Replicator Expects Advanced Blu-ray Replication in Early 2010

Replicator Technicolor is preparing to create and replicate 3D Blu-ray titles as early as the first half of 2010. Manufacturing 3D Blu-ray requires no upgrades to current replication machines. However, there has been significant development and innovation needed on the creation side to be primed for 3D. Technicolor is rolling out new software for authoring, encoding and subtitling.

In particular, subtitling has presented unique challenges for 3D because of concerns that eye-popping imagery could block out the words on screen. Yet Technicolor believes it has worked out a placement solution so 3D technology won’t interfere with subtitle use.

“On the replication side, it has been a pretty straight-forward process,” said Ahmad Ouri, chief marketing officer of Thomson/Technicolor. “We are using the same machines, and there are no major changes. We are developing new encoding, authoring and subtitling tools. We are building something new, and we want to be the first to deliver on all of these components. I have no doubt that in the first half of next year, our technology will be ready.”

The company’s 3D launch is dependent on the Blu-ray Disc Assn. finalizing its specification for the 3D Blu-ray format. The BDA is expected to announce this accomplishment in the next couple of weeks.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is one of the few studios to formally commit to releasing a 3D Blu-ray title, coverage of the FIFA World Cup 2010, at an undetermined time. (SPHE replicates at sister company Sony DADC).

Still, Technicolor hopes to be a pioneer for 3D Blu-ray production as it has been in the theatrical exhibition space. The company is considered one of the leaders in 3D theatrical print processing/post-production. It also is behind a new theatrical technology—3D for film—that enables exhibitors to showcase 3D products on traditional screens.

Ouri believes that the key to the successful adoption of 3D in the home is to make more people aware of the wonder of the technology through big-screen sampling. At the moment, just 6% to 7% of U.S. theatrical screens show 3D films.

“The more people can get exposed to 3D theatrically, the more likely they will venture out to buy a 3D TV" and other products, said Ouri.

Additionally, Technicolor has the capabilities to engineer 3D downloads. But the company believes that Blu-ray will offer the best high-resolution 3D product into homes. 3D could spark fresh consumer demand in Blu-ray in 2010. Technicolor is prepared to ramp up its creation/replication capacity accordingly.

“The big variable in 2010 is 3D—that is the ‘X’ factor,” said Ouri. “We structure our facilities in a way that we can move quickly on demand. We are always in a position to scale up.”

There will be a slew of Technicolor 3D demonstrations at January’s Consumer Electronics Show.

Even without 3D, Blu-ray has been a recent healthy source of growth for replicators. Sony DADC acknowledges Blu-ray demand was somewhat slow earlier in the year, with its machines running at about 50% to 60% of capacity with high-definition manufacturing. In the fourth quarter, the company’s machines are at about 80%. At this point, Sony DADC doesn’t have immediate plans to hike Blu-ray replication capacity in 2010. But like Technicolor, it says it can respond quickly to market changes.

Blu-ray "is coming along nicely … [and] we and our competitors are going to do whatever is required to expand,” said Jim Twiggs, senior VP of Blu-ray at Sony DADC. “This is our emerging market. We’ll do whatever is required of us.”

By Susanne Ault, Video Business