Want some good news about 3D? In an exclusive interview with 3D Focus, 3D@Home consortium Managing Director Heidi Hoffman, explains why it is too early to write off 3D TV as so many are in the media and why 3D television and gaming is likely to have a very bright future.
If you are beginning to reconsider that 3DTV purchase or are questioning whether your production company should invest in 3D production tools, Heidi’s words might be reassuring to you in these unsure times!
We start by asking Heidi when we can expect 3D to penetrate the mainstream markets…
Heidi Hoffman: We believe that based on the interest level of content creators, a good start up the learning curve and the strong pace of innovation by the signal carriers, that 3D programs will be available to many households by 2016. Which segment of those homes actually has installed a 3DTV is really going to be based on TV replacement rates as well as market demand driven by content. So there are many factors at work.
"I believe we have come too far and too many have realized the advantages of the 3D experience to go back to only 2D at this point."
3D Focus: A recent report by Informa suggested less than half of UK 3DTV owners will be actively watching 3D TV by 2016 – 5 million. Is your glass half empty or half full considering that? Some would say 5 million is a lot, others would say it represents a small proportion of the TV viewing audience.
Heidi Hoffman: Our glass is always half full. The amount of technical changes underway now in the corporate organisations that produce 3D content, send it over digital networks and airways, and make the hardware that will receive, process and display it, is INCREDIBLE from our position in the eco-system. The television and entertainment eco-system is providing an upgraded experience with every new generation of digital equipment. 3D is an exciting part of that upgrade and consumers who participate in upgrading their equipment will be the ones that benefit.
3D Focus: A report by NPD suggests people are not as concerned about wearing the glasses as they were last year. Many observers claim glasses free 3DTV needs to be an affordable reality for 3D in the home to take off. Based on the NPD findings, do you think that observation is a misjudgment?
Heidi Hoffman: We believe that the people who will wait for glasses-free 3D TV will miss a lot of the entertainment experience they could be having right now. It will be quite some time, and several significant technology development cycles before glasses free 3D TV is available for the home at the same enjoyment level as eyewear-based 3D is today in terms of resolution and cost.
There are, however, a great number of glasses free 3D applications that will take off and drive down the cost and improve the technology during that time and provide great glasses-free 3D experiences on a personal or professional basis. The good thing is that it appears likely; 3D programs that are developed today will run perfectly well on whatever 3D platform they are viewed on, so there is no ‘format-war’ for programs or media.
"I believe that when we look back in 50 years we will see that the 3D entertainment experience is a jumping off point for new realms of entertainment that we experience from our homes and offices."
3D Focus: Do you think the cheaper active/shutter glasses based 3D TV system has been damaging to the industry when in store demos require people to look through glasses in a stand, the flicker effect, interference from lighting etc?
Heidi Hoffman: The sales and adoption of 3D HDTV has definitely been constrained by the traditional in-store experience. I believe the best place to sell a 3D HDTV is in a friend’s living room — as some of the higher-end, and more successful video retailers have demonstrated. When 3D is viewed from an uncomfortable angle, in less than optimal lighting, with non-functioning or dirty eyewear, or with less-than intriguing content, it is not a good experience and certainly doesn’t give a customer a reason to buy. However, the opposite is true: when the content is a favorite, there is a comfortable seat available, the eyewear is clean and functioning appropriately, and the television is in the right place, the potential customer can FEEL the difference and is much more likely to realise the benefits of enabling their own 3D TV experience in their own home. Thus, there is a domino effect for the 3D experience.
3D Focus: Chris Johns, Head Engineer of Sky, said that 3D will eventually be the prime way of viewing television during the recent 3DTV World Forum in London. Do you agree or disagree with that?
Heidi Hoffman: I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Johns’ statement. If I could, I would watch all of my television in 3D. The 3D experience is much closer to being there and is more representative of real life than 2D.
3D Focus: There are lots of reports claiming 3DTV is struggling to take off. Price for active 3D TVs is now no longer an issue (as low as £500 in the UK) and people purchased HD TVs before there was much HD content to watch. Why do you think it is? Do you believe people will always associate 3D with the big, event experience of the cinema – not the home?
Heidi Hoffman: I don’t believe 3D is struggling. It is experiencing similar growth as many other technologies. This one is highly visible, however, because television plays such a huge role in the lives of so many people, is a major appliance purchase and changes the dynamic of what has been a very popular – yet mundane – daily entertainment experience.
The digitisation of our daily lives has made many new experiences possible and making television more realistic is just one of them. I believe that when we look back in 50 years we will see that the 3D entertainment experience is a jumping off point for new realms of entertainment that we experience from our homes and offices. Again, technology will bring people together and those that choose to do so will enrich their lives by learning more about the world around them and expand their creativity and imaginations.
3D Focus: Has the industry been too quick to try and normalise 3D in the home? For example, High TV is a 24/7 3D channel broadcasting genres as varied as current affairs and cookery. Should 3D be positioned as the one off Blu-ray blockbuster experience?
Heidi Hoffman: The industry has introduced 3D TV as a product because the television product was ready. If television manufacturers had waited for the programming or content, none would have been made because there was nothing for consumers to watch it on – a typical chicken and egg story. Now, we have 3D TVs in homes and public venues, we have an consistently increasing number of programs, films and events, and now, the broadcasters are determining better and better ways to get that programming to homes. The eco-system is continuing to develop and none of this would have happened without products in the market that consumers could buy. For a first-generation technology, 3D TVs actually entered the market quite mature. 3D televisions purchased today will show 3D programming long into the future.
As for cooking shows….if you enjoyed them….I bet you would love them in 3D!
3D Focus: Have you got any indications whether gaming will be the savior of 3D in the home?
Heidi Hoffman: Gaming is another great application of 3D technology. Games are more fun, more realistic, and more savage in 3D. 3D brings in more players, but that market is healthy and driven by the development of powerful silicon processing that really benefits non-gamer technology as well.
"People who will wait for glasses-free 3D TV will miss a lot of the entertainment experience they could be having right now"
3D Focus: What do you expect the 3D in the home landscape to look like by 2016?
Heidi Hoffman: More, more, more. We believe there will be more programming, more systems, and more customers. The products will be more interoperable and customers will benefit from a more streamlined 3D experience.
3D Focus: Have you been surprised by the slow uptake of 3DTV? not surprised? If so why? Or do you think the whole judgment has been too premature and people should not be panicking?
Heidi Hoffman: Yes, I believe that no one should be panicking. The market is behaving exactly as it should, with a gradual uptake in 3D purchases and installations. The rate of adoption is as expected for a major appliance purchase. The gradual roll-out give broadcasters and content producers also time to further refine their skills at creating, filming, editing, producing, and distributing their products.
3D Focus: Finally, have you got any further comment about the problems 3D is having in the home right now or at least 'perceived' problems?
Heidi Hoffman: I don’t see the problems that you see. I see organisations that are putting in a tremendous amount of time and resources into defining a great 3D experience and trying to make it better. Be that creating programs better, sending the data better, displaying it better – this all takes time and is not just another app that can be added to a TV. First technologists and executives must make decisions and introduce products. Then analysts and consumers can make their decisions and influence other consumers. This all takes time and energy. I believe we have come too far and too many have realized the advantages of the 3D experience to go back to only 2D at this point. Again, the glass is half-full.
The 3D@Home Consortium was formed in 2008 with the mission to speed the commercialization of 3D into homes worldwide and provide the best possible viewing experience by facilitating the development of standards, roadmaps and education for the entire 3D industry – from content, hardware and software providers to consumers
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