Cuban Buys Stake in Carmike Theaters

Internet/media mogul and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has accumulated a 9.4% stake in Carmike Cinemas, the no. 4 U.S. movie chain. Why? Think less Sunday matinée, more 3D NBA All-Star games.

Cuban, reached by email, declined to comment specifically on his investment. But he gave us a clue as to why he is betting roughly $3 million in what's supposed to be a declining industry. (He also co-owns Landmark Theatres with Todd Wagner.) Cuban, via email:

"What I can say is that I think Out of Home entertainment is becoming about far more than movies. HDNet was the first to do a live 3D broadcast to a theater, and we will continuing trying to expand that business, along with 2D out of home. Bits are bits, and just like you can make them smaller, you can make them a lot bigger and more interesting."

What does that mean? Probably more events like the NBA All-Star game, which will be broadcast in 3D to 160 theater screens in the U.S. on Feb. 14, 2009, including some Carmike theaters.

This makes sense. While there's plenty of movies that are nice to watch on a 50-inch HDTV at home, there's still nothing like projecting video on a screen the size of a house. We'd happily pay money and travel to see stuff like "Planet Earth" or some out-of-town concerts/playoff games in a movie theater, for instance. (Especially if there is a bar on premises.)

And while we're at it, how about some more interactive use cases? Maybe a Nintendo Wii bowling competition on a 100-foot screen?

“In addition to professional and college sports in 3-D, there are a growing number of additional special events that we will be bringing in digital and/or 3-D format to the Carmike circuit, including religious programming, concerts and arts-oriented productions such as opera and ballet,” Michael Patrick, CEO of Carmike, said in a press statement on Monday.

By Dan Frommer, Silicon Alley Insider

TMM, Inc. Announces TRUDEF Compresses 4K Video

TMM, Inc. announced that it has successfully upgraded its TRUDEF High Definition Video code and that it is capable of compressing 4K resolution (4,096 x 2,048 pixel) video, which captures 4 times the detail as today's HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) video. The current build of the TRUDEF Encoder includes 64 bit file extensions supporting long video input segments, multi threading for Intel Dual and Quad Core architecture, distributed processing over networked servers, 2K and 4K video resolution encoding.

Development work in progress includes new raw video input options, increased color depth, improved intra frame quality, and enhanced fractal compression algorithms. The Company will initially target the film digitizing industry offering TRUDEF as virtually lossless method of archiving 4K digitally scanned film and is planning on demonstrating the product early next year.

TRUDEF is the successor of TMMI's SoftVideo high definition fractal compression products developed in the 1990's and is under active development to meet the demands of the growing 4K video market. Fractal compression relies on the fact that in most images similar geometric forms and patterns are repeated. A fractal algorithm mathematically encodes these features into data called "fractal codes" eliminating the relationship to any specific resolution, the image data has become resolution independent.

Fractal compression differs from pixel-based compression schemes such as JPEG, GIF and MPEG since no actual pixels are saved. When images are viewed fractal code containing the geometric features of the original are remapped back into pixels according to the viewer's resolution, similar features are reused during this decoding process. The encoding process is computationally intensive, however, decoding is done in near real-time. During the 1990's the slow 16 bit and 32 bit hardware of that era limited the practical use of fractal compression. With today's 64 bit hardware being significantly more powerful this technology is now viable for commercialization.

Resolution independence is an important inherent aspect of fractal compression since it permits the up or down scaling of video by way of geometric transformations of the encoded data without the introduction of image artifacts or a loss in detail that occurs in bitmap images. Upscaling is valuable for transforming archived content originally shot in lower resolution formats to modern HD formats while maintaining as much of the original detail as possible. TRUDEF will allow HDTV broadcasters to upscale 1080p content to 2160p without any increase in bandwidth.

Producing 3-D Events Elicits HD Déjà Vu

A lot of similarities can be drawn from comparing the early days of 2-D HD production and transmission to the current state of producing live events in three dimensions. In September 1997 we saw the first HDTV broadcasts of a professional baseball game and later that year John Glenn’s return to space. Both productions used early prototype HD cameras and terrestrial transmission systems that were successful albeit technically challenged.

This year saw the first live 3-D telecast of an NFL game captured in San Diego and transmitted to theaters in Boston, Los Angeles and New York. Once again the equipment used was prototype, and the broadcast suffered occasional hits that caused the picture to go dark.

The question on the minds of those interested in moving the format forward is: If it took about 10 years to bring HDTV in to consumers’ home, will 3-D take just as long? There’s the issue of cameras and production equipment being immature along with a lack of television sets that can display such 3-D signals. The same technology and market conditions existed in the late 1990s.

“With the way technology is moving today and as the number of productions, both for feature films and television, continues to grow, we’re hoping it does not take as long for 3-D to get to the home,” said David Modell, chairman of 3ality Digital Systems. His company recently produced the first live transmission of a 3-D NFL football game to three theaters in the United States, and will do it again for the upcoming FedEx Bowl Championship Series (BCS) National Championship Game between the University of Florida and University of Oklahoma. 3ality has also been involved with many of the milestone 3-D events in recent years, including a stunning U2 concert that saw widespread release in theaters.

Like early HDTV, 3-D creates several challenges for the broadcast industry. Production companies are realizing that crews need to be re-educated about the nuisances of capturing an event and bringing it into consumers’ homes in a way that feels familiar to programs that came before it.

There’s the positioning of cameras. In most stadiums and large venues, the best camera positions have been taken by traditional HD cameras, leaving little room for 3-D cameras with their larger size. There’s framing issues for camera operators; they have to hold focus longer and minimize panning shots. There are new approaches for directors and TDs in the production truck; they have to be careful to match shots and depth of field from one camera to the next, or viewers will become disoriented.

For their part, production companies are wrestling with how to produce a game with the same number of trucks, keeping cost to producers as low as possible. With early HD, two separate trucks were required to produce both the SD and HD broadcasts. Today, the industry has figured out how to capture events in HD then downconvert for SD audiences with a single truck. For the upcoming BCS Championship Game, veteran mobile production company Game Creek Video will send two HD trucks — one for the HD telecast and a second for 3-D. The HD broadcast on FOX will be watched by millions, while the 3-D telecast will be seen by an estimated 14,000 spread out across 82 digital cinema theaters.

“There are a lot of similarities with HD and 3-D production, so we feel we can offer our clients systems that are not as expensive as the early days of HD and SD,” said Pat Sullivan, president of Game Creek. “Initially we foresee sending a second unit to house all of the image processing workstations needed for 3-D, but we’re in a much better position now than we were in the early days of HDTV.”

The 3-D BCS Game event, sponsored by Sony Electronics, will be watched by about 1200 invited guests at the Paris Hotel during the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. At the CES convention beginning Jan. 8, several companies will show HDTV sets capable of displaying a 3-D picture, provided the viewer wears special polarized glasses. (They are a lot cooler than the wacky cardboard version with blue and red lenses.)

At the end of the day, there’s no disputing the initial wow factor associated with watching 3-D content. With time and experience, the process will get better and less costly to produce. 3ality will use a Telecast Fiber Systems solution to break out the optical blocks of the Sony cameras and connect them to the bodies via fiber, cutting the cameras’ size and weight by more than half. Better compression techniques will minimize transmission errors. And an increase in 3-D TV set penetration in the market will lead to an increased demand for more programming. [There’s also an auto stereoscope process on the horizon that currently is very expansive to do but in about five years will make wearing 3-D glasses a thing of the past.]

With HDTV, we’ve seen it happen before.

By Michael Grotticelli, BroadcastEngineering

MXF4QT Import v1.5 Available

The new release of MXF4QT Import provides extensive support for various Avid OP-Atom formats including all DNxHD variations.

New features:
- Support for Avid OP-Atom IMX30/40/50, DV25, DVCPRO25/50 and DVCPRO HD formats
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- Support for 60p frame wrapped audio
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- Tremendous file access speed improvements
- UMIDs are now mapped to Final Cut Pro Reel Name metadata in capital letters
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- Final Cut Pro to Soundtrack Pro improvements
- Soundtrack Pro improvements

Sky: Olympics Likely to be Shown in 3D TV

Viewers of the London 2012 Olympics will be able to watch all the action in 3D from the comfort of their home, if Sky has anything to do with it.

"There is a very good chance you'll see the London Olympics in 3D", said Brian Lenz, head of product design and innovation at Sky, before confirming the satellite broadcaster will "be filming events in 3D."

Click to watch the video

Sky has outlined its vision for the future of television at its head office in West London with the demo of 3DTV for the first time, spelling the need for yet another upgrade to your TV in the near future. Although the company admits the technology is unlikely to hit the living room any time soon, it is already getting ready for the move to 3D over 2D TV shows and events.

"We are already filming events in 3D", Lenz told.

The company's demo for the new technology currently shows a number of clips with a strong focus on sports such as boxing, football and rugby although films, documentaries and stage performances aren't out of the running.

"We still have to understand what consumers want", Chris Johns, chief engineer at Sky said before adding; "This isn't just a Sky endeavour".

In fact Sky is keen to point out that other companies around the world are getting involved too.

"Dreamworks has said every movie going forward will be available in 3D, while we know of around 63 movies that are planned over the next 2 - 3 years that will be 3D enabled".

