While 3D is becoming more popular in movie theaters, it has a number of hurdles to overcome before arriving in the home. I’m not talking about the occasional 3D show that forces viewers to use 50’s-style red/blue glasses, but the more sophisticated 3D technologies used in movie theaters that use polarized (passive) and shutter-type (active) glasses.
The main drawback at the moment is a lack of a defined standard – at the recent Hollywood Post Alliance Technology Retreat, there were a number of 3DTV panel discussions and demonstrations, and as one presenter put it “It takes about eight years to define a SMPTE standard on average, and as far as 3DTV in the home goes, we’re at five minutes to midnight.”
Another panelist pointed out that current systems being proposed rely on alternating left-eye/right-eye-encoded frames, and that the burgeoning crop of LCD sets that feature 120 Hz or higher refresh rates include frame interpolation processing that effectively destroys the 3D frame-encoding. While most of these high refresh HDTVs provide the user with the ability to turn the refresh function off, that capability is often buried deep within a setup or advanced settings sub-menu, something the average TV viewer is loathe to tinker with (most buyers end up watching their new HDTV with the factory default settings, and never ever fiddle with these types of adjustments).
At the recent NAB show, Panasonic showed a complete end-to-end 3DTV professional solution, with stereoscopic (dual lens) HD cameras, 3D encoding and mastering equipment and the like, but theirs is but one proposed system. If 3DTV is ever going to get off the ground, the broadcast and production industries will have to move quickly to define a single standard, in much the same way that the HDTV broadcast standard evolved from using best elements from the five main HDTV system proponents – the so-called “Grand Alliance”.
I don’t see that happening anytime soon with 3DTV, so for now, I’ll sit back and watch and wait – things could gel into a single standard, or not, and consumers could be deluged with multiple incompatible systems which could cause the whole thing to collapse.