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3-D Trend in TV and Movies

Photonics Spectra
Jul 2008
Anne L. Fischer

High-definition has a new feature: Now viewers can have their media in three dimensions. An increasing number of movies are being shown in 3-D, and consumers want to watch them at home. Analysts are predicting strong sales for stereoscopic 3-D and 3-D-ready televisions to watch these movies and other available content, such as video games.


Estimates of the number of 3-D and 3-D-ready televisions that will be sold range from conservative to optimistic, depending upon consumer demand. Source: Insight Media.

According to the “2008 3D Television Report” released in May by Insight Media of Norwalk, Conn., content, broadcast formats and display technology either are already in place or soon will be for 3-D television. The report differentiates between a 3-D-ready version, which requires an extra decoder box or 3-D glasses, and a 3-D television, which allows the viewer to watch 3-D right out of the box.

Three-dimensional media is not expected to affect the total size of the market, according to Insight Media, because few consumers are expected to buy a new set just to get 3-D. However, when in the store to buy a new high-definition television (HDTV), the consumer will be faced with a choice of 2-D only, 3-D-ready or full 3-D.

Adding 3-D

Matthew Brennesholtz, analyst at Insight Media and an author of the report, says HDTV manufacturers can add 3-D to HDTV sets using plasma or digital light processing technology for little or no extra cost to the consumer. This is done mostly by rearranging the existing image processing that is already in these sets. The viewer then can use active LCD shutter glasses to view the eye-sequential 3-D. The current generation of LCD sets is not fast enough for eye-sequential operation, so it can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to add 3-D.

A conservative forecast estimates that approximately 1.8 million 3-D-ready and 3-D HDTVs will sell this year, while sales will jump to more than 18 million by 2012. Initially, virtually all sales will be 3-D-ready sets, and many of these will go to consumers who are not even aware that they are buying a 3-D TV. As 3-D becomes more popular, Insight Media expects full 3-D TV sets to dominate sales and forecasts that they will outsell 3-D-ready ones by 6:1 in 2012. The 18 million or more 3-D sets projected to be sold worldwide in 2012 still represent only a small portion of the total digital TV market, which is expected to be more than 180 million units worldwide in 2012.

In addition to forecasts and analysis, the report includes fundamentals on stereoscopic images and consumer preferences. Also included are details on how 3-D content is created, various 2- and 3-D display technologies, and 3-D projection technologies such as collocated pixel 3-D generated by two projectors and time-sequential 3-D from a single projector.

Three-dimensional cinema is discussed as an ongoing trend, which the analysts expect to reach critical mass in 2009. Brennesholtz added that, next year, a substantial number of movies will be released in 3-D. With more theaters equipped for it, some movies will be released only in 3-D, with no accompanying 2-D version. However, home viewing of movies presents a problem for the film industry because 3-D television will not penetrate the home market for at least one or two more years. Because DVD revenues represent a major portion of industry revenues, 3-D movies will have to be released in 2-D versions on DVD for home viewers.

One reason for the range of forecasts in the report, from a conservative 18 million to an optimistic 40 million units worldwide, is the key issue of whether the consumer wants 3-D TV, according to Brennesholtz. It is expected that, even after 3-D content becomes readily available, most TV viewing still will be 2-D content. If 3-D movies, games and other content ignite consumer interest in watching 3-D at home, then 3-D television should take off.

“If not, it can still be expected to have modest sales,” according to Brennesholtz, amounting to the conservative forecast. With all parts in place in the industry — from content creation through television displays — and a small but growing group of enthusiastic consumers, analysts anticipate that, unlike the 3-D movie fad of the 1950s, this time 3-D will become a permanent part of the entertainment landscape.

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