How Blu-ray Could Speed Up 3D TV Adoption

5:34 PM PST 01/03/2011 by Carolyn Giardina
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The format's stakeholders are making a big push to increase consumer awareness as well as the penetration of 3D players and televisions.

Remember the videotape format war between VHS and Betamax in the 1970s and '80s? When wide adoption of a new consumer packaged-media format is at stake, format launches aren't always smooth.

Blu-ray Disc is the latest example. It struggled out of the gate in 2006 while engaged in a fierce battle with HD DVD to become the high-def format of choice, a contest it won in 2008 when HD DVD conceded and manufacturers ceased production.

Now, just a year after its introduction at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show, 3D Blu-ray is leading the charge to bring 3D -- the next frontier for packaged media -- into the home.

There are roughly 30 3D movie titles currently in retail stores (with more on the way), and players have been created by leading consumer electronics manufacturers including LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba and Vizio.

Industrywide agreement was key to the success of a 3D format launch, according to Andy Parsons, U.S. chairman of the Blu-ray Disc Assn.'s promotions committee and senior vp product planning at Pioneer Home Entertainment Group.

Last spring, the BDA formed a 3D task force comprised of industry stakeholders to develop a 3D technical spec -- essentially the blueprint for the 3D format used by all manufacturers -- and it took only eight months for the spec to be agreed upon and completed.

"I don't think I've ever seen an association turn out a spec in such rapid time," Parsons said. "The alternative would have been two or three different ways to do 3D on a disc -- and that's death to a format. Everyone understood that could happen. We avoided what could have been an ugly, messy situation."

Since its introduction, 2D Blu-ray has also been challenged by Internet-based services that offer movie downloads and streaming, and there are many who remain skeptical about whether a new packaged media format is needed or can even survive in today's connected world. Others believe 3D could become the defining feature of the Blu-ray format.

As the New Year begins, stakeholders are focused on growing consumer awareness, as well as the penetration of 3D players and TVs along with the amount of available content.

"We will see large 3D (Blu-ray) theatrical releases, timed day-and-date with their 2D Blu-ray counterparts," says Rich Marty, vp new business marketing at Sony. First up was Resident Evil: Afterlife on Dec. 28. The Green Hornet, opening theatrically Jan. 14, will be among the titles arriving later in the year.

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