Unlike current 3D systems from companies like Samsung that require you to wear special glasses that flicker to deceive you into believing you are watching a 3D image, the Sky system works on a passive stereoscopic 3D approach. To experience 3DTV you will need a new TV set that is "3D ready" and you'll still have to wear special glasses, however they will resemble something more akin to a pair of sunglasses rather than a gadget contraption with moving parts.

"A major manufacturer will be launching a stereoscopic 3D set in the next 12 months", said Lenz, before hinting that it might be "Sony at CES" later in our meeting.

The system, which requires new camera equipment to film on, works by setting the television as the "plain of field" like a window and then positioning certain elements in front of and behind that window. The result, with the glasses, is that you get a 3D effect no matter where you sit in the room. Take the glasses off and all the viewer will see is a blurry image.

"What we really want is a glasses free technology", says Lenz before reiterating that it's still very early days for the technology. "We aren't wedded to this technology, however what it does allow us to do is use our existing network to deliver the signal without expensive upgrades".

You get the feeling that Sky could go live today if there was a physical need for the technology, but without any TVs or content in the market it's not really commercially sensible and that's before you add the additional cost to the production of the film, event, or show. Sky estimate it will add a further 10-15% on the bottom line, a high price to pay in a credit crunch climate.

So should you hold off buying a new TV? Probably not, but it is worth bearing in mind that when you come to buy the next one in the next four to five year's time, 3DTV is likely to have hit the living room.

Sky's 3D system uses the existing Sky HD transmission path and a Sky+ HD box to receive the signal. However, content is filmed using two standard HD cameras in a special rig to get a stereoscopic effect; these two 16:9 pictures are then encoded by a special device early in the transmission chain such that the pictures from the left camera and right camera each take up half of a 16:9 frame.

This video is then sent through the existing Sky HD transmission path to a Sky+ HD box, which then outputs the picture to a special 3D-compatible television set. Such televisions have a special processor that takes the left and right image and interlaces them in a way that with the addition of a polarising filter in the set and polarising glasses being worn by viewers creates a natural 3D effect.

By Stuart Miles, Pocket-lint

Sky Moves Towards 3D Broadcasts

Sky TV says it has made a significant step towards bringing 3D television to British viewers. The satellite broadcaster says it has successfully tested the delivery of 3D programming to a domestic television, via a high-definition set-top box. Sky has been filming a number of events using 3D cameras over recent months. Such broadcasts would require the use of 3D televisions, not yet available in UK stores, and viewers would need to wear 3D polarising glasses.

Sky has filmed several sporting events using the new technology

Earlier this year BBC engineers broadcast a Six Nations rugby union international in 3D to an audience at a theatre in London. Sky says it has gone further by showing that 3D could be delivered into homes, straight to its Sky+HD set-top box, without much difficulty. Sky is stressing is not making a product launch, but producing a technological demonstration.

"We have shown it is a technical reality," Sky's director of strategic product development, Gerry O'Sullivan, told BBC News. "Now we have to find a way to bring it to viewers."

The approach requires new recording as well as playback equipment

At a demonstration at its West London headquarters, the company showed clips from programmes it had filmed in 3D, including a Ricky Hatton boxing match, a rugby union international and an episode of Gladiators. Mr O'Sullivan said major TV manufacturers were beginning to look at building 3D sets and at January's Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas, a number of prototypes are expected to be on display. He explained that for broadcasters, the move to 3D would not be anything like as expensive as the investment the industry had made in high-definition television.

"It's not hugely costly," he explained, "because it piggybacks on the investment in HD."

Hollywood is beginning to invest heavily in 3D movie production and in Japan some television channels are already broadcasting in 3D. It is a technology that first surfaced in the 1950s, but modern digital technology has brought new interest from producers and manufacturers. Mr O'Sullivan dismissed the idea that it would appeal only to a small minority of viewers.

"I heard HD described as a niche product," he said. "Now we've got nearly 600,000 HD customers."

Source: BBC News

Wazabee 3DeeShell for Vivid 3D on the iPhone

Spatial View, a leader in manufacturing products for creating 3D effects, introduces its latest product, Wazabee 3DeeShell, a special protective skin with an integrated removable lens that can display 3D content on the Apple iPhone. The new Wazabee 3DeeShell from Spatial View will be displayed for the first time in the U.S. at MacWorld 2009. At the booth, Spatial View will also offer demonstrations to show how easy it is to create and view 3D content using its Wazabee products. The Wazabee 3DeeShell is tentatively scheduled to ship in early Q2 2009.

Wazabee Mobile 3D Products
The Wazabee 3DeeShell uniquely depicts 3D content such as games, pictures and videos on the Apple iPhone in an extraordinarily realistic way. The housing contains a lens that eliminates the need for special 3D glasses, while serving as a stylish protective skin at the same time. The lens can easily be removed at any time in order to switch back and forth between normal 2D and spellbinding 3D graphics.

Wazabee has also developed three software applications, currently available for download from the iPhone App Store, that enable users to access existing 3D content as well as create their own: 3DeeVUsion, 3Dee!oadr and 3DeeCamera.

For iPod Touch users, 3DeeVUsion makes it possible to view three-dimensional content and create their own content as well by taking advantage of the device’s simple touchpad operation.

With the 3Dee!oadr Web application, users have access to a stock of more than 500,000 3D images thanks to a connection to Yahoo Flickr! image services. The software also enables users to upload their own 3D images and share them with friends.

With the 3DeeCamera, users can generate stereoscopic pictures in a matter of seconds using mobile software and a native iPhone camera. Various viewing modes mean that the pictures can be viewed with or without 3D glasses.

New Wazabee 3DeeFlector Makes U.S. Debut at MacWorld 2009
The Wazabee 3DeeFlector, an autostereoscopic overlay for the MacBook Air and other 13.3-inch-notebooks, will debut at MacWorld 2009. Just like other Wazabee products, the 3DeeFlector allows the depiction of both 2D and 3D content without an additional monitor or 3D glasses. The Wazabee 3DeeFlector is suitable for displaying 3D content, movies, animations, designs and games.

Alongside eye-tracking software that provides for the perfect “3D experience,” a number of other applications for the Wazabee 3DeeFlector are also available:
- The Power Player media software plays three-dimensional pictures and videos. The DVD player optimizes visualization for any type of stereoscopic 3D DVDs.
- The plug-in for Second Life generates a stereoscopic 3D experience in virtual worlds.
- The Wazabee Games Driver allows users to experience games in stereo 3D.

Wazabee 19-inch Gaming Display
The Wazabee 19-inch Gaming Display will be on hand at MacWorld to provide an exceptional on-screen gaming experience. Due to its unique 3D game visualization, the display offers users a completely new interactive feel in their playing style – as if they were right at the center of the action.

Source: Spatial View

DFT - Digital Film Technologies

The acquisition of the Thomson Post Production Business Unit by Parter Capital Group is now complete. The new company, DFT Digital Film Technology is independently owned by Parter Capital Group, a Frankfurt, Germany, private equity investment group.

DFT will offer and support the full product line of the former Thomson Post Production Solutions Business Unit, which includes the Spirit and Shadow family of Film Scanners / Telecines / DataCines, the Bones family of dailies and post production workflow management tools, the Scream grain reducer, and the LUTher color calibration system.

The acquisition comprises the entire global Post Production Solutions team including the R&D and business operation teams located at the company headquarters in Weiterstadt - Germany. The team also includes dedicated sales and support organizations in Los Angeles - USA, Sydney – Australia, Bangkok – Thailand, Paris – France, and London – United Kingdom.

Source: PostProduction Buyers' Guide

Arts Alliance Media Eyes D-cinema Breakthrough

The conversion of the world's cinemas to digital equipment was always much more than a simple upgrade of theatre equipment. The industry had been built on a single standard - 35mm film - and, for all its glaring inefficiencies, it worked in its own way. What digital cinema proposes is far more challenging as well as considerably more exciting. For the first time in history, there is the potential to make film programming fast and responsive to customer demand. There are new forms of content that can renew the business.

But the potentially revolutionary nature of change requires buy-in, risk taking and, of course, financial investment from the most conservative end of the business - exhibition. Arts Alliance Media's founder Thomas Hoegh recognised the potential of D-cinema change long before the creation of the necessary elements to turn it into business reality such as a universally-accepted common standards and shared payment model. Being an early adopter brought advantages and Arts Alliance Media (AAM) was able to establish its place as a major force in the UK and European market quickly. But the problem of being ahead of the game, is that it can involve a good deal of waiting for the world to catch up.

AAM had a separate problem too. It was operating in Europe with a fragmented collection of widely varied territories, each with its own approaches and policies. D-cinema was running into the multi-speed Europe that holds back to much progress in the industry and means the US can always move faster.

False starts
After a grinding period of debates that often descended into the most esoteric bickering, there were reasons for optimism a couple of years ago. The DCI set of standards governing the interoperability, security and quality of D-cinema was finally though sometimes grudgingly accepted.

A new cost-sharing model that - the virtual print fee - was also looking like the only realistic financing option even if it was not met with universal enthusiasm. Some governments were also playing a positive role, notably the creation of the UK's digital screen network in which AAM played a critical role.

AAM won studio support for its VPF-based plans yet still exhibitors in Europe kept their hands in their pockets. Some of the bigger chains have been hoping the studios will come in with a better deal, other smaller ones are legitimately concerned they will be left behind in the switch and are waiting, possibly in vain, for government support.

