlight moments along the way. It will take a few years to be certain but I believe several announcements that came to light at ShowEast 2009 in Orlando will come to be seen as major turning points in the ongoing worldwide adoption of digital cinema. Historically important events typically occur with little or no fanfare and the biggest news, in my mind, to come out of ShowEast 2009 is no exception. While it is still not widely known and there will be no formal announcement, it is not a secret: Christie has manufactured its last 35mm projector.
I learned this during an hour-long one-on-one conversation with Christie’s president Jack Kline. We talked about a wide range of industry topics and when – almost in passing – he mentioned the news about stopping the manufacture of 35mm projectors I confess I was at first shocked. Kline said he understood that the news sounds shocking at first, but said it was one of the easiest business decisions he’s ever had to make. The reason is that for a very long time no one has purchased a new 35mm projector from Christie. Kline said Christie would continue to support its existing film projector customers.
Upon reflection the news makes perfect sense. According to Texas Instruments, as of October 23rd there were more than 14,000 DLP Cinema projectors in the world. Obviously the majority of those replaced existing 35mm projectors, many of which are still in good working order and are available for sale in various places. There is simply no demand for new projectors.
There were three other significant developments discussed at the conference, all of which gain even more importance in the context of the fact that film projection is clearly trending downward:
- Digital Cinema Implementation Partners CEO Travis Reid spoke during a panel discussion on financing and confirmed that JP Morgan recently released the first $525 million of its loan to fund the rollout of 15,000 digital screens over the next few years in Regal, Cinemark and AMC theatres. The corner has been turned. "We're really ready to get going," Reid said.
- Two of the recently announced film-based 3D systems were represented at the show, were the subject of much debate and did not appear to gain any serious traction.
- Kodak Digital Cinema, for all intents and purposes, announced that it is out of the digital cinema business.
First Technicolor, which demonstrated its film-based over-under 3D system to ShowEast attendees. At the demonstration at a local Orlando movie theatre, Technicolor announced that it has aligned with other film companies including Deluxe Entertainment Services Group, Eastman Kodak Company, and Fujifilm to provide financial assistance to exhibitors seeking their 3D system. The Silver Screen Fund defers costs associated with the purchase and installation of silver screens by providing financial assistance to exhibitors who deploy the Technicolor 3D solution. Technicolor will manage the fund.
The Silver Screen Fund will finance up to 500 silver screens to be installed at theatres in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Funding is available immediately for qualified exhibitors. When exhibitors complete the terms of the Silver Screen Fund agreement, they will own the silver screen, a necessary component for future digital 3D projection.
“Technicolor is committed to delivering high-quality, affordable 3D solutions, and the creation of the Silver Screen Fund accelerates our promise to our exhibition partners by helping them defer upfront costs associated with the purchase and installation of silver screens,” says Lanny Raimondo, head of Technicolor. “Thanks to overwhelming studio and industry support, we expect to sign up these first 500 screens in the coming weeks, keeping us on track to reach our target of more than 1,000 Technicolor 3D screens by mid-2010.”
According to Technicolor, DreamWorks Animation, Lionsgate, Paramount, Overture, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., and The Weinstein Company have agreed to support its system and will supply content. But later that same day both Disney and 20th Century Fox said they would not support Technicolor or any of the other proposed film-based 3D systems. If that decision holds firm, the idea of film-based 3D is effectively dead.
Most exhibitors, especially from the more successful chains, do not like the film-based 3D systems – from Technicolor or anyone else. As Cinemark International president Valmir Fernandes told the Hollywood Reporter, "We don't like it. We think it's a step backward."
There may be some exhibitors who – for the sake of getting involved in 3D at a lower cost than digital – will embrace the Technicolor system or the other film-based 3D systems, such as Oculus that was also introduced (at least as a concept) at the show. But the supply of content will be limited and will get even smaller as time passes.
That is because digital cinema has moved from a possibility to inevitability. The DCIP announcement that the company’s rollout is seriously underway puts an exclamation point on this.
Ironically, the fact the digital cinema is now an inevitably is one of the main reasons that Kodak has decided to pull out of the market. Kodak Digital Cinema has limped along from its earliest days. That it no reflection on the people in that division; blame corporate executives in Kodak’s headquarters in Rochester, New York.
Kodak Digital Cinema’s corporate bosses gave them mixed signals from the start, providing financial support and backing one day and pulling it back the next. And, in their ongoing (and understandable) desire to prolong the life of 35mm film, the powers that be at Kodak did all they could behind the scenes to undermine the growth of digital cinema. Just one example: the company waited until Cinedigm (in those days called AccessIT) had begun to implement digital systems and then dropped the price of 35mm film prints.
Worse, from corporate Kodak’s perspective, competing in the new digital cinema world will require a significant financial commitment and, right or wrong, Kodak decided not to make that commitment. The result, Kodak Digital Cinema, which never got a fair shake from its corporate parents, is gone.
The only question that remains for Kodak now is how much longer it will continue to support professional film production and exhibition. The answer is still in years but the number now could conceivably have a single digit, which is a sentence I personally never imagined writing.
By Nick Dager, Digital Cinema Report
With its great advancement in 3D display technologies, AU Optronics (AUO) will showcase a series of 3D display technologies ranging from 8" to 65" at the FPD International. AUO's breakthrough 3D display technology, which does not require special glasses, has introduced technical innovations, for the barrier as well as the lenticular type. As glasses-free 3D displays need an increased number of viewing angles, AUO has leveraged the higher resolution panels and revolutionary pixel arrangement designs so that the audience can appreciate the higher resolution.
AUO's 65" QFHD 2D/3D mixed mode Display uses a lenticular lens. With a 2D/3D switch, 3D images can be perceived in 3D mode while 2D images can be perceived in 2D mode. Providing lifelike 3D images and a clear text display, the product will be the ideal choice for public information display applications for commercial advertisements.
The 46" Real-time Scenario Lenticular 3D Display has eight views. A real-time multi-view system captures simultaneous images of objects from different angles. This image data is re-arranged by AUO's self-developing image process circuit to provide the correct content for the 3D display. This technology can be applied when broadcasting sports contests for presenting vivid, real-time images.
Source: AU Optronics
Chalk up another first for S3D TV: Mexico’s first telecast of a major soccer match in the format. Televisa, Mexico’s largest producer of Spanish-language content, teamed with Sony, Binocle 3D and RealD on S3D coverage of Club America’s 1-0 victory Sunday over Chivas of Guadalajara.
The S3D telecast was beamed to four Cinepolis theaters in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey, as well as private screenings at Televisa’s San Angel studios in Mexico City and the AMC Burbank Town Center 6. Cinepolis charged 89 pesos ($6.70) per ticket. The regular 2D telecast was expected to draw about 35 million viewers.
Televisa provided the network, transmission and most of the production support; Sony, RealD and Binocle 3D contributed the cameras, projectors and multiplexers.
Televisa plans to present at least one event per financial quarter through the next year, including musical events and a special 3D finale of the telenovela Atrevete a sonar (Dare to Dream) in May in the National Auditorium to a crowd of 10,000. Televisa operations veep Maximiliano Arteaga also indicated the company’s intention to present certain events of the 2012 Olympic Games in London in 3D.
By James Young, Variety
The next wave in the stereoscopic 3D revolution isn't coming from cinemas, but in the home -- provided the industry is diligent about keeping quality high for its S3D content.
