Samsung, Cameron Form 3D Duo

Samsung Electronics is teaming up with Avatar director James Cameron as it attempts to race out of the gates in the nascent three-dimensional (3D) television market. In a news conference in Seoul, Cameron praised Samsung's technology utilized in its latest 3D-enabled TVs and expressed high hopes for the role of consumer electronics companies in preparing 3D TV for primetime viewing.

"Samsung monitors can run the movie with very high frame rates. In some ways, Avatar will look actually better on these televisions than it did in movie theaters, though there is some room for improvement," Cameron said. "The monitors are big, and offer much clearer and sharper images in realizing the 3D effect."

Cameron, on his first visit to Korea, also inked a partnership with the country's leading entertainment agency, SM Entertainment, to develop 3D content.

Lee Soo-man, SM Entertainment, Yoon Boo-keun, Samsung Electronics,
James Cameron and Vincent Pace

Although Avatar provided the needed jolt for 3D, a bigger push may come from the living room, with Samsung and other electronics makers such as Sony and LG Electronics pushing a range of televisions in what will prove to be an intense competition. The advancement in technology could quickly close the gap between them and theaters in terms of delivering a quality 3D experience, Cameron said.

There is also a strengthening collaboration between the consumer electronics makers and movie studios, as the ability to offer a wealth of 3D content is expected to determine who will dominate in the industry. Of course, this won't mean the death of theaters, which could rather benefit from 3D content becoming more essential to viewers in living rooms.

"It's very exciting that Samsung brings a series of beautiful light-emitting diode (LED)-backlit 3D televisions to the market place. Samsung appears to be the world’s leader in 3D display technology," Cameron said.

Cameron is planning to visit Seoul again soon to film the concerts of popular local musicians such as BoA in 3D, and the performances could eventually be seen on Samsung's 3D TVs.

"One of the few experienced side effects of 3D televisions is dizziness. But all I want to say is that a larger number of people were satisfied with their experiences, as 80 percent of Avatar's revenue came from 3D screens," Cameron said.

Cameron admitted that the lack of quality titles and content are the biggest hurdles to the televisions becoming mainstream products.

"This is exactly the same kind of challenge I have," he said.

Samsung Raises 3D TV Sales Target
Samsung, which is the world's leading flat-screen television maker, said it is planning to raise its sales target for 3D TVs as demand appears to be bullish. The company had projected the sales of 2 million 3D TVs this year, but a bright start has it thinking bigger.

Samsung sold 270,000 since first putting them on shelves in January, and expects sales to exceed 600,000 during the first half of the year. The numbers are significantly larger than what was expected, Yoon Boo-keun, president of Samsung's visual display division, said, considering that the market for 3D TVs has yet to hit full gear with companies still dabbling with prototypes, and the content pool being insufficient.

However, the technology industry believes the market will gain traction in the latter half of the year, when a wealth of intriguing products hit the stands and television broadcasters begin airing 3D programming. Pay-television operators in North America, Europe and Japan have been debuting 3D channels, while South Korea plans to start terrestrial 3D broadcasting later this month. Another marketing push will come from the FIFA World Cup in June, when 25 matches will be provided in 3D.

The company is also planning to provide 3D content to Web-enabled devices such as Internet protocol TVs. Samsung is targeting to sell 39 million flat-screen televisions by the end of the year, including 10 million LED-backlit LCD models. Yoon declined to comment on whether Samsung will consider investing in Cameron’s future movies.

Viewers would prefer to enjoy 3D television without those clunky goggles, but Yoon believes that the time for glasses-less televisions is still several years away, considering the difficulties related to cost and technology.

"The glasses-less 3D TV will depend on the ability to deliver picture quality as well as the production yields in panels. In terms of panel productivity, we are not that inspired," he said.

The current approach that requires special glasses, however, has several notable shortcomings. One of them is related to "sizing," or the mismatch between the glasses’ and viewer’s facial dimensions, which may lead to discomfort and even health problems such as eye strain and headaches.

The glasses, which use LCDs, run on batteries that are needed to be recharged frequently, which means that viewers may have to stop a movie in the middle to recharge them. Samsung has been bundling its glasses with its 3D TVs.

By Kim Yoo-chul, The Korea Times