The deadlock appeared to be broken when , AAM finally signed a high-profile exhibitor deal with French chain Circuit George Raymond (CGR) at the end of 2007. But the floodgates remained steadfastly shut. The entrance of new competition, such as XDC, which announced its plans this year, was also reckoned by many commentators to herald a big push, introducing choice into the VPF model. But the impasse remained.

The breakthrough deal?
Even AAM's deal with CGR seemed to be progressing slowly until this month when it received a $56m (Euros 43m) boost with the signing of a financing agreements with European services company Econocom and a separate deal with various private investors. The Econocom money will allow the completion of the CGR 400-screen digital rollout. The rest will go to a necessary expansion of the business to meet a clear set of ambitions.

"This is the breakthrough we have been waiting for," chairman and founder Thomas Hoegh told ScreenDaily. "This is the first major chain (in Europe) to see the VPF-powered installation completed. These contracts can now be seen to work."

He added:"The most significant thing is that the contracts work and if they work now in this economic environment, then they will work in any environment."

Hoegh believes that the fact that a bona fide deal has been completed might make a big impact, proving that deals can be done.

Advanced the timeframe
The question then is whether the ponderous nature of European rollout has now or can be decisively changed. AAM's belief that we are now turning a corner is tempered to an extent by the fact that it has spent so long seemingly on the brink of the big deal that would break the deadlock. But announcements have been thin on the ground. To be fair, the same is true of rivals.

The company wisely is not over-promising on specifics despite rumours of at least one major deal at an advanced stage. Hoegh is certain that the CGR deal will have got the business thinking about making the shift sooner rather than later.

"There are chains looking very specifically at this deal to see if we can pull it off."

Timing is a critical issue. There are a number of factors with the potential to drive forward the D-cinema timetable. Most obviously is the availability of quality product, particularly 3D. The Hollywood majors have made a big investment in 3D next year yet at the moment there are few screens on which the film can be shown. The move has also allowed at least a temporary shift in the agenda from a long-running debate about whether the current payment models could take along smaller cinemas - though that issue will be amplified over the coming year.

Accentuating the positive
The payment issue has distracted attention from what D-cinema can bring to exhibition. AAM, for example, has been among the pioneers of live opera. Delivering those benefits, however, has meant a tighter focus on what the busines can deliver. Chief executive Howard Kiedaisch spells out a vision of a wide-ranging D-cinema service in which AAM plays key roles in the provision of content, financing installation and supporting customer services.

The new influx of money will allow the business to grow around that strategy, taking on new employees. That new finance certainly looks like a vote of confidence. To focus all its energy on D-cinema, the company has jettisoned one of the components of the business which at one time looked like a core service - the Vizumi download service. But there remains some convincing to do. Kiedaisch wants the company to make a strong mark not only in the UK and France but further afield. Intriguingly, he wants there to be an understanding that there is a place for every size of cinema in the big tent. Details are not clear but it certainly means looking beyond the current VPF deal.

"No cinema is too small and no country too remote," seems to be the new mantra.

This is not simple altruism. AAM needs to take along a critical mass of screens into a D-cinema future in which it can take a leading role. It has however decided that the time is right to force the pace.

By Michael Gubbins, ScreenDaily

Telestream Ports Episode Encoder Software to Windows

With version 5.1, Telestream has ported its Episode and Episode Pro desktop encoding software to Windows. New features in the product this time out include watch folders and extended MXF encode/decode. Episode is a universal transcoding system for a wide variety of media formats.

The basic Episode software ($495) imports “virtually any” file format, including broadcast and professional file types, and exports to a slew of formats including Flash, Windows Media, QuickTime, H.264, VC-1, 3GPP, and MPEG-1, MPEG-2, and MPEG-4.

Stepping up to Episode Pro ($995) adds pro formats like GXF, MXF, H.264 High Profile, and DVCPRO HD to the mix. The server-based Episode Engine for faster-than-real-time encoding on OS X is $3950, or $6100 for Episode Engine Pro.

By Bryant Frazer, StudioDaily

Fox Sports, Sony, 3ality to Deliver 3D BCS Championship Game to 80 Theaters

College football fans will get a chance to enter the third dimension on Jan. 8 when Fox Sports, Sony Broadcast, and 3ality Digital team up to deliver the college football Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game in 3D HD live to 80 theaters across the country. The announcement was made at the Sports Video Group League Technology Summit.

The game will mark the second high-profile football game to be delivered to theaters in 3D within two months. On Dec. 4 the NFL and 3ality partnered to deliver an NFL regular season telecast to theaters in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles.

“We learned a lot during that NFL broadcast,” says Steve Schklair, 3ality Digital Systems CEO. “We learned about how to wire things up, coverage, operations, how to cut it in the truck, and depth balancing between shots.” All of that learning, adds Schklair, will make for an improved theater experience compared to the NFL game.

The game will be shot using 3ality Digital’s image-capture technology and transmitted live via Cinedigm’s CineLive satellite distribution network from Dolphin Stadium in Miami to an event sponsored by Sony in the Paris Hotel and Casino’s RealD-equipped Theatre des Arts in Las Vegas, where more than 1,200 invited guests will view the game live in 3D during the annual Consumer Electronics Show.

“The live broadcast to the Paris Hotel and to movie theaters across the nation is the latest example of how we can deliver our programming to audiences in new and exciting ways,” said Jerry Steinberg, senior vice president of field operations and engineering for FOX Sports. “3D technology holds unlimited potential for the future of both sports broadcasting and live event production.”

For the broadcast, 3ality Digital will employ Sony HD cameras specially modified for stereoscopic production and transmission of the game. According to the company, the 3ality Digital technology allows a camera operator to shoot in a style similar to traditional 2D with pan-tilt-zoom control, and provides continuously self-correcting software to deliver high-quality stereoscopic imaging.

The 3ality Digital’s image capture systems integrate with existing broadcast equipment for pixel-perfect 3D imagery, and its image processing software enables accurate 3D image transmission through existing satellite systems, the company said. The feed is then transferred to the Cinedigm satellite network, which will broadcast the signal nationally to Cinedigm-enabled theaters. In the theater, RealD’s 3D stereoscopic Cinema System will enable the audience to view the game in 3D.

While 3ality founder and CEO Steve Schklair said the 3D version of a December 4 NFL game was transmitted in 720p, he suggested that quality could be improved if the resolution were bumped up to 1080 lines of resolution. For its part, Fox has some reservations. "We're not sure if we'e going to push 1080 through the truck," noted Jerry Steinberg, Fox senior VP of field operations and engineering. "Fox is a 720p network, and with Fox's presentation we want to keep the 720p standard."

Schklair says 3ality has chosen to shoot sporting events with stereo dual rigs of Sony HDC-1500 cameras, using a Telecast Fiber Systems solution to break out the optical blocks and connect them to the bodies via fiber, cutting the cameras' size and weight by more than half. The recent NFL 3D broadcast used eight separate 3D camera systems, and for this game, Schklair said, he'd like to have more. The 3D production does not share cameras with the 2D broadcast, although Schklair said that could change if the production decided to use a 3D skycam, since only one of those can be rigged to cover a single game.

The "special sauce" for a live 3D broadcast is 3ality's control software, which Schklair said allows cutting freely between cameras without hurting viewers' eyes. The mobile truck holds a rack-mounted SIP-2900 processor that handles a number of real-time image-control functions, such as color- and lens-matching, as well as automatic depth-balancing. That means that each of the production's 3D cameras is slaved to a single master or "preview" camera so edits from camera to camera won't create a jarring effect as the depth effects shift.

Not only does that allow a more compelling presentation, but it also shaves costs since a separate "convergence puller" doesn't need to be employed on each camera system. "The more we do, the less expensive it becomes, and the less expensive it becomes, the more we can do," Steinberg said.

Sony is providing its SXRD 4K projection technology at the Paris Hotel and Casino for this special 3D presentation that will be broadcast in conventional HD by FOX Sports. RealD is a co-sponsor of this theater presentation with Sony. RealD’s 3D system in the Theatre des Arts includes eyewear, screen and filtering technology.

“This event at the Paris Hotel is a perfect showcase for 4K technology,” says Alec Shapiro, senior vice president of Sony Electronics’ Broadcast and Production Systems. “It was designed with enough flexibility to show superb-quality 2D or 3D content in the highest resolution available -- for motion picture releases, live events or other forms of alternative content, delivering benefits to everyone, from the movie-going consumer to theater owners.”

The Sony projectors’ 4K resolution is derived from a pixel matrix of more than 4,000 horizontal pixels, delivering more than four times the resolution of high-definition televisions used in home theater systems. The projectors have a strong track record of success in live 3D theater presentations, delivering similar simulcasts in 2007 for the NBA All-Star Game as well as an NBA regular season game.

A motivating factor for Sony is the timing of the game, which falls on the opening day of CES. Sony will be displaying four prototype 3D-ready flat-panel screens at the show for estimated 2010 availability, Sony Senior Vice President of Broadcast & Production Alec Shapiro told reporters.

“Sports broadcasts are ideal for 3D presentation, especially in a theater, where fans can gather and participate in the atmosphere of the event with the feeling of truly being there,” said Sandy Climan, CEO of 3ality Digital. “This game may end up being a landmark in college sports history.”