That was the message of Rob Engle's opening keynote address Tuesday to the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers' Tech Conference and Expo. Engle, the senior stereographer and 3D visual effects supervisor for Sony Pictures Imageworks, predicted gaming and sports would drive early adopters of home S3D TV, and consumers will follow. "Imagine the Super Bowl in 3D," he said.
Engle noted that this generation of S3D has thrived due to the convergence of digital production techniques, including cameras and post, plus digital projection.
"It really is a new medium," he said. "If the technologists and consumer electronics makers come together to produce good content and present it in a good format, we really have the power to change how entertainment is perceived."
He predicted the upcoming Avatar would win over "a lot of converts" among consumers, many of whom still attach a stigma to S3D due to the failed efforts of the 1950s, '70s and '80s.
Engle warned that keeping quality is a must, starting with storytelling. "Don't make 'a 3D film,'" he said. "Nobody says, 'I'm going to make a great color film.' They talk about making a film. You go make a good movie."
And he also warned, "Don't try to do 3D on the cheap. It's a good bet you'll either end up with a lousy product or pay to fix your mistakes later on."
By David S. Cohen, Variety
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Execs seem almost embarrassed about the prospect of promising too much too soon regarding digital cinema.
A decade into a planned industrywide conversion to digital projection, the effort remains a work in progress, with the protracted credit crunch reducing the rollout of d-cinema hardware to a snail's pace for the past year. That's also hampered the related introduction of 3D projection.
But with the financial community finally beginning to rebound, d-cinema proponents here Tuesday politely asked exhibitors attending ShowEast to keep the faith.
"The reason you do this is to add to your business," Bud Mayo, CEO of d-cinema integrator Cinedigm, said during a panel discussion. "It's not just to have cool technology up on your screens. We've seen the incremental increase in revenue that 3D allows."
JPMorgan managing director Andy Sriubas said bankers helping integrators and studios to underwrite installation costs also want to see that "exhibition has some skin in the game." In an earlier round of digital installations, studios footed the bill almost 100%.
Exhibitors seem OK with shouldering a modest portion of installation costs. In fact, some self-financed digital conversions as integrators waited out the credit crunch.
"We didn't want to wait," said Henry McCalmont, who converted half of the six screens in his Mountain Home, Ark., multiplex to digital and added 3D capability to some.
Art Gordon of AG Theatres also jumped quickly into digital and 3D for his two theaters in Guam. "I'm a believer," he said with a shrug.
Even bigger exhibs have continued to convert a select number of screens. But the U.S. big three -- Regal, AMC and Cinemark -- have had to wait for Wall Street support before proceeding with more ambitious rollouts.
"We're really ready to get going," said Travis Reid, CEO of big-three integrator Digital Cinema Implementation Partners.
DCIP and JPMorgan recently went to market with a $525 million loan syndication to fund the rollout of 15,000 screen installations during the next several years. The bigger circuits already had marked considerable progress before the economic troubles set in. But digital screen counts can be confusing, as estimates by any three industryites are likely to yield at least four numbers. Consensus estimates put movie-quality installations at roughly 13,000-14,000 screens globally, with 6,500-7,000 auditoriums boasting 3D capability.
In the meantime, with the industry's conversion to digital and 3D projection going so slowly, Technicolor recently came forward with a stopgap proposal: The film lab is pushing a newly developed format for film-based 3D projection. The film-processing giant today will demo the technology for exhibs here amid broad skepticism. Technicolor is positioning the system as a lower-cost alternative to digital 3D, but Cinemark International president Valmir Fernandes summed up sentiment among skeptics.
"We don't like it," he told THR. "We think it's a step backward."
A handful of studios have lent endorsements, but they are much more bullish on digital 3D, which eventually will do away with distribs' print costs.
For exhibs, every theater operator who opts to go with the Technicolor system would be one less participant in so-called VPF plans, the virtual-print-fee agreements that studios have signed to fund the rollout of digital systems. The way such pacts are written, VPF terms are more generous to exhibs if more theaters participate in the conversions. Technicolor has yet to begin signing up theaters to its plan, so its ShowEast promos could prove key if its technology is to gain traction. But some industryites question even the notion of significant cost savings from film-based 3D.
Certain kinds of 3D glasses will only work with polarized screens of the sort installed in digital auditoriums. So to avoid that $10,000-per-screen conversion cost -- and after all, low cost is the whole appeal of film-based 3D -- exhibs might have to absorb greater upfront costs to buy nondisposable 3D glasses of the kind required with nonpolarized screens.
To overcome such concerns, Technicolor today will announce an initiative by three film-oriented companies to cover screen-conversion costs for the first 500 auditoriums outfitted with film 3D systems. Kodak, Fuji and Deluxe will contribute to the Silver Screen Fund, which will be managed by Technicolor.
"Technicolor is committed to delivering high-quality, affordable 3D solutions, and the creation of the Silver Screen Fund accelerates our promise to our exhibition partners by helping them defer upfront costs associated with the purchase and installation of silver screens," Technicolor topper Lanny Raimondo said.
By Carl DiOrio, The Hollywood Reporter
Three-dimensional movie production is about to enter a whole new world. The digital format already has proved its commercial appeal as films released this year in 3D have almost universally received a bump at the boxoffice. But as the Dec. 18 opening of James Cameron's inter-stellar adventure Avatar approaches, the 3D landscape is heating up on the technology side.
In part, this activity can be attributed to a recent increase in equipment manufacturers working to refine and expand 3D production capacity. Such manufacturers as P+S Technik, Element Technica and Binocle have developed 3D camera rigs, and it is now common to find 3D capabilities in leading postproduction systems, from companies including Avid, Autodesk, DVS, the Foundry and Quantel. Panasonic and Sony also are working on a full line of 3D products, aiming to provide the technology and a cost structure that makes 3D viable.
But the production of Avatar is shaping up as a key factor in the evolution of 3D, as the ambitious, $230 million-budgeted live-action/motion-capture film has become a testing ground for several technologies gaining traction in the 3D community.
For instance, the film's live action was lensed using the Fusion 3D camera system, which Cameron invented with Vince Pace, a director of photography on the film. First used to make Cameron's 2003 Imax 3D film Ghosts of the Abyss, the Fusion rigs -- which can be used with a variety of digital cinematography cameras -- are now available for rental via Pace's Burbank-based 3D provider, which continues to develop the system for other productions.
Fusion has been used on such live-action digital 3D titles as this summer's The Final Destination and concert films by Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers. Those films benefited from the work done to prepare the camera system for the challenging Avatar production.
"This was a very ambitious film," Pace says. "They really became Avatar-specific rigs."
The movie, which is still not quite completed, is expected to be roughly 60% CG, including characters that were animated using new performance capture techniques; and 40% live action with a substantial amount of visual effects elements. Cameron shot the film in Hawaii and New Zealand, where Peter Jackson's Weta handled visual effects. The performance capture was done on a Marina Del Rey stage with the help of advanced technology company Giant Studios.
Insiders in the 3D community have been watching the production because of several innovations on display. The most significant new toy is an algorithm that guides the cinematographer through some of the mathematics of stereo vision.
"It essentially recognizes a focal length and adjusts the controls of the system to provide a starting point," Pace says. He believes this will allow the cinematographer to focus on creative decisions, rather than the technical.
"It will also help minimize the number of bad 3D shots," he adds. "With bad color, you walk away saying, 'That didn't look good.' In stereo, you walk away saying, 'That didn't feel good.' There is a big difference."
