By Rakesh Raman
When consumer electronics (CE) behemoth LG demoed its 3D home entertainment gadgets with the help of two dad bloggers who competed for the best techorated living room, the company signaled the increasing dominance of 3D technology in the entertainment markets.
Today, LG is among the many players in the cutthroat 3D race. While there’s still a dearth of 3D content, the hardware companies are already very aggressive to tap every inch of the potential market. The hot target areas include 3D TV programming, 3D movies, and 3D games.
While tech companies are fast introducing the frontend boxes for consumers to receive 3D content in all categories –TV shows, films, and games – content creators are trying hard to keep a constant supply of 3D software for all types of consumers.
As this is the transition phase when 3D is trying to consolidate its position in the market, vendors are offering hybrid machines that also handle 2D content. In the case of TVs, for example, you get 3D-ready sets, which can deliver 2D as well as 3D programs. And full-3D sets are designed to handle exclusive 3D programs.
Like LG, other CE companies including Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, and China’s TCL are offering their brands of 3D TVs. The initial products expected consumers to wear special glasses to view 3D TV. However, now you can get glasses-free TV sets. Depending on their features, the prices range from $1,000 – $3,000.
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The high-end ones target only the deep-pocketed buyers. Last year, Bang & Olufsen, a leading provider of home theaters and custom multi-room music systems, introduced its first 3D TV – the new BeoVision 4-85 inch plasma screen with a price tag of a whopping $85,000.
Companies are also offering packaged deals to consumers. LG, for example, launched two LG CINEMA 3D entertainment packages, which include an LG CINEMA 3D HDTV, 3D Blu-ray Disc player and four pairs of LG’s lightweight 3D glasses – all packed together in one box.
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To bring exclusivity in the 3D content market, the joint venture of Sony Corporation, Discovery Communications and IMAX Corporation launched its first 24/7 fully programmed, general entertainment 3D television network in the U.S.
Known as 3net, the channel features the world’s largest library of native 3D television content and was launched about a year ago.
Like 3net, other content players are also entering the 3D arena. Of late, Wealth TV, a luxury lifestyle and entertainment network, launched its linear 3D lifestyle and entertainment channel branded Wealth TV 3D, which is the accumulation of a two year 3D production ramp effort that involved in-house and outside production crews.
To enhance content volume, 3net and Tiny Island Productions, Singapore’s leading Stereoscopic-3D CG animation production company signed a deal granting 3net U.S. 3D broadcast, home video, publishing and merchandising rights to Dream Defenders.
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While content shortage is a major challenge in the 3D market, 3net, which is a major player, is encouraging others to produce 3D programs. It has even released a guide to 3D television production.
The guide outlines in detail all of the facets involved in creating 3D content for television, from initial workflow planning, to production, post production, stereographic correction and final delivery.
Along with home entertainment segment, 3D vendors are also eyeing the movie market that has the potential to bring big bucks.
Movie makers believe that it’s not only the advanced markets that have potential to consume 3D content, but the emerging markets can also be quite lucrative in the long run. That’s why they’re going to such new territories with special offers.
In the wake of China’s encouraging box-office opening of Titanic 3D, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment (FOX) and Sony have announced an exclusive, large-scale bundling partnership for the film’s Blu-ray 3D release this fall.
Offering a bundling and promotional program in China, James Cameron’s epic love story will be packaged with Sony’s Blu-ray Player and Blu-ray Home Theatre to provide consumers with a fully immersive Blu-ray 3D in-home experience.
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Likewise, the Walt Disney Company is also launching new projects in China. Looking at the future demand, it will serve as an incubator to train local talent and develop original content that will entertain audiences in China and worldwide.
By just applying the population yardstick, India with 1.2 billion people should also hold a similar potential like China. However, the Indian film market – including Hindi cinema (which operates under the banner Bollywood) and regional language films – is not quite advanced.
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As most Indian films target price-sensitive consumers, the local producers create cheap films that also lack content quality. So, even Hollywood companies will find it very difficult to change cinemagoers’ taste in India and sell their expensive 3D content.
However, 3D is poised to be the future of films at least in the advanced markets of the world.
“I’m certain that 3D is the way people will want to continue enjoying their entertainment, whether it’s in a movie theater or on television,” believes James Cameron.
While Cameron’s blockbuster AVATAR proved to be a real harbinger of this change toward 3D, today almost all big Hollywood movie makers are focusing on this emerging market.
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IMAX Corporation and Warner Bros. Pictures offered the fantasy action adventure Wrath of the Titans in the immersive IMAX 3D format. The Amazing Spider-Man, The Ultimate Marvel Marathon, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax: An IMAX 3D Experience, Titanic in 3D, Michael Bay’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon, sequel to STAR TREK from director J.J. Abrams, Warner Bros. Pictures’ Green Lantern are among the other top examples of 3D trend.
It’s believed that animation will prove to be a catalyst in the growth of 3D market. It’s evident from the 3D, CG-animated family comedy Arthur Christmas, an Aardman production for Sony Pictures Animation. Recently, it added a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Animated Feature to a growing list of accolades.
Although the 3D games scene is not as bright as it’s for television and movies, there have been some noteworthy strides in the video games category. It’s also observed that the major initiatives are being taken on the mobile gaming front.
To promote 3D games on mobiles, LG Mobile and Gameloft, a leading global publisher of digital and social games, brought gaming alive with the “N.O.V.A. 3D” gaming tournament. Using LG Thrill 4G, a glasses-free 3D smartphone, gamers gathered to compete for the chance to be crowned tournament champion.
Among the games, the Super Mario video game franchise expanded into a new dimension with the launch of the Super Mario 3D Land game. Created exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS hand-held system, this new game places Mario and his friends in immersive environments that players can enjoy in true 3D without the need for special glasses.
Moreover, Nintendo is teaming up with some of today’s hottest musical artists to bring a flurry of 3D music video premieres to users of the Nintendo Video service for Nintendo 3DS.
Disney Interactive Studios introduced Disney•Pixar’s Cars 2: The Video Game. According to the company, the game for Nintendo 3DS will offer the very best in eye-popping gameplay through the system’s stereoscopic 3D display.
With Toy Village, Glu brings classic childhood toys to life with 3D graphics in its interactive resource management game. Players are tasked with helping Patch, the toy shop dog, with rebuilding Smalltown and creating a new home for lost toys after a storm has left the community in disarray.
For game developers, leading 3D software and content company Digital Art Zone (DAZ) has introduced the newest version of its 3D male model, Michael 5 for Genesis.
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Besides games, there has been a significant progress on the hardware side also to run 3D games. Interactive entertainment company Nintendo has introduced portable entertainment in 3D – without the need for special glasses – for gamers. Nintendo 3DS includes two screens. The bottom touch screen makes use of a telescoping stylus that is stored in the unit itself. The top screen displays 3D visuals to the naked eye.
Toshiba has introduced two new high-performance laptops for gamers. Using latest Intel and NVIDIA technologies, these machines are designed to run 3D games.
While the action is getting hot in the 3D market, there are factors that will spur and hamper the growth. The improved quality of content will certainly attract consumers, the affordability and availability of content are among the major challenges.
LG Mobile is focusing on addressing the three main barriers to the mass adoption of 3D technology: accessibility, technology and content.
However, these are the teething troubles associated with any fledgling market. The way 3D is attracting the tech as well as entertainment companies on one side and consumers on the other, shows that rosy days are ahead for all the stakeholders in this new ecosystem.
By Rakesh Raman, the managing editor of RMN Digital.
Read More Raman Media Network (RMN) Reports on Global Tech Trends