According to Michael Lewis, chairman and CEO of RealD, “This event brings together all the necessary elements to create a truly immersive 3D broadcast. The success of recent box-office hits in 3D and the strong schedule of future releases highlight the fact that this is an experience that movie-goers crave. We look forward to continuing this evolution of the entertainment experience by delivering more live sports and other events to our theater partners.”

In addition to the theater at the Paris hotel, Cinedigm will broadcast the game to its network of 80 additional digitally enabled theaters across the United States.

Said Bud Mayo, chairman and CEO at Cinedigm, “Our 3D live distribution to theaters on Cinedigm’s nationwide network is now a reality that will greatly enhance the in-theater experience for consumers, while creating more opportunities for venue owners, broadcasters and the entire sports/entertainment industry.”

Gamecreek Video will provide its high-definition mobile video production unit for the game, working with the 3ality Digital camera rigs and image processing systems on-site in Miami.

“In 38 days 3ality Digital will work with excellent partners to prove that, without a doubt, the technology is here today and that there is economic viability to delivering live 3D sports to theaters,” says David Modell, 3ality Digital chairman.

Tickets will be available as early as today and will be available online for most locations. Ticket prices are set by exhibitors but are expected to range between $18 and $22. To find the nearest participating theatre, go to

By Ken Kerschbaumer, Sports Video Group and Bryant Frazer, StudioDaily

Altera and DDD Take 2D Digital Images to 3D

Altera Corporation and DDD Group announced a partnership that is bringing 3D digital cinema-quality images to your living room. DDD has qualified its TriDef Core embedded 3D image processor to run on Altera's Arria GX FPGA. As a result, DDD is delivering a custom circuit board that integrates with the existing 2D video electronics to deliver enhanced 3D features including automatic 2D-to-3D conversion. This allows the playback of original 3D content from a wide range of sources including Blu-ray discs and DVDs.

The capability opens a direct in-home distribution channel for the latest generation of 3D movies in production for the growing 3D digital cinema market. This technology will be displayed on the Hyundai IT 46" 3D LCD HDTV at the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) at the Las Vegas Convention Center in January.

"Embedding DDD's market-leading TriDef solution in the latest 3D televisions is the next step in delivering high-quality, easy-to-use 3D home entertainment for the consumer," said Chris Yewdall, chief executive of DDD. "The performance, functionality and low power consumption of Altera's Arria GX FPGAs make it possible for our TriDef processor to turn 3D television into a familiar plug-and-play approach that is equivalent to the existing 2D TV experience, while substantially reducing manufacturing and support costs for 3D TV manufacturers."

"3D television is creating immense consumer interest in next-generation flat-panel televisions," said Robert Blake, vice president of automotive and consumer business unit at Altera. "Arria GX functionality allows real-time 2D-to-3D conversion and 3D reformatting with DDD's TriDef Core processor. This is one of many examples of how Altera's FPGAs deliver innovative solutions for advanced high-definition applications in the consumer video arena."

Source: Altera

The Games We Play

In the last issue I reported on the wave of investment on-going in the 3D space. Fascinating developments will be appearing for some time. So will the inevitable conferences. I attended the recent 3D Entertainment Summit in Los Angeles, which had such a list of speakers and panelists that it made one wonder who was left to be in the audience. What caught my eye, however, was an interesting announcement from Trioviz and Darkworks that was timed for the event.

With the dense slate of 3D movies coming up, developers are keen to produce technologies that bring 3D into the home. The wonderful thing about consumer 3D is that there are so many methods to choose from. There is no shortage of schemes to compress left and right stereoscopic images into one, so that 3D broadcasts can use conventional transmission technology. There are many ways to get stereoscopic images onto a DVD or Blu-ray disc. There are several types of display possible, each requiring a different method of sequencing the left-right image. There are a number of different types of glasses, and, of course, methods that require no glasses. All one needs to see 3D at home is to have the right decoder on hand, the right display technology, the right glasses, and all of the bits in-between to make them work together. And then figure out the right combination all over again for the next movie. Sounds like a piece of cake? Well, if it doesn’t, then you may find yourself joining the ranks of those that say it’ll be 10 years before 3D at home is viable. Some might say that 3D in the home technology will make you yearn for the good ol’ days when it was only HD DVD vs Blu-ray.

Where the challenge of bringing 3D into the home seems less daunting, however, is in 3D games. This has to do with two important and unique components of the gaming industry. First, the distribution channel for 3D gaming already exists. This is due to the fact that, unlike movie entertainment, game content is generated on the fly by the game engine. In fact, all aspects of the game are controlled by the game developer, making it possible for the developer to allow a user to configure the game to the 3D display of their choice. In other words, one doesn’t buy a 3D game console. One buys a 3D game designed for their console, and configures each game for 3D display that one owns. Thus, the pre-existing distribution channel for 3D. The second aspect of gaming that makes it a natural for 3D is the demographic that this industry targets. The youthful player of video games is a prime consumer of 3D.

In contrast, movie distributors have no comparable control over the home 3D experience. The distribution method requires a decision to be made regarding how the 3D content is encoded. Without standards, there is no guarantee that the encoding method selected by distributor A will be the same as that of distributor B. Without standards, there is no guarantee that the player owned by consumer A decodes 3D in the same way as that of consumer B. And on the problem only gets more complex as you get deeper into the system. The consumer 3D experience must be standardized throughout the entire supply chain, including the components in the home, for there to be a successful home 3D content market. So 3D is great business for the standards bodies. I was recently told that no less than four standards organizations were engaged in some form of 3D standardization activity.

With less moving parts cluttering the path to success, the display industry would be smart to target the 3D game market. But is a special display needed at all to enjoy 3D games? The answer to this question is what makes so interesting this past week’s announcement of a partnership between game developer Darkworks and 3D technology provider Trioviz.

While they were in LA for the 3D Entertainment Summit, I met with Alexis Arragon, technology manager at Darkworks, and Christophe Brossier, CEO of Trioviz. Darkworks is known as the developer of the horror game Cold Fear. Trioviz offers a fascinating 3D display method that is viewable both with and without 3D glasses on ordinary television screens. When watching Trioviz-prepared content with its 3D passive glasses, you see the content in 3D. But if you take the glasses off, you just see it in 2D, without the double images normally seen with stereoscopic content. I won’t go into the details of the technology. It’s safe to say that the 3D is not as good as 3D digital cinema, but it is surprisingly good. When viewing game content with their method, it was obvious that this would be a fun way to play.

These two companies are jointly developing a “software development kit,” or SDK. The SDK will make it a snap for any game to generate Trioviz 3D displays. As it happens, all quality game software already keeps track of where its objects and characters are in 3D space. This is necessary even with 2D displays to correctly place objects and give them the right perspective. For a Trioviz 3D game display, the game developer will simply supply both objects and depth map to the Trioviz software display engine included with their distribution, and within milliseconds, the viewer will see Trioviz 3D on a regular television screen.

The intent of this discussion is not to promote a particular 3D technology, but to bring forward a real-world example for how much simpler it is to bring 3D games to the home than to bring 3D movies to the home. To bring 3D movies to the home, lots of decisions have to be made if uniform 3D distribution channels are to develop, most of which cannot be simply left to the consumer. But in the game market, the distribution channels for 3D content already exist. With technologies such as Trioviz, a generation of game players could soon become accustomed to 3D in the home without a single standard being written. With a little luck, they'll be watching 3D movies at home when they grow up.

By Michael Karagosian, founder and president of MKPE Consulting LLC, a Los Angeles-based consultancy in the entertainment industry.

Source: Digital Cinema Report

Here Comes Yet Another Color Standard

It’s long been appreciated that existing color systems are constrained, not only by current display technologies, but also by the standards that define the color gamuts. While sRGB can be extended to 10 bits per color, and xvYCC can extend the color gamut by non-linear mapping of unused values, these color spaces are still limited with respect to the precision and ultimate color gamut that can be achieved by a "supra-BT.709" definition.

Enter scRGB, whose color encoding extends the sRGB tonal range and bit precision by defining a larger color space. By increasing the precision of color processing, scRGB is said to be "well suited for graphic arts RGB workflows, professional digital photography, computer gamuts and computer graphics." Formerly known as sRGB64, scRGB is based on sRGB, and has the same primaries and white point. However, scRGB offers a larger, scaled color gamut and 48-bit encoding with 16-bits per channel (64 bits including an alpha channel), defining over 65,000 steps for each color instead of the 256 steps available with the 8-bits of sRGB. The extra 8 bits per channel are distributed between the high order bits for the expanded gamut and the low order bits for greater precision within the gamut.

While scRGB is not new, Microsoft recently announced that the Windows Color System (WCS) and display drivers in Windows 7 will support high color, e.g., xvYCC, 10-bit sRGB, and now scRGB. Windows 7 is the next version of Microsoft Windows, and at its Professional Developers Conference in October, Microsoft delivered a pre-beta build of Windows 7 to PDC attendees, and announced plans to release a full Windows 7 beta early next year. A recent Microsoft job posting also indicated that Windows 7 was planning for full release in FY2010.

Microsoft says that their goal for scRGB is to give it the same ease of use and simplicity of sRGB. However, the additional bit-depth will require more GPU/CPU bandwidth, especially as the GPU must convert scRGB images on-the-fly to be viewable on current displays. Nonetheless, Microsoft says that modern GPUs and displays already support these pixel formats, and new brands are shipping with support for 10-bits and beyond.