Pace and Cameron also tweaked the camera system to make it more manageable for director of photography Mauro Fiore. "The intention was not to have six cameras. It was to have three that could do six different configurations needed to get the job done," Pace explains. "We made some lens and some configuration choices to allow the camera -- this was a big change -- to flip so that whether we wanted it to be hand-held or on a dolly, it was as simple as just inverting the camera."
Meanwhile, Pace president Patrick Campbell developed a balance plate to keep the center of gravity consistent on a Steadicam during the course of the shot. "It was designed so that the Steadicam operator would not feel the movement of the camera rig during the course of a shot," Pace says.
Cameron also developed a new way to marry the performance capture and live-action production. The system, dubbed the Simulcam, allows the user of the Fusion camera system to look into the eyepiece and see the CG elements in real time. This way Cameron could operate the camera as if he was shooting from within the film's virtual world of Pandora.
Pace recalls the first time he was exposed to the Simulcam. It was during a scene in which the lead character Jake (Sam Worthington), a wounded Marine who travels to Pandora as an avatar and meets a race known as the Na'vi, was lying on the ground looking up at Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). Pace laid on the ground, pointed the camera upward, and looked into the eyepiece.
"I saw her there, she was looking at me as if I was Jake," he recalls. "I saw a knee in the shot, and I put my knee down, because I thought I was seeing my knee. But the knee was Jake's. From the minute you get behind that eyepiece, you become part of the interaction. It instantly fooled me; I was inside Jake's body."
The Avatar team believes the innovations created for the film will influence future productions because they allow filmmakers to forget about the science behind the creativity.
"It's not about technology; it's about philosophy," producer Jon Landau says. "It's more about a window into a world than a world coming out of a window. The goal of 3D is to duplicate human vision."
But Landau also hopes that this movie helps to prompt a shift in thinking about 3D.
"Our goal is to create the most engaging and immersive movie possible," he says. "I think 3D is something that helps you get there. The limiting factor for 3D has been the technology. With digital production you can now have high quality."
By Carolyn Giardina, The Hollywood Reporter
3D promises to be a big topic at Cable-Tec Expo in Denver this week. CableLabs and the SCTE are co-sponsoring a 3,400-foot 3D TV Pavilion with demonstrations from some top consumer electronics manufacturers. Considering that CE makers such as Sony, Panasonic, and LG Electronics are participating in the 3D Pavilion, there will probably be an emphasis on their 3D-ready TVs.
But the TV set is just part of the puzzle. Video providers need to ensure the necessary throughput to deliver 3D. And programmers need to create more content in 3D. It’s a bit of a stalemate, with all parties waiting for consumer demand to justify the business case. And the technology itself is costly. It’s expensive to shoot video using two cameras for every view – a left eye view and a right eye view - to create the stereoscopic 3D effect.
HDlogix, a company that provides software for high definition (HD) video, has come up with an innovation that may finally help advance 3D. Rather than shooting video with two cameras, HDlogix has developed mathematical algorithms to take the first view and use it to synthesize a second view. So, rather than cameras doing the work, software creates the 3D effect. The engineers at HDlogix came up with the 3D concept a couple of years ago while working on problems converting standard definition to HD.
“A lot of those same processes applied to 3D,” said William Gaddy, CTO with HDlogix. “We found a new way to apply our existing IP portfolio.”
Another benefit of synthetic 3D is that it holds more potential for auto-stereoscopic 3D in the future. Auto-stereoscopic 3D uses several camera views - typically 7-12 views, according to Gaddy. The benefit is that the viewer doesn’t need to wear any kind of special 3D viewing glasses. The drawback is that viewers often begin feeling nauseous. It’s also extremely difficult to coordinate multiple camera views. Gaddy said figuring out scene geometry in 3D requires synching three things: motion, vanishing point and focus.
For now, HDlogix is focusing on stereoscopic 3D and mainly targeting programmers with the message that they can convert their existing content libraries from 2D to 3D, economically. If programmers decide that synthetic 3D is affordable and can provide new revenue streams, 3D technology may advance into the living room.
By Linda Hardesty, Cable360
Warner Bros. and Overture Films have inked virtual print fee deals with digital cinema leader Cinedigm in the hopes of accelerating the installation of more 3D screens. Cinedigm announced the deals as theater owners and distributors gather this week in Orlando, Fla., for exhib confab ShowEast.
Exhibs must be digitally equipped in order to screen 3D films, and Overture and other distribs will help subsidize the cost of digital screen conversions with their virtual print fees. The deployment of 3D screens has dominated the discussion at the tradeshow for the past two years, and this year isn't likely to be much different. Cinedigm's deal with Warners and Overture covers as many as 10,000 additional d-cinema projection systems in the U.S. and Canada.
For several years, theater owners and Hollywood studios, as well as indie distribs, were at an impasse over how much distribs should pay in digital print fees. That has changed dramatically in the last year, although Warners has taken longer than other studios to strike deals. Because of the upcharge for 3D tickets, 3D titles are seeing bountiful returns, promoting exhibs to risk the investment.
By Pamela McClintock, Variety
Taking advantage of off-peak movie hours, Screenvision announced Monday it is rolling out its new live feed technology to 300 theaters by the end of 2010. The technology allows Screenvision reach a broader audience with sports, concerts, arts and news events on the 40-foot screen.
"From documentaries, concerts, live sports, comedy we are creating a full spectrum of alternatives to compliment the biggest draw of all, the feature-length movie," said Darryl Schaffer, executive vp of exhibitor relations for Screenvision.
Screenvision has used about 50 of its theaters to attract audiences during off-air with live events on the big screen since 2007. Recent events include Mets at the Movies and the MSNBC Presidential Inauguration of President Obama.
By Katy Bachman, Mediaweek
The Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) is expected to complete a specification for the delivery of 3-D content into the home via Blu-ray discs by the end of the year, a top official said. That word came from the chairman of the BDA's U.S. promotion committee, Andy Parsons, senior vice president of product development and corporate communications at Pioneer Electronics (USA).
The move is important because BDA represents over 180 companies in the consumer-electronics, software, information-technology and content-production community, including the major Hollywood studios. The development of a 3-D spec for Blu-ray discs could speed the introduction of three-dimensional sets and Blu-ray players into the market and reduce potential consumer confusion over competing formats. The latter problem slowed the early deployment of high-definition compact disc players.
"The target date for getting this done is pretty aggressive and we have been working on this at breakneck speed," Parsons said. "When we have a specification that everyone agrees on, it means we don't have to worry about incompatible sets or competing formats. That is fundamental to the success of 3-D."
While the timing for the launch of 3-D capable TVs and Blu-ray players will be up to individual companies, Parsons said that BDA does "expect product to be appearing in 2010."
A number of TV manufacturers who belong to BDA recently demonstrated -3D TV sets at Japan's influential Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies convention earlier this month and the rollout of 3-D technologies is expected to a major theme at the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.
Blu-ray discs and games are widely considered to be the two most likely avenues for 3-D content to make its way into the home. There is already significant amount of 3-D programming that has been created for theatrical-film distribution that could be reformatted for 3-D capable Blu-ray discs and players.
"Some of the exit polls done by the studio have shown there is a very high enthusiasm for 3-D when people are finished with that experience in the theater and it is a natural thing to make that available in the home," Parsons said.
Parsons also said there could be a robust market for the new 3-D HDTVs, though it will obviously take time for penetration to reach significant levels.
"There are a lot of people out there who have already purchased their first HDTV and many may be in the market for a replacement set or an additional set," he said.
