Call out for 3-D digital-cinema standards

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LAS VEGAS -- Disney's preparations to release "Meet the Robinsons" on March 30 in 3-D demonstrates a pressing need for 3-D digital-cinema delivery standards to help the movement proceed forward.

"We are having to create eight different file formats for the digital-cinema equipment currently used for 3-D display," Disney vp production technology Howard Lukk said. "Add the different languages that also have to be delivered for worldwide release, and that makes up to 42 separate packages at the moment."

These packages would be used to deliver digital 3-D versions of the film to about 650 digital-cinema screens worldwide that are expected to be 3-D ready for the release.

"It is very time-consuming and expensive to create all the versions to play on all those different screens throughout the world," Lukk said. "(The lack of standards) impacts every 3-D release that we do, and it impacts everyone else who would do a 3-D release. We really need to get some standards set around 3-D; if nothing more, at least the file-delivery format."

Standards-setting body the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers already has started work toward standardizing 3-D delivery. A 3-D ad hoc committee exists as part of SMPTE's digital-cinema standards-setting initiative. "The problem is that sometimes it is a very slow process," Lukk said.

To assist in the effort, Lukk encouraged manufacturers to come to a consensus on a standard to simplify 3-D content delivery.

This is not an insignificant issue, particularly at a time when distributors and exhibitors have identified 3-D as a killer app for digital cinema, and in doing so, kicked 3-D interest into high gear. "If we don't get our heads around a standard, it is going to complicate things and make it difficult to deliver 3-D," Lukk said.
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