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CES: 3D TV Needs Glasses-Free, High Dynamic Range Reboot

A panel, moderated by THR's Carolyn Giardina, discussed the reasons why the market hasn't taken off yet.

3D TV Televsion LG - H 2012
Getty Images

LAS VEGAS -- While 3D continues to make good box office in theatrical worldwide, the 3D TV market has stalled until quality autostereoscopic screens -- glasses-free 3D TV -- and greater volumes of content enter the market. That was the conclusion of a Thursday panel at the International CES moderated by The Hollywood Reporter's Carolyn Giardina.

"[3D] needs a restart in the U.S.," said Steve Schklair, CEO of 3Ality Technica. "The momentum for 3D is diminished. You need a gamechanger, and that will be autostereo."

Jim Mainard, head of digital strategy and new business development at DreamWorks Animation, said he hoped Netflix would help kick-start the market. "Netflix, as I understand it, has acquired the 3D rights to content when they buy the 2D rights," he said. "So if they have a premium channel out there ready to be exploited, and if we are in need of a reboot, then Netflix might help kick-start it, especially given its appeal among younger people and families."

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But Barry Sandrew, founder of 2D-3D conversion outfit Legend3D, warned that "autostereo in the home is not there yet. I am pessimistic that lenticular and parallax barrier autostereo technology is going to make it into the home in any significant way."

He added: "Any new 3D technology has to be sufficiently different, and I believe that this means High Dynamic Range (HDR) Ultra HD. I saw HDR video from Dolby, and it blew me away."

"When you take a 2K or 4K image and present it in HDR, you've got an image that has never been seen before. It is pristine. You can do it in 2K and up-res to 4K, and it's still better. It's not about the number of pixels, it's about the data. So I believe systems and flat panels capable of displaying HDR will be a major theme of CES 2015, and in turn these will become the Trojan horse for autostereo."

Mainard agreed that the ultimate TV is not going to be one with the most pixels. "I would suggest an extended color gamut is more pipeline-friendly and that most people looking at it would not know if the picture looked better because of enhanced color or more pixels. The crispness and color is perceptible by everyone," he said.

The exec believes the reason for 3D TV's sluggish debut was technological. "Theatrical is thriving, and studios are not stepping away from 3D anytime soon. The big miss is in the home. I was among many who said that glasses would not be an issue. But it turns out that while 3D was being introduced, the second screen experience came in," he said. "3D active shutter glasses competed with second screens, so there was this occlusion of technologies. I think, though, that autostereo will make up for that barrier in the home."

Several panelists said other reasons for 3D's slow acceptance in the home is the lack of content, especially in the U.S. "Even on sports events you were watching 2D games shot with 45 cameras and the same game in 3D shot with six cameras," said Schklair. "The storytelling in 3D was not as good because it was never given a chance to be."

According to Schklair, markets like China are thriving on 3D TV and film production and may push 3D content back to the U.S.

"China may be the tail wagging the dog," he said. "The market is so large, and the production costs lower for the same production values. It will then migrate 3D content back to these shores."