Earlier this year, the BDA set up a 3-D task force, which concluded that any spec should offer the best possible high-definition experience with one 1080p channel per eye and that the discs complying with the specification would need to be backwards-compatible. That means consumers will be able to watch 3D Blu-ray discs on the new 3-D sets and Blu-ray players for the full stereoscopic experience but those consumers who have 2-D sets and Blu-ray players will be able to use the discs and view the high def content in 2-D.
"Blu-ray has always been about the very best of high definition, such as DVD was for standard definition, so one of the requirements was the need to do 1080p per eye," which produces a higher quality image than some of the other approaches to stereoscopic video that divide the 1080p signal in half in order to conserve bandwidth, Parsons said.
Blu-ray's capacity also makes it an ideal medium for delivering the large files needed for 3-D HD into the home, he added.
"If you think about delivering 50 gigabytes through an IP connection it doesn't make a lot of sense, especially when you consider that average bandwidth of broadband home is below 5 Mbps," he said. "We see more content being delivered through streaming IP connections like Netflix but if everyone in America decided to watch movies online the backbone couldn't handle it. The optic disc is an ideal vessel for delivering the very best in HD and 3-D."
By George Winslow, Multichannel News
The technology to bring full-capability 3D HD movies and sporting events into consumers' homes is expected to be available by 2010, though the business model has yet to be realized. That was the message according to programming and technology executives speaking on a panel at the OnScreen Media Summit Oct. 21 in New York. Production costs, bandwidth and consumer tendencies are some of the biggest challenges facing a large-scale rollout of 3D HD content in the living room.
"Production is obviously very expensive," said Jeff Cuban, executive VP of HDNet/Magnolia Pictures, noting that at this point only one truck, from NEP, is capable of doing a 3D HD live event. To do a quality 3D HD conversion for a movie costs millions of dollars, which is why Cuban says the rollout of 3D HD is likely to be seen with the testing of short-form content or pay-per-view events on satellite and cable.
"It'll be a while before you see people go deep into their library and start converting those films they have done in hi-definition," Cuban said.
But while the costs of quality 3D programming are still high, they may be decreasing. "I expect that other trucks will be built," said Steve Hellmuth, senior VP of operations and technology at NBA Entertainment. "The price point is coming down," he added. Hellmuth has been at the forefront of 3D HD production -- the NBA has aired four events in 3D HD, including the 2007 NBA All-Star Game, the first-ever live sports event in the format.
Hellmuth said he hopes to improve 3D graphics placement, hoping to incorporate graphics on the screen in a way that won't take the viewer out of the picture by losing their depth frame. Hellmuth touted the visual immediacy of sports in 3D, which he says makes announcers less important. "You don't need a constant patter of color and a play-by-play person on top of it," he said. "You don't need so much information from the announcers; you can see it."
Other sports, namely boxing and mixed-martial arts, could be a natural fit for 3D given the pace of the competition and the fact that fights are traditionally placed on pay-per-view tiers, which may be where 3D starts off.
"There's a strong possibility that that could be viable," Cuban said. He hopes for a time when cable operators jump on the 3D bandwagon. "I think if a cable operator is willing to pay us a sub fee for a dedicated 3D channel, then a lot of us will participate in that world."
But the idea of subscriber fees was not one that tickled Steve Necessary, VP of video product for Cox Communications, who joked that he almost acted like "the balloon boy" and threw up when he thought of the prospect of subscriber fees that applied to his entire client base. "That's not something that we're very fond of," Necessary said, though he added that "If enough consumer interest is generated, then, of course, we are interested."
Another hang-up for 3D HD rollout is that getting the signal into a home requires substantially greater bandwidth than a 2D HD signal, Necessary said. HD signals use up four times more bandwidth than a standard-def signal as it is. 3D may not be a top priority for many cable operators since they are still trying to find capacity for all the HD channels that are currently available.
While many of the panelists agreed that offering 3D as part of a cable subscriber's package may not happen immediately, they also agreed that the Internet may be a place to experiment with 3D content.
"I have no doubt that 3D can be delivered to a computer now, and in the future, computer models will be delivered with a screen that is 3D-ready," Hellmuth said. He implored technology vendors such as Panasonic to help franchises creating 3D content like the NBA with sponsorships.
Panasonic CTO Eisuke Tsuyuzaki said the company has TVs coming out early next year with full 3D HD capability. He also said the plans to develop a 3D HD standard for Blu-ray by next year is still moving according to plan.
Nagravision Senior VP of Consumer Electronic Team Ted Grauch said his company was focused on developing a content navigation system that gives users the chance to explore an interactive 3D TV guide. "At first, it's a design study but it's going to move to a real set-top box in the next few months," he said.
Cuban said it remains to be seen whether the novelty of 3D in consumer's homes (and the use of 3D glasses) will blossom into a long-term viable business, but he laid out a rosy picture of 3Ds future. "When it's all said and done, cost comes down, consumers show that they see value in it, then yes, there's a business model."
By David Tanklefsky, Broadcasting & Cable
Acer America announced its new Aspire 5738DG - an innovative notebook with 3D viewing technology. Featuring advanced display capabilities, high-definition graphics engine, premium Intel Core 2 Duo processor and Dolby surround sound, the Aspire 5738DG delivers cinematic images that literally pop from the screen, while maintaining the performance and productivity features of a desktop replacement notebook.
The Aspire 5738DG features the unique TriDef 3D solution, which includes a 3D screen, software and glasses to enable vibrant 3D visuals. Not only does it handle 3D content with ease, but the Aspire 5738DG also takes 2D content and replicates a vivid 3D experience. It allows customers to easily switch from standard viewing applications like spreadsheets, documents and email to 3D enjoyment with a simple click of the mouse. The TriDef solution includes a simple and intuitive interface, which also allows customers to view 3D multimedia without the need for a special graphics card.
The notebook features a 15.6-inch Acer CineCrystal HD display coated with a special 3D film which clings to the panel pixel by pixel, enabling the LCD technology to deliver a 3D image. Users slip on a pair of included 3D polarizer eyeglasses, which filter 2D images to 3D, and enjoy eye-popping, true cinematic high def playback of movies, video and games. Customers can use the TriDef Media Player for playback of videos and photos in 3D, while the TriDef Ignition tool to enables 2D to 3D conversion for games and applications supporting DirectX 9 and above.
The Acer Aspire AS5738DG-6165 notebook will be available for U.S. customers with Windows 7 Home Premium this week at leading retailers. Pricing begins at $779.99.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Technicolor's 3D-on-film solution is finding some traction in the marketplace. The lab and post-production giant has announced support for Technicolor 3D from DreamWorks Animation, Lionsgate, Paramount, Overture, Universal Studios, Warner Bros., and the Weinstein Co., all of which aim to release pics in the format. The system aims to address the shortage of digital 3D screens by using conventional celluloid film prints capable of 3D imaging.
No exhibitors have yet announced they will install the system, but Ahmad Ouri, Technicolor's president of strategy, technology and marketing, said he expects to announce the first deployment deals for Technicolor 3D at ShowEast next week.
"There has been a little bit of chicken and egg," he said, "so we are pursuing a strategy of getting content owners and studios on board first."
Ouri said of these seven companies, "If we have screens available, then they will release their content in this format." Between them, they have 17 stereoscopic 3D (S3D) releases skedded for 2010.
Conspicuously absent from the announcement are Fox, which has James Cameron's S3D epic Avatar due Dec. 18, and Disney, which has been the biggest booster of S3D among the studios.