Cynics feel that these new features are designed to exclude competition, rather than increase interoperability. However, Microsoft must still operate under the terms of the 2002 U.S. District Court anti-trust decree, which requires that for any new middleware feature added to Windows, the company must help rivals integrate their similar software with Windows. We’ll have to see if the reverse is true-that scRGB drivers migrate to other platforms such as Linux or Mac OS as well. Even without help from Microsoft, the equations for scRGB are clear and should pose no problem for Apple or others.

Another issue is that of backward compatibility, since non-compliant decoders may clip colors at the boundaries of their color-space intersection. Transformations between the standards are defined, however, so new devices should be able to properly display images. This backward compatibility may be a minor issue, since graphics designers and video editors upgrade their hardware and software frequently to match improved standards such as this. After all, scRGB, like sRGB or sRGB64, is a standard for professionals, not consumers. At the end of the content creation process, the content creators will map the expanded scRGB colors into xvYCC or even the Rec. 709 format for consumer viewing. Some experts say that using xvYCC to encode DCI colors onto an HDTV signal is a better way to go when the ultimate destination is an HDTV consumer monitor. This would allow a single color grading step to serve for both digital cinema and HDTV, compared to the two color grading steps required now. One of my colleagues at Insight Media suggests that the maker of a TV with such an expanded color gamut could advertise, "See the same colors you see in the movies!"

By Aldo Cugnini, DisplayDaily

RealD Launches First 3D Stereoscopic Converter 'PODs'

RealD Pro, the world's most trusted 3D visualization source for industrial applications, has introduced the first 3D stereoscopic converter PODs. The PODs present a simple conversion solution when upgrading to a new stereoscopic display monitor, such as a DLP or XPOL HDTV.

The PODs automatically detect the output format from a connected display device and convert most stereo-enabled software applications from native stereoscopic output format to the required format for stereo viewing on the display monitor. The RealD converter POD provides an immediate, affordable replacement option for CRT or LCD monitor users. When combined with DLP TV kits available from RealD Pro, the user simply plugs the source data into the input port on the POD via an HDMI cable and the output HDMI cable into the 3D-ready HD TV.

RealD Side-by-Side 3D-POD

The 3D converter PODs are designed specifically for research and development environments, where 3D visualization is heavily used and where departments or organizations are seeking alternatives to CRT display technology for stereoscopic applications. Industries include government and defense, entertainment, oil and gas, education, design and development, and medical. The RealD 3D-PODs make this transition fast, easy, and inexpensive. The 3D-PODs also enable development teams to more easily present their work in front of customers or senior management, providing greater collaboration, improving productivity, reducing prototype expenses and accelerating time to market.

The three PODs include dual input to checkerboard, side-by-side to horizontal interlace or checkerboard, and page-flip to checkerboard:

Dual Input POD - a flexible dual stream video format conversion system that converts a dual stream of data, such as one intended for a dual projector installation, into a checkerboard output for visualization in stereo on 3D DLP or plasma systems. It can also produce the simultaneous independent video streams used by RealD’s new CrystalEyes 5 active eyewear. This POD also supports side-by-side conversion when using just a single input. (MSRP $2000)

Side-by-Side (SBS) 3D-POD - receives and transmits a single HDMI compatible audio / video signal. When the content is received in RealD SBS format, it is automatically converted into either checkerboard or horizontal interlace format, depending on the connected display device. (MSRP $500)

Page Flip 3D-POD - converts a page-flip (frame sequential) stereo output to a checkerboard format for display on a DLP TV. This POD is ideal for stereoscopic software applications formerly used with CRTs. The Pod functions as an "HDMI Repeater," as defined in the HDMI version 1.3a standard at up to 1080p@60Hz, and complies with the HDCP security protocol. (MSRP $500)

Source: MarketWatch

3D - A New Dimension for Home Entertainment?

The early success of digital 3D in cinemas has encouraged Hollywood to ramp up 3D production, but a lack of standards for bringing 3D to the home means studios are missing out on potential revenue in the video and TV release windows. 3D movies will arrive thick and fast in 2009, with DreamWorks Animation, Pixar and its parent company Disney having committed to releasing all their animated titles in digital 3D. Overall, there are 17 3D movies currently lined up for release in 2009, from 10 studios, compared with just seven from five studios in 2008. But at the moment, the only place you can see these movies is at the cinema.

There are two reasons for this. Firstly, no standards have yet been established for distributing digital 3D content either on TV or on video (DVD or Blu-ray). Secondly, even if they had been, consumers do not have the TV screens needed to display true 3D. Since Screen Digest research shows that video sales generate on average 41% of worldwide studio revenue from a given movie (compared with just 25% from its theatrical release), this means that this new wave of 3D movies is missing out on potential revenue further down the value chain.

As a stop-gap, some studios have released 3D titles on DVD and Blu-ray in traditional anaglyph 3D format, bundling the disc with a few pairs of the red and blue glasses needed to view them. This hardly emulates the digital 3D cinema experience, but it at least allows the studio to capture some of those lucrative video revenues, without which the 3D movie business will not be sustainable in the long term. The added bonus is that this strategy could whet the industry’s appetite for the digital 3D solutions in development by enabling consumers to get used to the concept of 3D in the home.

3D TVs in development
Several major consumer electronics manufacturers — including Philips, LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Mitsubishi and NEC — have made early forays into developing digital 3D displays. However, with price points ranging from €1,250 to €11,000, it seems affordable mass-market solutions remain a little way off.

Plus, the industry seems to be divided about the best approach — while the 3D TVs showcased by Samsung, Mitsubishi and Panasonic require the viewer to wear special glasses (stereoscopic displays), those demonstrated by Philips, LG and NEC do not (autostereoscopic displays).

Although the idea of 3D without glasses sounds exciting, demonstrations of the respective technologies clearly show that autostereoscopic solutions for the home are even further off than the alternative. Such displays require the viewer to be positioned at specific angles to see the 3D image. More importantly, they effectively preclude the viewing of content in 2D meaning that such a TV set would be useless for ‘normal’ broadcasts.

This is not an issue for stereoscopic displays, which are already achieving impressive 3D results. The question is, however, will viewers be willing to wear glasses to watch 3D at home? It doesn’t seem too unreasonable in the short- to mid-term while the market develops. They are doing this in the cinema, after all.

Potential platforms for 3D content
So assuming consumers play ball and upgrade to 3D-capable TVs, how do you go about getting content on their screens? Packaged media — and specifically Blu-ray Disc — seems the most logical vehicle for 3D in the home. The format boasts much greater storage capacity than DVD and has been designed to evolve through firmware upgrades, not to mention the obvious benefits of high-def. And this would allow 3D to slot nicely into the existing supply chain.

BD has already been used to deliver 3D content in early 3D TV demonstrations. At CEATEC in Tokyo in October, Panasonic harnessed the track ordinarily used for picture-in-picture alongside the main video stream to output stereoscopic video in 1080p from a BD50 disc. Content was played back via a customized BD player, a modified plasma screen and active shutter glasses.

The Blu-ray Disc Assn. does not officially support any 3D standard but is one of a number of trade bodies — others include the Consumer Electronics Assn., the DVD Forum and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers — currently attempting to devise a road map for 3D in the home. Clearly, the industry is keen to avoid another potentially damaging format war.

But preliminary battle lines are already being drawn. Several consumer electronics manufacturers have developed proprietary 2D-to-3D conversion tools, and sources indicate some of the studios have picked sides, although none has publicly admitted to a preference. However, with the fallout from the high-def disc conflict still fresh in their minds, most industry insiders will likely be more inclined to work together to find a single 3D solution.

Hurdles and opportunities
Whatever the platform, the industry has an opportunity to generate incremental revenue from 3D. Higher ticket prices are being imposed for 3D movies at the cinema, so there is a potential for a price premium in both the video and pay-TV windows. Consumers are already accustomed to paying more for high-def content, and given that 3D is easier to distinguish, the premium can be justified.

The obstacles facing 3D are almost identical to those initially facing high-def: the requirement for new displays in the home, increased storage capacity or bandwidth requirements and the need for a guaranteed flow of dedicated content.

And although 28 3D movies are already slated for release from 2010, there is not nearly enough content on the horizon to persuade consumers to upgrade en masse to 3D TVs. However, now that the consumer electronics industry is endeavouring to define technical standards for delivery and display, content owners will be more inclined to explore the area. To date, consumer electronics manufacturers have complained there is not enough 3D content to merit the development of capable technology, while content producers have argued that they cannot invest in programming without a viable means of distribution—the announcement of a unified approach would go some way to resolving this chicken-and-egg dilemma.

But even with an explosion in 3D content and the availability of cheaper 3D-capable displays, how many consumers will be ready to throw out the shiny flat-screen HDTV they purchased recently? Especially since they are only beginning to enjoy the benefits of this investment. It is still relatively early days for Blu-ray, and HDTV programming is by no means widespread.

Screen Digest analysis shows that about one-third of TV households in Japan, Western Europe and the U.S. have invested in an HDTV set. Assuming that the average replacement cycle for the main TV in the home is six years, it is possible that a viable installed base of 3D-capable displays could begin to emerge in four to five years’ time.

