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CES Wrap-up: 3D Gets Serious

Jan 20, 2009 9:08 AM, By Rebecca Day


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If you thought the opening ceremony of the Olympics were impressive in HD, try catching a clip in 3D. Panasonic wowed attendees at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this month in Las Vegas with a demo of 3D clips on its 103in. plasma, showing off the in-your-face excitement of next-gen video on everything from animation and film to the Beijing Olympics.

Panasonic wasn't alone in the 3D parade. Nvidia took Guitar Hero to the next dimension at its CES booth. The company's Nvidia 3D Vision for GeForce package is currently on the market, offering gamers 3D via an ensemble of high-tech wireless glasses, a high-power IR emitter, and software that automatically transforms existing PC games into full stereoscopic 3D. The $199 bundle is designed to work with Samsung and ViewSonic 120Hz LCD monitors, Mitsubishi DLP HDTVs, and the DepthQ HD 3D projector by Lightspeed. Design.

3D's biggest splash came from Sony, which trumpeted 3D at the keynote address, in its booth, and at a public showing of the BCS Fedex Bowl game between Florida and Oklahoma in a specially configured theater at the Paris Hotel. At the CES keynote at the Venetian Palazzo Ballroom, it was Sony teaming with DreamWorks and RealD, whose stereoscopic Cinema System is expected to find its way into a range of 3D content including films, live events, and "other mediums to come," according to company chairman and CEO Michael Lewis. Addressing showgoers at the keynote, DreamWorks Animation CEO and 3D zealot Jeffrey Katzenberg says 3D represents the third revolution of events in the history of cinema. That's no small pronouncement given that the first two in Katzenberg's book were the arrival of sound and the arrival of color. (Panasonic's North American CEO Yoshi Yamada placed 3D behind the switch from black-and-white to color and the shift from tube TVs to flat panels).

Katzenberg teased the audience with a sneak preview of DreamWorks' upcoming flick, Monsters vs. Aliens, due in theaters in March in RealD 3D. His enthusiasm reached beyond RealD's solution to the larger 3D universe. "We are in the midst of a defining moment in movie-going history, wherein audiences for the first time can enjoy the extraordinary new innovations in 3D filmmaking and exhibition," he says. "We are thrilled to work alongside RealD and all content creators who are committed to the worldwide deployment of digital 3D." Katzenberg has even pledged to make all upcoming animations in 3D. RealD's Cinema System combines eyewear, screen, and filtering technology. According to today's 3D proponents, the eyewear required to make 3D happen—long considered an impediment to 3D's serious adoption—is far more comfortable than the goggles used in previous attempts. Some are even comparing the new specs to fashion sunglasses.

Of course, there's nothing new about 3D. Movies came to the cinema for the first time in the '50s and appeared over the years as a novelty. But lack of studio content and unwieldy viewing glasses kept 3D on the cinematic fringe. Today, add incompatible transmission methods to the mix. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) took an active interest in the advancement of 3D last fall when it commissioned a group to examine the possibility of a 3D video standard.

Despite the obstacles, 3D won't go away, and by all accounts, 3D represents the next dimension of specialized cinematic realism now that HD has gone mainstream. But how long will consumers have to wait for true HD in the living room? Panasonic's Yamada gave 3D TVs a 2010 target date to make it into the home, an optimistic forecast even in a healthy economy. A Blu-ray 3D standard first, then comfortable eyewear for early adopters, and home-theater owners may be riding the new way. No glasses at all, and you just might bring in the masses.



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