Disney seemed to rule out support for the format. "We're fully committed to the digital 3D solution," said a Disney rep. "We think it provides the highest quality to the moviegoing experience. We've been committed to this format dating back to our first Disney Digital 3D release with Chicken Little. "
Fox declined to comment on the announcement. The dubious history of S3D on film may account for Disney's refusal to support the format and Fox's reticence.
The "Technicolor 3D" system updates the "over-under" method for showing S3D on film. To date, the current S3D wave has used digital projection only, with the exception of traditional Imax screens that showed S3D from 70mm prints. Technicolor execs discussing the system last month at Variety's 3D Entertainment Summit faced sharp questions about film's vulnerability to problems with dim images, scratches, fading and operator error.
Cameron is a notorious perfectionist and a vocal advocate of digital cinema. Meanwhile Disney has been very protective of the nascent S3D space, concerned about protecting the audience from headaches and the other issues that plagued moviegoers watching S3D on film in the 1950s, '70s and '80s.
Technicolor 3D does offer the advantages of being cheap and fast to install, allowing S3D to be deployed more quickly than the current d-cinema rollout permits. Even Technicolor, though, has called it an interim solution to bridge the gap until digital is fully in place. Ouri said the system has been shown to all the majors, as well as numerous other companies, and discussions continue even with companies not included in this announcement.
Meanwhile, Universal's confirmed it is aiming to release Despicable Me in Technicolor 3D next year. Pic is the first from Illumination Entertainment, the new family entertainment unit run by former Fox exec Chris Meledandri and funded by U.
DreamWorks Animation has two S3D features coming in 2010: How to Train Your Dragon and Shrek Forever After. DWA topper Jeffrey Katzenberg, an outspoken advocate of S3D, said, "The solution they (Technicolor staffers) are working on today could potentially be very helpful to the deployment of the new 3D platform in theaters across the globe,"
Also on board to support the system are film stock manufacturers Kodak and Fuji, as well as Technicolor's rival Deluxe. Deluxe has arranged with Technicolor to provide film printing and post services to deliver release prints in the format.
By David S. Cohen, Variety
A cool story on SonyInsider.com yesterday showed what may be the face of Sony’s next 3D offering. It’s a cylinder shaped device (think nuclear power plant cooling tower shape) that Sony claims "will change the public’s perception of 3D implementation in consumer products forever." Bold words, yes but after all it is Sony, and even with a blemish or two over the years, America still has a love affair with this CE company.
The "Sony Insider" story doesn’t give us much to go on-technology wise, beyond telling us it’s a 360-degree three-dimensional display where stereoscopic images can be seen from any direction without wearing glasses. The display is 96 x 128 (h and v) LED array at "24 bit full-color." In this prototype, small size can be used on a desktop (diameter 13cm - height 27cm). It is designed for simultaneous multiple viewing (from all angles) and Sony believes first applications could be in "medical image visualization, web shopping, virtual pets, art appreciation, 3D photo frame, and 3D telephone and (oh yes…) 3D television."
Not feeling totally satisfied with the scant details provided by Sony, we dug around in our trusty Large Display Report (LDR) and Mobile Display Report (MDR) archives. Using the search term "360-degree cylindrical display" put us on the trail of a Germering, Germany based company, Kinoton that makes a 360-degree system based on rotating LED light arms. (see LDR, July-09 p. 40.) The product "…operates in full color and produces three SVGA pictures, each spanning 120 degrees of the cylinder. Limited by data transfer rates, the three displays are always showing the same picture. Kinoton’s product is called Litefast and is used at airports, train stations and for corporate promotions." Is Sony a pocket-sized version of this (and other similar display technologies?
If so, the real innovation may have been Sony getting this large, and expensive display technology into a more portable (consumer) format. Say, isn’t that what the Japanese used to do really well? (Remember the first Ampex VTR selling for $50K?)
Litefast "Mini" is a table-top model with three rotating bars, that sells for about $4K, the floor standing Litefast models "Graphics" and "Magic" have four rotating bars and sell for about $44,996. The largest, the Litefast "Motion" has eight bars and sells for $89,999.
Dynascan also produces a similar display that uses thousands of LEDs on a rotating drum. We don’t yet know what Sony is doing, but they could have developed a flat surface with LEDs that is rapidly rotated. This would create a more volumetric image instead of the cylindrical images from Kinoton and Dynascan.
The take-away here is that technologies demonstrated in professional and commercial applications can still be innovated into the consumer space. Perhaps we will know more about the Sony approach in a little while.
By Steve Sechrist, Display Daily
CableLabs, working with some of the leading consumer electronics manufacturers and with the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE), has organized a demonstration of the latest 3D theater and television displays as part of the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo, a part of Cable Connection - Fall 2009 in Denver. Expo is set for Wednesday through Friday, October 28-30.
The CableLabs 3D TV Pavilion, co-sponsored with SCTE, will include a D-Cinema 3D demonstration in a mini theater provided by Sony and a home theater experience offered by Panasonic, as well as displays of consumer 3D television sets from Hyundai IT, LG Electronics and Sony. The 3,400 foot booth will be part of the Cable-Tec Expo show floor in the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.
As part of this 3D TV Pavilion, CableLabs will be demonstrating for the first time ever transmissions of synchronized, full color, high definition stereoscopic 3D video signals over a single cable channel on a real cable system. Unlike the 3D-TV delivery of the past that used colored glasses, this new system works with the new generation of 3D-ready TVs (using either polarized or active shutter glasses) to bring the realism of the theater-like 3D experience directly to the home.
"Our goal in producing this demonstration is to make the cable industry further aware of the power of 3D theater experience in the home as well as at the movies," said Dr. Paul Liao, President and CEO of CableLabs. "We truly value the willingness of these consumer electronics companies to support this endeavor for our industry and we thank SCTE for making us a part of their valuable engineering event," he added.
"We think 3D television delivered to the home may be a way for cable operators to differentiate themselves with consumers and we are very interested in the technology on display in this pavilion as a component of that effort," said Comcast CTO Tony Werner.
"3D plays an integral part of Sony's Lens to Living Room story, and our joint demonstration with CableLabs will further showcase the importance of 3D for the cable connected home," said Dr. Randall Waynick, Senior Vice-President of Strategic Alliances for Sony Electronics, Inc.
As part of the CableLabs exhibit, Comcast Media Center (CMC) will be providing 3D content from cable television programming networks to the CableLabs 3D TV Pavilion. CMC's ongoing technology innovation allows it to deliver scalable, revenue-generating advanced video services to small and medium-sized operators who otherwise may not be able to participate in costly advanced-video services such as 3D.
The Sony Theater will feature a 21,000 lumen 4K SXRD projector in an approximately 900-square foot enclosed cinema. Sony's 4K digital cinema projections systems offer among the highest picture resolution of all available projection technologies, 8.8 million pixels. This is slightly more than four times greater than high-definition. The system employed also uses a RealD XLS 3D passive stereo optical system that includes the RealD recyclable passive cinema eyewear.
Sony will also show its prototype 3D-ready LCD flat-screen TVs using 240Hz HFR technology with active shutter glasses to deliver a Full HD 3D home experience. As part of the connected home future, Sony's is also bringing to the cable customer new ways in which multimedia content can be viewed and shared, by enabling Sony HDTVs to be directly connected over a home network and to the customer's broadband high-speed internet service.