Ultimately, the future of 3D hinges on the outcomes of the standardization efforts by the BDA, CEA and their fellow trade bodies. Once these industry groups have mapped the route for digital 3D in the home, the picture will be much clearer.

Note: Bringing 3D to the home is one of a range of topics that will be addressed at Screen Digest PEVE Digital Entertainment 2009, the leading conference for the international home entertainment business, which takes place in Paris March 12-13.

By Marie Bloomfield, Screen Digest analyst, VideoBusiness

Interview with Jeffrey Katzenberg

In the last few years, dozens of movies have been released with the option to view them in 3D -- including Disney's Bolt, which is currently in theaters. But Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation, is unveiling a whole new type of 3D movie technology with Monsters vs. Aliens, coming in March. DreamWorks partnered with Intel and HP to create the film with InTru 3D -- a technology marketed as creating a more immersive and natural 3D movie experience, while putting less strain on the eyes.

Katzenberg said all animated movies from DreamWorks from now on will be offered in InTru 3D. The studio spends an average of $150 million making a computer generated animated movie, but this adds a cost of $15 million to each one, Katzenberg said. Katzenberg is traveling to movie theaters around the world to show off InTru 3D. He visited the Aventura Mall last week to show clips from the new movie and discuss it with The Miami Herald. He says 3D is the next step in film evolution, and he predicts it will be the norm for all movies in the next couple years. So popular, in fact, that you'll buy designer 3D glasses to take with you to every movie.

You say theaters should charge $5 more for a ticket to see these new 3D movies since it costs more to make them, so how do you think that's going to play out when consumers are money-conscious and worried about the economy?
When people do something that is exciting and new and seems much better, we will pay more for it. Obviously it costs us more to do it, and so there will be an incremental charge for it. What we're not doing is denying someone who wants to still see the 2D version of the movie. We're not going to take that opportunity away from people. They'll have that chance, that decision to make. But I think even with a $5 premium charge for this exceptional presentation and experience, it is a very good bargain. It's why movies are doing very well in a very stressed economy, because getting on a plane and flying to someplace, and getting in the car and driving someplace, and getting in the theme park for a weekend or a resort hotel, those things are really, really expensive. And going to your local movie theater and buying a movie ticket for $7, or in this case $12, is still a good value for people.

What are the challenges in marketing your movies to Latin America and how important is that region to DreamWorks?
For years we have adapted our movies into 46 languages. One of the most important and most successful regions of the world for us is the entire South American market. In fact, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa just opened and set records in Argentina, Peru, Chili and Mexico. It's a great market for family films and CG animated movies in particular. So we actually put a great deal of time and effort into both creatively adapting the movie into local language and also in how we market the films. One of the great examples -- and there are a zillion of these in every movie we make -- in the original Shrek, Donkey says, we'll stay up late telling manly stories and in the morning we're making waffles. Well, we're actually making churros.

You have worked on very memorable 3D theme park attractions in Orlando, including "Honey, I Shrunk The Audience", "Muppet Vision 3-D" and "Shrek 4-D". When you say 3D to a Floridian, that's the type of 3D entertainment that probably comes to mind. So how do you get the consumer to realize this is a different experience?
We do have to get the word out because this is not my father's 3D. It's a big leap into anything anyone has seen before. I have to rely on other people to help spread the word out there.

Are we going to see this InTru 3D technology in DreamWorks' upcoming live action movies?
Steven Spielberg is my partner and he's seen every step along the way of what we're doing here, he's very very excited about it, as are George Lucas and Peter Jackson and Bob Zemeckis and Jim Cameron, who's got a giant movie he's making that's coming out at the end of 2009. Most of the great filmmakers, they are on to this, they see the great opportunity and the potential of it and they're exited about it. And they're going to make their 3D movies. You'll see them coming from everybody. You'll start seeing live action movies using this next generation of technology in the middle to end of next year.

It's costly to use this technology, but do you think your competitors are going to jump on board with the upgrade and also spend more on this type of 3D technology?
Consumers are going to react great to this. And so far, from what everybody has seen, they have. I think that other companies are seeing the promise and opportunity here and so they are getting on to it. Nothing will do more to speed up this adaption than a couple of big hits. That will be the test of it. If we have great success of it, if Jim Cameron has great success with it, if a few others do it, it will be the rage. Everyone will do it.

By Bridget Carey, Miami Herald

Odeon, UCI Plan Digital Makeover

In another step on the road to cinema digitization in Europe, leading chain Odeon and UCI cinemas (owned by Terra Firma) said they are planning on digitizing 111 of their 200 cinemas in Europe for £4 million ($6 million). Odeon's intention, which was announced to the Daily Telegraph, readies the exhib for the onslaught of 3-D films hitting Euro wickets in 2009 including James Cameron's Avatar.

Odeon's move make it's a good week for the advancement of European d-cinema. London-based digital cinema outfit Arts Alliance Media announced Wednesday that it has secured €43 million ($55.8 million) in funding from financial services firm Econocom and private investors to plow on with its digital ambitions.

Odeon, clearly sold on the appeal auds of digital and 3-D, recently opened two Imax screens at busy London multiplexes that have been playing Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. Odeon claims the changes will leave 70% of its European consumer base within half an hour's drive of a digital screen at one of its cinemas.

"This is a steppingstone to getting all of the estate fully digital," said Rupert Gavin, chief exec, Odeon and UCI. "In the U.K., the full digital roll-out will commence in 2009 and take a couple of years to complete."

By Archie Thomas, Variety

Katzenberg Pitches 3D to Wall St.

DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg and his top lieutenants touted 3-D as a tonic for Hollywood during a three-hour pitch to Wall Street analysts Thursday. Headlines were few, but attendees got a revealing tour of the company's balance sheet as well as an early look at scenes from March release Monsters vs. Aliens.

Katzenberg announced another Madagascar installment is in the works, aiming for a 2012 release. He also said the hurdles to exhibs converting to digital and 3-D should be cleared by the end of the first quarter and conceded to some opening-night jitters ahead of Sunday's bow for Shrek the Musical.

The recession and retail instability is hurting the company's homevid numbers, chief operating officer Ann Daly affirmed. Kung Fu Panda will ship about 10 million units, which makes it a top earner overall but shy of earlier projections in the range of 12 million. Homevid sell-through revenue industrywide will finish 2008 down 6%, Daly estimated, with once-booming new releases slumping 20%.

Theatrical fare is at an all-time high for the four-year-old company, with Panda and Madagascar 2 taking in more than $1.2 billion worldwide.

Focus of the session at Gotham's Ziegfeld Theater was on growth. Not only has DreamWorks made strides since its October 2004 start, execs said, but a projected $5 premium for 3-D ticket sales will greatly enhance profits.

"Because the costs (of 3-D) are fixed, there is substantial leverage and most of the extra revenue falls to the bottom line," said prexy and chief financial officer Lew Coleman.

According to Coleman, had Shrek the Third been released in 3-D, assuming a $5 ticket premium and roughly $15 million in extra production and rendering costs, it would have booked $80 million of additional profit.

Monsters is the first of a wave of 3-D productions mounted by Hollywood. Initially, Katzenberg said, DreamWorks had hoped there would be 4,000-5,000 3-D screens worldwide by the pic's March launch. Economic turmoil, especially in the credit markets, has held up conversions, though, and the number will reach only about 2,500. Even so, Katzenberg said the company is hoping 40% of admissions will be in 3-D.

On future releases such as the fourth Shrek in 2010, Katzenberg said he "would be disappointed if we didn't have at least 70% of admissions in 3-D."

Coleman ran some intriguing numbers on the "generic ultimates" used by the company, meaning a breakdown of all revenue streams for a typical release. In 2005, a typical release made 55% of its revenue in homevid, 30% in worldwide theaters and the last 15% from TV and other venues. By 2008, that had shifted to 40% homevid, 40% theatrical and 20% TV/other.

Daly pointed to the company's TV growth lately, with such TV specials as Shrek the Halls locked up by ABC for 13 years, two similar pic offshoots due in 2009 and 46 eps of The Penguins of Madagascar in the works at Nickelodeon.

Sunday's opening of Shrek on Broadway reps a $24 million investment, to be amortized over three years, Daly said. No returns are expected until 2010, but if the show's a hit, examples such as Wicked or The Lion King suggest annual revenue from tours and merchandise could be $100 million to $150 million. Profit would be $30 million to $50 million a year.

By Dade Hayes, Variety

Hopes Pinned on 3D at CineAsia

3D technology dominated the three-day CineAsia trade show and convention, held for the second time in the South China gambling capital Macau from December 9-11. Film projection equipment companies such as Christie Digital Systems, Dolby Laboratories, Barco N.V. and Doremi Cinema showcased their latest 3D projectors and digital cinema servers, while studios raced to screen their upcoming 3D movies, such as Walt Disney's Bolt in Disney digital 3D, clips of Paramount & DreamWorks Animations' Monsters vs. Aliens and Universal's Coraline in RealD 3D.

"3D is driving digital cinema today," said Michael Archer, Doremi's vp of digital cinema said Thursday. "3D releases had two-third more grosses than 2D versions of the same film. As there will be thirteen 3D releases in 2009, exhibitors are switching from single to multiple 3D screens in multiplexes."

Despite the global economic downturn equipment providers remained optimistic.

