Industry ramps up for surge of interest in 3-D television

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

New 24-hour channel among providers to offer content for ‘immersive’ medium

Steve Makris

Vision Electronics floor manager Shaq Ahmed shows off a Samsung LED 3-D TV and the required glasses. Sales are surprisingly brisk for the new technology, he says.

There’s no doubt: 3-D TV is spectacular. It has such depth and realism it magically transforms the TV screen into a world you can almost touch.

But before you join the early adopters and head for the stores, be aware there are cost and content issues to consider.

Not only are the televisions coming on stream at premium prices, they require extras such as 3-D glasses (some TVs come with two sets; you’ll need more for family and friends) and a 3-D Blu-ray Disc player.

Nor is there much 3-D material to watch at the moment, but you can expect several dozen Blu-ray movies to be available by the next holiday season.

Discovery Communications, Sony Corp. and Imax Corp. have partnered to produce a 24-hour 3-D channel, and satellite television provider DirecTV is also introducing a 3-D channel this year.

Bell TV’s vice-president of products and residential services Shawn Omstead says 3-D will be more challenging to adopt than HDTV was several years ago. “The TV manufacturers want to make this work with subsidization of content and hardware. It’s a risk for us providers, but we want to be there for the early phase.”

That early phase includes Discovery Channel’s plan to have 4,000 hours of fresh 3-D content available by November.

There is still debate about how to harness the possibilities of the medium. Douglas Berquist, a Calgary-based director and producer, said at the recent National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas the industry needs a different mindset when shooting 3-D.

“Gone are frequent cuts and fast-paced scenes that told a story for viewers on 2-D shows,” he said. “The eye can’t keep up with fast cuts in 3-D, so we have to think fewer cameras, longer scenes, and let the viewer take in their own personal experience.”

Berquist, whose credits include Death in the Family and The War Bride, thinks good 3-D should give viewers the best seat in the house.

“No surprise, 3-D opera is a big hit in Europe,” he said.

Gaming and sports fans will likely be early 3-D adopters, most experts agree. Sony’s PlayStation 3 will be 3-D upgradeable with game content.

“Gamers don’t mind putting stuff on their heads for that immersive experience,” said LG Electronics Canada marketing team leader Tim Barnes.

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