Panasonic will demonstrate its Full HD 3D Home Theater experience in a living room setting with a 103-inch Plasma TV. The entire setting has been built into a 53-foot 3D tractor trailer, part of a fleet of trucks that the company is traveling to industry and other destinations to promote the power of 3D. Panasonic plans to demonstrate 3D delivery over cable systems by participating in this historic first cable delivery of stereoscopic 3D content to the 3D Plasma screen in the truck.
"Panasonic is pleased to be first again with a best-in-the world technology to help cable get the immersive 3D TV experience into cable systems nationwide," said Eisuke Tsuyuzaki, Panasonic Corporation of North America's Chief Technology Officer. "We hope to work closely with the cable industry to realize 3D in living rooms beginning next year."
Hyundai IT will show the latest Model (S465D) 46" LCD Full-HD polarized 3D display with playing real-time 3D digital content. Hyundai S465D is capable of displaying both 2D/3D contents and has integrated real-time 2D to 3D video processing capability.
LG Electronics will demonstrate a 47-inch LCD HDTV model that allows viewers to use passive polarized glasses to view the stereoscopic images displayed by the TV. LG's new 3D HDTV, available on the consumer market in South Korea since August, uses a high-contrast and high-brightness LCD panel that displays high-quality 1080p "Full HD" 2D images and also 3D stereo images that can be delivered over HDMI interface ports in one of many possible formats. The UI presents an intuitive and user-friendly way to select the inputs and format.
Latin America has approximately 6% of the 2K DLP digital screens in the world. Almost 500 of these screens are situated in 19 territories. Nevertheless, just one year ago this region had only 0.7% of the digital screens in the world, with 50 2K digital projectors installed in just seven countries. Currently, Latin America has experienced the fastest growth in the number of digital screens worldwide; the number increased almost 900% in the last year alone. Since the mid-2000s to December 2007, the total of digital screens in the region stayed stable at around 20. By September 2008, the number had increased to 50. Then, in just half a year, the growth rate reached 250%, starting a boom that does not seem to have a visible end.
Today, Latin America has digitized around 5% of all its screens—an average comparable to that of the European Union (5.3%) and the rest of the world (5.9%). Mexico and Brazil are the locomotives of this train: Together they account for three-quarters of the digital screens in Latin America. (Mexico alone has 57% of the 2K projectors.) In addition, almost all the digital screens in Latin America exhibit films in stereoscopic 3D.
Like other regions in the world, Latin America is seeing a decrease in its participation in the global digital screen market, in comparison with its global participation in the 35mm projector market. There are currently around 9,000 digital screens globally, with the U.S. dominant (almost 63%) while other American participation in the 35mm screen market is just 27%.
In 2005, the USA had only 30% of the digital screens worldwide. Between 2005 and 2009, it increased its participation in the digital screens market more than 3000% (double the world average increase in this period). Latin America has had remarkable growth as well (more than 2700%), but in absolute numbers its percentage of the digital-cinema market has little global relevance (500 digital screens in comparison with 5,500 in the USA).
Trends in Latin America
The digital screen market in Latin America is very concentrated. At this time, it is a copy of the 35mm exhibition market: fragmented and concentrated in very wealthy regions (states, provinces, cities, neighborhoods). It is important to highlight that the American company Cinemark is the only chain that has digital screens spread throughout Latin America (in 13 countries). The Mexican firm Cinépolis also has a remarkable presence, not only in its home country but also in Colombia and in Central America. Meanwhile, Hoyts has a significant presence in the digital screen market in the Southern Cone: Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Uruguay (with major activity in the two first countries). The initiative undertaken by national exhibitors throughout the region to install digital screens should also be noted.
The rollout in Latin America could be bigger. However, for the time being, the investment in digital conversion relies mainly on the exhibition companies’ own resources. There are many obstacles to a stronger rollout—e.g., very high costs, huge import taxes, a lack of state support, minimal financial and credit access, and no VPF model, in addition to the minimal attractiveness of the small Latin American cinema market (except for Mexico, and maybe Brazil) for multinational corporations.
In Latin America, each digital screen (including projector, server, software, peripherals and 3D equipment) costs between US$200,000 and US$300,000. In this region, the costs are four or more times that of the United States and Europe. The theatres that are going digital base their decision on the high impact of 3D. As for the 3D system chosen in each region, RealD and Dolby shares constitute almost 50% of the market each, with the exception of Mexico, where 80% of digital screens market have adopted RealD (and Dolby has no presence). XpanD has only a considerable activity in Mexico (20%) and a small presence in Brazil. Dolby, with 100-plus 3D systems in Latin America, reports agreements for 36 new 3D systems in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Uruguay and Venezuela.
At this time, digital screens in Latin America have no alternative content (sports, music, opera, etc.). As is the case in Mexico, there are some initiatives in this field (above all, with respect to popular sports like soccer or American football), but the repercussions have yet to become significant.
The oldest digital screen of Latin America was opened in July 2000 in Mexico City: the Cinemex Mundo “E” (still functioning). Mexico has approximately 300 digital screens (almost 60% of all 2K projectors in Latin America). Contrary to the rest of the region, Mexico’s capital city has just a quarter of its digital screens. The rest are spread throughout the country: the states of Nuevo León (especially Monterrey), Puebla and Jalisco (above all, Guadalajara). Nevertheless, there is a great concentration related to the ownership of the digital screens: Cinépolis (a national chain, the fifth-largest in the world) has 69% of the market; together with Cinemark and national Cinemex, the three companies represents 91% of digital screens in Mexico.
In 1998 Brazil saw its first professional exhibition in a theatre of Rio de Janeiro, produced by the American company UCI. In December 2001, this firm opened the first two digital screens in the country: one in Rio de Janeiro and the other in São Paulo.
As in Brazil’s 35mm exhibition market, Brazilian digital screens are concentrated in the strongest markets in its south: São Paulo has 42% of this digital market; with Rio de Janeiro, the percentage grows to 55%. Adding the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and Paraná, the rich south possesses three-quarters of the digital screens of Brazil. However, 16 of 27 territories in the country have 2K projectors (in the poorer states, their presence is minor).
In turn, more than a dozen companies share the digital screen market in Brazil (with 3D exhibition in almost 100% of these projectors). 57% are national firms, but Cinemark has made the biggest investment in this field: 32 digital screens (43% of the national total). Last August, an important directive of BNDES (the Brazilian national development band) said that Christie and “a local partner” are looking for financial support to install a projector factory in Brazil, based on the VPF model.
Argentina has had digital screens since September 2008. Only five of 24 territories have digital cinema. Approximately 22 digital 3D projectors are installed in Buenos Aires (the capital city), its suburbs, and in a few wealthier cities in the pampas (La Plata, Córdoba and Rosario). Just two screens are outside this region: Mendoza and Tucumán. This map is similar to that of the 35mm cinema market in Argentina. Cinemark, Hoyts and Showcase own 60% of the digital screens in the country.
Chile had its first digital screen in November 2007 in Santiago (the capital city). Nowadays, two-thirds of its 15 digital projectors are concentrated in this city. Hoyts is the company with most digital screens: eight. Cinemark has four and the national firm Movieland has three. All possess a 3D system.
In May 2007, Colombia saw its first digital screen in its capital: Bogotá (which has nine of its current 13 digital projectors). Cinemark and the national company CineColombia (the biggest in the country, part of powerful Caracol TV) have six screens each; the other is the property of the Mexican firm Cinépolis.
Peru has had digital cinema since mid 2008. Today, this country has 11 digital screens (all with 3D exhibition). The national firm UVK has five, as does CinePlanet (a Chilean company). Cinemark owns the other six. All these screens are in and around the capital, Lima.