"Business has slowed down a little, but there is still lots of potential for growth in China and India," said Juliana Tong, Christie's marketing manager. Christie has provided 100 3D digital projection units to the Shanghai Film Group to install in its Shanghai United Circuit of theaters this year.

Distributors also kept their hopes high, many of them citing the argument that going to the movies is a relatively cheap form of entertainment.

Erlina Suharjono, Warner Bros. Pictures International's senior vp of Asia distribution screened the upcoming Jim Carrey motivational comedy Yes Man at the convention. Business in Asia has remained steady since the economic crisis hit, Suharjono said, noting, however that depreciating currency was posing a threat to profits.

"In Korea when the currency has dropped 40%, theatrical admissions were about the same but as a result, we have 40% less gross," she explained.

The downturn in the economy also took a toll on CineAsia itself, as has the recent terrorist bombing in Mumbai and the airport-closing anti-government protest in Bangkok. CineAsia's attendance dropped around 15% this year, said organizer Bob Sunshine, executive director of Nielsen Business Media Film Group. The number of booths also shrank from 2007, owing mainly to the tightened purse strings of U.S. companies.

Sunshine remained hopeful for next year's event. "I can't guess when the economic crisis is going to pass, but Asia will rebound quicker than the U.S.," he said.

The convention concluded in an upbeat mood, honoring industry leaders such as Mark Zucker of Sony Pictures Releasing International, named distributor of the year. Tushar Dhingra of India's BIG Cinemas was named the exhibitor of the year.

The CineAsia Visionary Award was given to Gareth Wigan of Sony Pictures Entertainment; Sony's Terminator: Salvation Director McG, who was in Dubai to present the film, was honored as the Kodak Filmmaker of the Year.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

Subdued CineAsia Spotlights Digital

With the credit crisis, the specter of the Mumbai terror attacks and Thailand's rumbling politics hanging heavy in the air, this year's CineAsia exhibition and distribution convention was subdued. Despite the depressed atmosphere, most presenters at the four-day confab, which ended late Thursday night, stuck strictly to script, actively pushing the digital conversion agenda to Asian exhibitors.

Hollywood majors did their best to convince cinema operators with 2K digital screenings of tentpoles like the Nicole Kidman starrer Australia and Disney's 3-D offering Bolt, plus rough footage from the upcoming Sony release Terminator: Salvation, presented via satellite by helmer McG, a recipient of the confab's Kodak filmmaker of the year nod.

Despite intense tubthumping of d-cinema (four of the six seminars concentrated on digital projection and 3-D technology), there was an undercurrent of impatience from studio and equipment execs on the dawdling rollout of 3-D screens in Asia.

"The whole industry, if it is constrained with too few screens, is going to suffer," said Wes Stalcup, worldwide manager of DLP Cinema Products. "There's going to be money left on the table because either a movie had to be pulled off a 3-D screen for another one coming behind it or the total number of screens that the studios need aren't available."

Asian exhibitors, however, had mixed reactions to 3-D. "We will be providing 3-D in our showcase properties, but we don't see a large penetration of that in the next 24 months," said Tushar Dhingra, chief operating officer of Indian exhibitor BIG Cinemas.

The news for digital conversion was brighter. BIG cinemas announced plans for 500 d-cinema screens in India by 2010, while Hong Kong-based server technology firm GDC unveiled plans to install 6,000 DCI-compliant digital projection systems across Asia under a virtual print fee scheme paid for in part by the Hollywood majors.

Exhibitors pointed to alternative content as a push for converting screens to digital. Robert Ward, director of Australian distributor and exhibitor Filmways, revealed that digital projections of live concert events routinely yielded premiums of $6-$10 over top of normal ticket prices. Naoshi Yoda, managing director of Japanese exhibitor T-Joy, mentioned the live transmission of a concert by Japanese rock band L'arc en ciel, which amassed a 4,000-strong audience in d-cinemas in Japan, as an example of local programming.

Ultimately, however, both exhibitors and distributors agreed that good quality studio content remained the biggest pull for audiences, a view succinctly put by Jeffrey Forman, senior VP of sales and marketing for Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Intl.

"We’ve got a lot of really great product coming out, and I think the real winner is the consumer because in the end they get a really great theatrical experience.

By Marcus Lim, Variety

NFL Telecast Shows Potential of 3-D

A recent experimental telecast of a live NFL football game in 3-D illustrated the lengths that sports leagues are willing to go to keep fans interested. While the result was impressive — if a bit technically challenged — they achieved their goal of presenting sports programming in a new and unique way that can’t currently be experienced at home. Creating excitement is the name of the game.

A company called 3Ality, in Burbank, CA, provided the camera rigs and special processing software to broadcast a game on Dec. 4 between the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders. The milestone telecast was produced on-site in San Diego using a Cross Creek Television production truck (HD8) with standard 2-D HD technology and transmitted via satellite to theaters in Boston, Los Angeles and New York.

Howard Postley, chief technical officer and COO of 3Ality, said the idea was to show that 3-D could be broadcast with existing technology, while keeping production and transmission costs down. That’s because cost — and the lack of receivers in the home that can correctly display the latest generation of 3-D — is the biggest hurdle right now.

In many respects, the issues surrounding 3-D in sports have not changed that much. Steven Sabol, co-founder and president of NFL Films, recalls shooting the Super Bowl in 2005 with two film cameras shooting simultaneously. He said it costs about $10-$20 million to produce and display one hour of 3-D footage on 35mm film. Every year, NFL Films (which Steven started with his father Ed and is now owned by the NFL) shoots more film than all the Hollywood studios combined.

“3-D has always been intriguing to the league and fans,” Sabol said, adding that NFL teams were interested in using the technology for their internal training, “but it’s difficult to do. The cameras were way too cumbersome, and production costs way too much to make a business out of it. In the early days of any new technology, money remains the issue.”

Yet, while cost has always been the biggest limitation to 3-D, producers of the latest stereoscopic technology — including 3Ality and Pace Technologies (also in Burbank), which has provided footage of both NFL and NBA games in 3-D — seem to be eager to get the technology into the mainstream as soon as possible. Some predict it’s at least five years away.

The NFL game saw 3Ality using Sony and other HD cameras configured in pairs, side-by-side, to capture the action in 3-D. At San Diego’s QUALCOMM Stadium, eight camera positions (two cameras each) were set up — three on the field, low and high end zones, the announcer booth and two wide-angle views — to capture the live action in full 3-D. Some used a special beam splitter that separated the image into two halves. This signal was taken out of the camera and compressed in the production truck — where it was handled by a Grass Valley Kalypso HD switcher and an EVS server (for replays) and sent via satellite as a 2-D signal to conserve bandwidth.

Thomson’s Technicolor Digital Cinema facility in Burbank processed the transmission then sent it along to the three theaters for display on a large screen provided by RealD 3D (out of Beverly Hills, CA). At each theater, RealD used NEC projectors fitted with a special polarizing filter, and audience members wore special polarizing glasses to get the full 3-D effect.

Technicolor Digital Cinema provided transmission services to the theaters using its Technicolor Live theatrical solution technology, which was jointly developed by Grass Valley and Premier Retail Networks (PRN, a division of Technicolor). It featured Grass Valley’s MediaEdge IPTV encoders, streaming engine and set-top boxes, which were all used to distribute the 3-D video and play it out at the theaters via an IP architecture.

The advanced digital cinema system included system design, management and bandwidth services from ScreenVision, a provider of cinema advertising content, using PRN's video network manager software to provide scheduling and control functions. Several Grass Valley MediaEdge IPTV-based set-top boxes were deployed for playout at the theaters on Samsung televisions capable of receiving and displaying 3-D content.

One could nitpick the 3-D telecast because it suffered a few technical problems, due to the immature nature of the technology and the challenge of live IP signal distribution. At times, the telecast went black from lack of signal, and some of the 3-D imagery appeared blurry and out of synch (which several knowledgeable audience members attributed to too much compression). In addition, a handheld version of the dual-camera rig appeared heavy and tough for the operator to manage as he ran around the field. However, these same issues plagued early HD telecasts in the mid-’90s as well.

Representatives of the NFL said the telecast was a one-time experiment done to prove that the concept of 3-D sports was viable. Going forward, one idea is to present similar telecasts during the playoffs and Super Bowl in specially equipped 70mm IMAX and 3-D theaters. For this observer, the technology showed huge potential and can only get better.

By Michael Grotticelli, BroadcastEngineering

Turner Sports and Cinedigm to Broadcast Live via Satellite Using SENSIO 3D

SENSIO Technologies Inc., creator of the SENSIO 3D technology announced that in February, 2009, the first ever live 3D sporting event will be broadcast to theatres across the United States on up to 160 screens. The Turner Sports’ event will be presented to a paying audience in 35 states by Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp (formerly AccessIT) using their CineLive product.

This first event marks a key milestone in SENSIO’s business plan. Over the past year, the Company has focused on integrating its live 3D technology in the theater network of its exclusive U.S. licensee, Cinedigm. Now that the distribution infrastructure is ready, the broadcast of multiple live 3D sporting events and concerts in digitally equipped movie theaters can begin, to the greatest delight of movie buffs.

“Although several 3D broadcast tests have been performed over the past two years, this is the first commercially viable event of its kind and we are extremely proud to be a part of it. We have been able to stay one step ahead of the industry and, now that the interest in Live 3D is becoming more real, our technology is not only ready, but it also is the only one to be integrated in a theater network,” said SENSIO President and CEO, Nicholas Routhier.

