Yesterday, Panasonic and Xpand, makers of mostly commercial active-shutter 3D glasses, announced a standard synchronization protocol for this type of eyewear called M-3DI. The new standard is intended to improve compatibility between 3D TVs and home projectors, computers, and digital cinema, a problem that has plagued the current 3D marketplace since its inception over a year ago.
Last week, Canadian company VisuaLABS Inc. announced what it describes as a prototype of the first high-definition 3D video projector using the company's proprietary 3D technology. A company statement claims that "for the first time, the sparkling, filmlike reality of HDTV can be seen with true, measurable depth onscreen. The 3D images are entirely viewable with the naked eye."
I've written enthusiastically in the past about the SENSIO 3D video processing system. 3D - at least in its current technological incarnation - isn't the type of thing that lends itself to casual TV viewing (i.e., news, sitcoms, and exercise videos - although the faceurs at "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" probably have the right sensibility to make great comedic use of it). When done right with appropriate subject matter, on the other hand, it's like having a thrill ride in the middle of your living room. But as amazing as the SENSIO 3D system is, it's little more than a sideshow wonder without a good base of 3D software to maintain your interest.
Most TV makers are presenting 3D as a desirable new feature for upper-echelon sets. Sony is taking a more aggressive approach, at least in the Japanese market. In 2011 nearly all models 40 inches and up will be 3D capable, relegating 2D to a minority of smaller models.
Look out, Dolby and DTS. The 3D Audio Alliance, a consortium put together by SRS Labs, is developing a new "object oriented" surround standard that would rethink surround sound as it's currently constituted.
The 3DAA standard would focus not on channels but on objects within the soundfield, specifying their location and movement. The playback system -- whether stereo, 5.1, or 11.1 -- would then deploy the objects as well as possible within their inherent limitations.
While 3DTV has captured the imaginations of some consumers, most are unmoved, an online poll by Vision Critical shows. Only five percent of Americans, two percent of Britons, and one percent of Canadians have a 3DTV set at home.
Moreover, the skeptics are not likely to turn into purchasers within the next six months. They include 81 percent of Americans and Britons, and 95 percent of Canadians. This is despite high levels of awareness, with more than four out of five consumers in each nation familiar with the technology.
Yesterday we covered a CEA study indicating that an overwhelming majority consumers who see 3DTV demos on the retail floor like them. But there are still obstacles to acceptance, according to a study conducted in a decidedly different environment by Nielsen for the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing.
Well, that didn't take long. Less than two months after 3DTVs were introduced at CES, some models are already available for consumers to purchase. The first out of the gate are Samsung's UN46C7000 and UN55C7000 LED edge-lit LCD TVs (shown here), which can be purchased at Amazon.com for $2339 and $2969, respectively, as well as a few other online retailers such as Crutchfield, which has the 46 in stock for $2400 and is taking pre-orders for the 55 for $3060. Soon to follow are some Panasonic plasmas, which are scheduled to go on sale at Best Buy on March 10, marking the first time that 3DTVs will be available at brick-and-mortar outlets.
The long-anticipated debut of 3net, a 24/7 3D network co-founded by Discovery Communications, Sony, and Imax, is set for Sunday, February 13, 2011, at 8:00 PM ET, when it will be carried on DirecTV's channel 107. Those who tune in that evening will see China Revealed, followed by Into the Deep, which took the Imax 3D camera underwater for the first time, and Forgotten Planet, a look at the "strangest places on Earth."
The list of North American channels offering Dolby Digital 5.1 sound has just grown by four. In a press release dated July 19, Dolby Laboratories announced that City HD, Encore HD, TNT in HD, and The WB will all offer programming in Dolby Digital 5.1. This brings the total number of networks featuring the surround format to the mid-20s (and the number of individual channels to somewhere in the 80s—Dolby is not being terribly specific about the precise numbers).
At the recent Showest trade show for the commercial-cinema industry, one the most important announcements was a $315M deal between Sony and AMC, one of the country's largest movie-theater chains, to install Sony 4K SXRD digital-cinema projectors for all 4628 screens in its 309 theaters over the next few years. Currently, AMC has 150 Sony 4K projectors in 11 theaters.