Ecuador was one of the first Latin American countries with a 2K projector: The national firm SuperCines installed the first one in Quito in May 2005. Now there are 11 digital screens in the country: nine in Quito and Guayaquil (the wealthiest Ecuadorian cities). SuperCines has seven and Cinemark four.
In Uruguay, five of six digital 3D projectors (all installed between late 2008 and early 2009) are in its capital, Montevideo. The sixth is in an international tourism center, Punta del Este.
Venezuela, Bolivia, and Paraguay have a similar situation: very few 2K 3D projectors, installed very recently by a local exhibitor, all placed in their capital cities.
Central America and the Caribbean contain 20 sovereign states. Nine of these have 50 digital screens (with a remarkable presence by Cinemark and Cinépolis in this region). Aruba-Curaçao (with local firm E. de Veer Theaters dominant), Puerto Rico and Costa Rica have 73% of digital projectors installed in this tropical area.
E-cinema in Latin America
Digital projection technology encompasses much more than just the expensive standards (DCI, Afnor or whatnot). In Latin America, there are literally thousands of formal and informal digital projection venues with e-cinema (from Panasonic HD projectors—like the 200 installed by the Brazilian firm Rain throughout Brazil over the past five years—to cabinets with DVD reproduction technology).
The many attempts at formulating public policy have had good intentions but bad planning, lacking coordination between sectors and serious research to support future decision-making. Some of those attempts were related to e-cinema—e.g., Espacios Incaa in Argentina (a state network of screens, based on remodeled old theatres in cities with no current cinemas); pontos de difusion (diffusion centers) in Brazil spread throughout small villages; communal theatres in Venezuela, and thousands of communal centers in Cuba with TV sets functioning via solar energy. In mid-2009, Recam (Mercosur`s official cinema organization) signed an agreement with the European Union to install a few e-cinema screens in Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil in 2010.
In addition, there are many third-sector organizations, such as the “microcines” of Grupo Chasqui in Peru; film clubs; cinematecas; and cultural-educational centers of universities, unions or churches, among others institutions, as well as the popular informal exhibition phenomenon such as Bolivia’s “cines-api” (fast-food places with rooms containing plasma TVs and DVD players to watch all kind of movies) that project films all over the vast territories of Latin America (above all, in places “invisible” to mainstream distribution and exhibition) as they have for decades, starting in the ’80s, with the boom of VHS.
Digital screens (2K DLP platform projectors):
487 (almost 100% with 3D systems) in 18 countries (rising 900% in the last year, much more than any region of the world)
Three-quarters of Latin American digital screens are in just two countries:
57% in Mexico
16% in Brazil
Latin American digital screens are:
5.6% of the world digital-cinema market
5% of the Latin American 35mm cinema market (similar proportion of Europe and the world average).
By Roque González, Film Journal International
As TV takes its first steps towards 3D, practical problems are becoming more apparent. One deceptively complex issue is: what interface will be used by viewers to navigate the channels? Two factors deserve consideration.
First, just like most HDTVs, it seems likely that most 3D TVs will utilize a set top box. The user interface or on-screen menu that is used to navigate the channels is generated in conjunction with the set top box.
Second, it seems all but certain that the first home 3D TVs will require viewers to wear some form of glasses. When operating the on-screen controls, viewers will not want to take off their glasses or to switch back into the normal 2D mode. A simple solution would be to overlay a 2D menu on top of the 3D image. Not all in the industry agree that this is a good idea or, for that matter, that the approach is even workable.
One solution to the problem is being worked as a collaboration between Nagravision and 3ality Digital. In a blog entry published on Wired.com on October 6, 2009, Eliot Van Buskirk quotes Frank Dreyer of Nagravision as stating, "Once you have a TV that has a 3D mode, you need to stay in that mode in order to change channels, buy video-on-demand, see what’s on next, and that sort of thing."
A problem associated with a 3D menu is that it must effectively integrate into the 3D image. If it does not, the outcome can be visual distress. A challenge in creating an appropriate 3D menu derives from the fact that the design criteria are different from those of a 2D menu. The result is that just about every aspect of the menu design needs to be rethought and reconfigured.
Commenting on the Nagravision/3ality Digital approach, Dreyer stated that "Our 2D guide uses transparencies and drop shadows, and we’re making things bigger and using picture-in-picture - it’s kind of like this modern heads-up display. But in 3D, suddenly the video’s not a piece of glass behind the guide - it’s all immersive, so you can’t do transparency, you can’t bleed your graphics to the edges, you have to manage picture-in-picture very carefully, you have to set different font sizes and colors to manage the ghosting effect. There’s a lot of challenges."
Another factor related to the production of a 3D menu is that as much as twice the amount of calculation is required to create a 3D menu as is required to create a 2D menu. This is because two views are needed for the 3D case. 3ality Digital’s approach to this problem is to utilize metadata. In the next generation system, they propose that metadata streamed along with the video contain spatial information related to every frame. This information would be used by the set top box in creating 3D menus that effectively integrate with the 3D imagery. The advantage of this approach is that it moves some of the computational burden associated with creation of the menu to the production side, minimizing the extent of the computation required at the set top box. This reduces the complexity and the expense of the 3D enabled set top box.
In the blog, Van Buskirk describes his impressions of the 3D menus created and demonstrated by Nagravision/3ality Digital during a visit to their office. He states that the "elements popped out of the screen when selected, and selecting a movie from pay-per-view section felt a bit like picking out a movie off of the shelf at a brick-and-mortar rental shop (a comparison that could become more apt if remote controls evolve to take the Z axis into account). And I didn’t feel eyestrain toggling through the menu screens."
Dreyer predicts that 3D set top boxes using this menu system will enter certain markets by the second half of 2010 to target the first round of early adopters. Our bet is that Europe is a good place to look for these first rollouts.
By Art Berman, Display Daily
Friday, October 16, 2009
Hitachi Ltd exhibited its 10-inch "Full Parallax 3D TV" at CEATEC 2009. It does not require special glasses, can be watched from any direction and has a resolution of 3D image as high as VGA (640 x 480 pixels), according to the company. The Full Parallax 3D TV is based on a method called "Integral Photography with Overlaid Projection." Specifically, it consists of 16 projectors and a lens array sheet to cover them. The lens array sheet ensures parallax in any direction (not only in the horizontal direction). Because of parallax, the 3D image seen by the user differs in accordance with the angle from which the screen is viewed.
In general, the total pixel count of a 3D display that does not require special glasses is equal to the pixel count of 3D image multiplied by the number of viewpoints that show different images. In other words, there is a trade-off between the number of viewpoints and the resolution of 3D image. If the number of viewpoints is focused too much, the resolution of 3D image deteriorates. But it is not easy to increase the total pixel count of a display. For example, the Science & Technical Research Laboratories (STRL) of Japan Broadcasting Corp (NHK) is now developing a 3D display using the "Ultra-high Definition TV" with a resolution of 7,680 x 4,320 (approximately 33 Mpixels) but seems having a hard time to achieve a high resolution.
Hitachi aims to go over the limit of total pixel count by using multiple projectors, each of which has a resolution of 800 x 600 pixels (SVGA). So, a display using 16 projectors has a resolution of 7.68 Mpixels, which is equivalent to 4K x 2K resolution. Considering its small size (10 inches), the new 3D display is much finer than a normal 4K x 2K display.
"We will be able to arrange projectors in a higher density by employing laser-based micro-projectors and increase the number of projectors by more than 10 times," Hitachi said.