Developed in conjunction with SENSIO and International Datacasting Corporation, CineLive enables the live broadcast to movie theatres of both 2D and 3D live events such as sports and concerts, and is designed to work with Cinedigm’s satellite network and digital cinema systems equipped with 3D technology. IDC’s SuperFlex technology, at the heart of CineLive, provides the latest in DVB-S2 broadband IP transmission needed to achieve the maximum possible throughput on satellite, essential for timely and secure delivery of movie files and also for the highest quality HD delivery for live performances.

The SENSIO 3D technology is a leading edge solution for the encoding and decoding of stereoscopic video streams in a unique way that uses half the transmission bandwidth compared to other technologies without sacrificing image resolution. The technology is also inherently stable, eliminating legacy problems associated with eye strain and visual disorientation.

“The 3D broadcast of the Turner Sports’ event will allow sports fans to undergo a thoroughly immersive experience. They will have the impression of being right there, at the match, sitting in the front rows. Moviegoers will appreciate the difference and we expect that this event will be among the first of a long series,” said Cinedigm Chairman and CEO, Bud Mayo.

“Thanks to Cinedigm, the distribution infrastructure fell into place, solving the chicken and egg problem; without an infrastructure in place, no broadcasting of events – and vice versa. Given that our technology is already integrated in several sites, we intend to continue our expansion efforts in the U.S. by collaborating with our partners, Cinedigm and IDC”, explains Nicholas Routhier.

Founded in 1999, SENSIO, headquartered in Montreal, Canada, develops and markets forward-looking stereoscopic technologies designed to offer the most advanced and immersive cinematographic experience available. Its flagship technology, SENSIO 3D, allows the high-quality distribution of 3D content through conventional 2D channels and playback on any display device, including plasma TVs, HDTV and glass-free 3D displays. Working with major Hollywood studios and large format 3D film producers, SENSIO has built up one of the world's largest libraries of 3D movies for the home entertainment market.

About Cinedigm
Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp. is the global leader in fulfilling the promise of digital cinema. Its ground-breaking technology platform helps exhibitors, distributors, studios and content providers transform the consumer movie experience -- by expanding theatrical features to include not only movies but also live 2-D and 3-D performances such as sporting events, concerts and gaming. The Company also enables theatres to create exhibitions and advertising opportunities targeted to specific audience groups and locations thereby offering new revenue opportunities for these venues. Cinedigm's leading digital cinema platform and one-of-a-kind satellite delivery operations support more than 3,700 theatre screens across the United States with over nine million digital showings of Hollywood features to date.

Startup Debuts Digital Video Processor

Startup Zenverge has come out of stealth mode with a processor architecture optimized to quickly translate video from one format to another, aiming at a wide range of client and network media systems. The company claims the first member of its product line will be able to transcode high definition video four times faster than existing chips.

Zenverge anticipates a consumer need to move broadcast, packaged, Internet and mobile video between video recorders, Blu-Ray players, PCs and handsets. Thus its so-called Zen Entertainment Nexus chips aim to speed translation of video between MPEG-2 and H.264 as well as a variety of resolutions, frame rates and digital rights management formats.

"We want to go after this new transcoding application that can make HD content easy to store and send between all devices whether they be TVs, cellphones or Blu-Ray players," said Tony Masterson, chief operating and chief technology officer of Zenverge.

The startup has scoped out a handful of value propositions that would make its chip more than pay for itself when added to an existing design. For example, a digital video recorder could use the chip to store broadcast video in H.264 format and thus pack more content on its hard disk.

"If they can save $100 on a hard disk —one of their most expensive components- and our chip is significantly cheaper, that's a big deal to them," said Masterson.

Conversely, the chip could be used to translate high def movies in H.264 on a camcorder to MPEG-2 so it can be stored on a rewritable DVD. "Even with a high-end Nvidia graphics chip, this is very cumbersome to do, and the majority of PCs use Intel baseline graphics that can't do transcoding, period," he said.

Carriers could specify the chip in their set-top boxes for two applications. It could help them transition from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 services, making room for more channels. It could also be used to enhance content on a set-top that acts as multi-room digital video recorder.

The Zenverge chips can also handle video encoding, making them suitable for systems at the carrier network. Long term they might also replace existing video decoders in set-tops, but the startup does not want to compete head-on with established players in that market which include Broadcom, Sigma Designs and STMicroelectronics. PC graphics giants such as Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices are already leveraging their multicore architectures to handle video transcoding PCs. How quickly the set-top and TV chip makers roll out similar capabilities remains to be seen.

Masterson claims existing chips can, at best, transcode high definition content in real time, creating significant wait time for consumers. He and co-founder Amir Mobini previously started iCompression, an MPEG-2 chip startup sold to Globespan for about $400 million.

Kathleen Maher, a senior analyst with market watcher Jon Peddie Associates (Tiburon, Calif.), said the startup has an impressive background. It has identified a real consumer need, albeit one still out in the future for most consumers. The trick will be convincing OEMs that need is real and getting them to design in the startup's chip, she said.

The startup also must convince investors to chip in on another financing round, probably in mid-2009 before the current recession which already has killed some CPU startups is expected to end. It has taken on two rounds of funding to date. The last round in 2007 included the venture arm of set-top maker Motorola.

"VCs still have a lot of money," said Masterson. "They are being more cautious but they are still doing financing if you are in a hot area with strong customer interest."

Zenverge is not providing many details on its products or architecture yet. However, it has written a white paper that sketches out 12 optimizations for video processing in its first chip, the ZN200, sampling now. The 25mm2 device can process up to four high def streams at once in real time, dissipating something south of 10W and using as little as 128 Mbytes RAM.

The company plans two cost-reduced versions of the chip expected in late 2009.

By Rick Merritt, EE Times

Doremi and RealD to Incorporate Real-Time 3D EQ

RealD, the world's largest digital 3D experience provider, today announced an agreement with Doremi Cinema LLC to integrate RealD's proprietary 3D EQ technology in Doremi's digital cinema servers. This new feature for RealD's award-winning 3D cinema system will be available on all new Doremi servers beginning in March 2009, while existing Doremi servers will be updated in all RealD installations at that time.

"RealD's 3D EQ 'ghostbusting' technology significantly improves the viewing of 3D cinema features," states Joshua Greer, president and co-founder of RealD. "Traditionally, this process is incorporated into the master by our studio partners. By moving this process into the theatres, it allows us to simplify the distribution process while optimizing the viewing experience. It's a win-win for the studios, exhibitors and audiences."

"Doremi strives to provide exhibitors and distributors with the best feature sets available in its digital cinema servers," comments Michael Archer, vice president of Doremi Digital Cinema. "Integrating the RealD 'ghostbusting' technology in our DCP line of servers illustrates another example for Doremi's leadership in digital cinema server technology and commitment to its customers needs."

Doremi digital cinema servers are currently installed in over 80% of all RealD locations. The updating of Doremi servers with RealD's 3D EQ technology will enable the vast majority of screens to quickly take advantage of this new 3D feature.

Source: MarketWatch

Arts Alliance Secures Funding Boost

Arts Alliance Media, Europe’s leading digital cinema outfit, announced Wednesday that it has secured $55.8 million (Euros 43 million) of funding from financial services firm Econocom and private investors. In addition to the hefty cash injection, London-based AAM has signed a longterm strategic partnership with Arqiva Satellite and Media.

The two pacts further energize AAM as it leads the charge to convert Euro theaters to digital. Deals pave the way for more Euro auds to be able to enjoy the 13 3-D movies skedded for theatrical release in 2009, including Monsters vs. Aliens and Avatar.

Speaking of his “delight” at being able to announce the deal “especially in today’s challenging economy climate,” Howard Kiedaisch, CEO, AAM, commented, “The significant investments strengthen us to forge ahead with building the largest digital cinema delivery network in Europe, to which we can deliver digital content — films, alternative programming and live events.”

Under the funding deal, Econocom Financial Services will provide $26 million for the purchase of equipment to complete the ongoing digitalization of France’s trailblazing Circuit George Raymond cinema circuit. Via its virtual print fee-based rollout agreement with AAM, CGR has installed 126 d-screens to date and it is aiming to complete the digital makeover of all 400 of its screens by spring 2009.

The additional $29.8 million in funding has been raised from private investors and will fund AAM as it attempts to build its infrastructure, continue its d-cinema deployment biz and develop new rev streams. To Kiedaisch, the funding package “demonstrates that there are deals to be had if you have a sound business model.”

AAM’s formal partnership with Arqiva — they have co-operated on projects previously — sets out an action plan for the development of a content delivery platform and network for film distribution via secure satellite, something already successfully tested: in October the duo distributed the Palme d'Or winning pic Entre Les Murs, to CGR Cinema's megaplex site Bordeaux, France.

“Satellite transmission of films to cinemas is the future of film distribution and exhibition and our extensive international satellite infrastructure together with AAM’s proven digital cinema expertise is a strong proposition for European cinema exhibition and distribution,” enthused Barrie Woolston, commercial director, Arqiva Satellite and Media.

AAM and Arqiva have been working together recently on the live HD transmissions of opera and ballet performances from London’s Royal Opera House.

By Archie Thomas, Variety