MONTREAL – Now that 3-D movies are in theatres, the next starring role for this digital technology could be the living room.
Major TV makers are moving to 3-D TVs, hoping that consumers will want to feel like they’re almost inside what they’re watching, but analysts say it could be years before it’s mainstream.
Mitsubishi has a 3-D ready TV and Sony and Panasonic are among manufacturers that are expected to hit the consumer market in 2010 with TVs that could cost at least US$5,000. Consumers will still have to wear special glasses, but digital 3-D is a smooth experience without ill effects.
The manufacturers are following the lead of the movie major studios, which have embraced 3-D with movies like “Monsters vs. Aliens” and “Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs.” Analysts say animated movies naturally lend themselves to the format.
Director James Cameron of “Titanic” fame is releasing his widely anticipated 3-D movie, “Avatar,” which is part animation and part live action, in December in theatres.
Consumers still haven’t widely adopted high-definition television and soon will also be able to buy Internet-connected TVs. Three-D will be yet another choice, but they won’t be sitting down to watch their favourite program in this dimension any time soon.
“You’re looking at many, many years hence before any kind of typical television programming would be 3-D,” said Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey.
What consumers would likely see in 3-D would be sporting events, movies on DVD, video games and pay-per-view concerts, said McQuivey, principal analyst in media technology.
“A three-dimensional hockey fight is probably something a lot of fans would love to see,” he said from Boston.
McQuivey also noted there aren’t any accepted standards for 3-D on TVs and sets will all be different in terms of how they display 3-D technology when they are first for sale.
Despite the challenges, 3-D TVS have been front and centre at recent technology trade shows in Tokyo and Berlin. Even though they’ve been on display at the giant Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas for the last two years, they’re expected to be in the spotlight even more at the 2010 show.
Montreal’s Sensio Technologies Inc. (TSXV:SIO) has 3-D technology that has been used in the broadcast of live concerts and sports events in theatres, 3-D movies on DVD, TV sports events and shows. It also would like its technology in TV sets.
CEO Nicolas Routhier said the first days of 3-D TV will likely be confusing for consumers as they work out what glasses they need to watch it and what their sets can do.
But 2010 will be the beginning of 3-D in the home, he said.
“There have been many 3-D initiatives in the past,” he said. “The difference this time is industry mobilization.”
The video game industry, movie studios and TV makers are all behind it and they will promote it, said Routhier, whose company is part of a consortium to come up with 3-D standards.
Analyst Ben Bajarin said consumers are already starting to become aware of 3-D movies and it “won’t be a massive jump” when it’s offered in the home.
“The content has got to be what really drives this,” said Bajarin, director of consumer technology at Creative Strategies Inc., a U.S. technology industry analysis firm.
He also said the industry needs to adopt standards to make its adoption easier.
Consumers want to be drawn into or “immersed” into what they’re seeing in 3-D, he said, adding it could even be experiencing what a character on screen sees.
“It can’t just stop at where stuff just flies at you,” he said from San Jose, Calif.
McQuivey said TV shows will have to adapt to 3-D and noted that most 3-D experiences involve action at the centre of a person’s vision.
“If everything were fully three dimensional, you would probably bend over and lose your lunch.”