Japan's National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) also employed the method of increasing the total pixel count by using projectors and exhibited a 3D display that does not require special glasses at CEATEC in two consecutive years. But NICT utilizes projectors to increase the pixel count only in the horizontal direction.
By Tetsuo Nozawa, Nikkei Electronics
Since laser video was first proposed in 1996, it has been a tech holy grail, especially for stereoscopic 3D (S3D). Laser-driven projection TVs, in theory, are supposed to deliver huge size, brilliant color, long life and low power consumption in a cheap, thin box. Mitsubishi introduced its LaserVue projection set about a year ago, which delivered on some of those promises. Recently, though, Daily Variety got a peek at a laser TV system that represents a leap forward from the Mitsubishi sets in size, speed and 3D capability. And so, too, did a group of top execs from consumer electronics makers.
Engineers and S3D experts from Sony, Sharp, JVC, Hitachi and even Mitsubishi crowded into a workshop in Los Gatos, Calif., last week to see a prototype 100-inch, rear-projection S3D television from startup HDI. That's far bigger than Mitsubishi's 65-inch LaserVue. The light for HDI sets comes from a trio of small red, green and blue lasers. The red and blue are off-the-shelf parts, but HDI had to develop the green to meet its specs.
As promised, HDI's design is energy efficient, no small thing with California eyeing power consumption limits for TVs. HDI's 100-inch prototype draws 190 watts. Today, an Energy Star-qualified 50-inch Panasonic plasma pulls 388 watts. Overall, HDI promises 80% power savings compared to plasma. It's also fast. For S3D, at full 1080p HD, the screen refreshes at 360 fields per second on each eye. Today's state-of-the-art consumer sets are touting the smooth picture they get from speedy 240 Hz, but that's for 2D; they can only do 120 Hz per eye for S3D.
Mitsubishi's laser TVs are only 120 Hz for 2D, and while they can be adapted for S3D, they're not built for it. Mitsubishi's sets need expensive shutter glasses and an infrared emitter for S3D. HDI uses less expensive polarized glasses similar to RealD's. For a projection system, HDI's approach is compact, too, though not as thin as flatscreens. Their goal is to make their 100-inch diagonal screen fit in a cabinet just 10 inches deep, and to keep that 10:1 ratio at any size.
Last but not least, its sets should be cheap -- compared to plasma, anyway. They promise their sets will cost just 40% of the same size plasma; they estimate $10,000-$15,000 for a consumer version of that 100-incher with costs dropping as volume increases. Moreover, they say, a plant to manufacture their system would need just 5% of the investment for a plasma plant, and would be greener to boot.
HDI hopes someone, even Mitsubishi, will buy their tech in hopes of leapfrogging the LaserVue. They say they could be in production in as little as 24 months. Even if no one bites on HDI's approach it shows the promise of laser-driven 3D TV could be a reality surprisingly soon.
By David S. Cohen, Variety
Toshiba plans to launch a three-dimensional television by the end of March 2011, Toshiba spokesman Keisuke Ohmori told Dow Jones Newswires on Tuesday. In preparing to do so, Toshiba joins rivals Panasonic and Sony, which are also investing in next-generation technologies to woo consumers as competition intensifies from rivals in South Korea. Both Panasonic and Sony have said they plan to launch 3-D TVs next year.
Ohmori declined to provide an investment amount for Toshiba, but said developing content to lure consumers to 3D is one of the industry's major challenges. For consumer electronics manufacturers, 3-D is considered the next major technological breakthrough. They hope it will spur sales of TVs and Blu-ray players, similar to the way high-definition video helped raise demand for liquid-crystal-display and plasma televisions in the early 2000s.
Viewers of 3D television will need to wear special glasses, similar to those used for watching 3D movies in theaters. Toshiba plans to sell 15 million TVs in its fiscal year through March 2011 to grab a 10% market share. That would be up from an estimated 10 million units for the current fiscal year ending March 2010.
Toshiba, which makes everything from memory chips to computers and nuclear reactors, had been investing in "surface-conduction electron-emitter display," or SED technology, together with Canon. SED promises the same level of brightness and color as a cathode-ray tube - the bulky technology used in conventional televisions. Canon took full control of the business, however, in 2007 due to a U.S. lawsuit with Austin, Texas-based Nano-Proprietary. Ohmori said Toshiba is no longer investing in SED technology.
By Yun-Hee Kim and Yuzo Yamaguchi, Dow Jones Newswires
We reported last month that the Blu-ray Disc Association announced its plans for incorporating 3D into the Blu-ray Disc format. Based on some interesting comments we received from readers, we thought some further discussion was in order.
"Does anything in the BDA news suggest that their pending standard is somehow linked to a specific display technology? Won’t these new 3D BD movies also play on 3D displays that use passive 3D glasses? JVC, Hyundai and LGE have products with passive glasses that certainly expect to support the BD standard. The requirement for 1080p to each eye is only a requirement for the content on the disc and the content on the interface; it has no bearing on what happens downstream of the interface."
Yes, it should be stressed that the BDA did not explicitly endorse any particular display technology in their press statement. Nonetheless, there is a plausible argument that their requirement of "full 1080p resolution to each eye" in fact sets the stage for the active-shutter approach. Only frame interleaving, which is used by Panasonic, for example, provides full 1080p resolution. Polarization, as predominantly used in the passive approach, does not allow full 1080p resolution at the display, as the image is decimated (line interleaved) to provide the 3D isolation between left and right eye images. (Some polarized displays have in fact been developed, for gaming and professional applications, that provide full resolution. The display technology, however, comes at a severe cost premium, and some models suffer from relatively high amounts of crosstalk, or ghosting.) 1080p content from a disc could play on a passive system, but would require a signal processor in the TV to down-sample the image, adding some complexity and cost.
In principle, then, the BDA requirement of 1080p 3D on the BD could be viewed as an implicit endorsement of the shutter-based spec. Sony and Panasonic, which have shown active-shutter 3D displays, serve on the board of directors of the BDA, and both companies have indicated that they plan to have 3D products in the marketplace soon. LG, which has shown prototype passive-glasses 3DTVs, also serves on the BDA board, but has not made an explicit announcement regarding product availability.
"I expect 3DTV to have hardware/software to transcode and/or scale 3D signals in many formats to the native 3D display format of that particular TV."
Yes, absolutely, but that doesn’t come for free. Supporting multiple formats in a small handheld device may be a challenge when the profit margin is very small. If the development cost and IC roadmap for large displays can trickle down to small displays, this will eventually become a non-issue. But the maturity process will take time.
"The spec for 3D content distribution on mass media has to be 2D compatible or the growth of the 3D ecosystem will be crippled."
This is very important, as the public will not want to have multiple disc players for a single TV, nor will they enthusiastically buy multiple versions of the same content. The BDA realizes the importance of this, and so the specification will require backward compatibility for both discs and players. It is unclear, however, whether all new Blu-ray disc players will be required to support 3D playback of 3D discs.
"[We need to] decouple content creation from display and application."
All content must be produced in a way that supports different display technologies. This is easier said than done, however, as content distributors now know; supporting multiple displays and media - full-size TVs, handhelds, the Internet - is an expensive and challenging proposition, from a production standpoint. For this reason, there will always be some correlation between the content creation process and the display of said content on different devices.
What we take away from this discussion is that any new technology/content proposition carries with it the challenge of manifold device support and compatible production techniques. Can the industries involved rise to the challenge?
By Aldo Cugnini, Display Daily