All sights set on 3-D as IBC begins

Content, piracy, TVs on agenda

AMSTERDAM -- The exhibition portion of the 2007 International Broadcasting Convention opens today with all eyes trained on 3-D.

Methods of producing 3-D content will be a crucial topic at the confab, which runs through Tuesday. Roughly 45,000 delegates from around the world are attending, signaling that interest in the technology is expanding well beyond Hollywood.

"Everyone's waking up to it very quickly," said Mark Horton, strategic marketing manager at U.K.-headquartered manufacturer Quantel. "Three months ago, you would have had a lot of blank stares."

"Everyone's following it avidly because if America puts in 3-D screens, Europe has to as well," added Peter Wilson, director of the technical support group of the European Digital Cinema Forum and director of U.K.-based consulting firm High Definition and Digital Cinema.

"Not everybody believes the Hollywood fast track. I do. Hollywood has said very clearly that content will be ready in 2009. Of course, by 2009 there won't be a very big inventory of 3-D projectors," Wilson added.

Piracy might also be a factor in certain markets. "In China and India, this is a weapon against video piracy," Horton said. "A 3-D studio movie is meaningless to copy. I think that will be a major driver for distributors working inside some of the less world-regulated markets."

Another contributor to the discussion might be the prospect of 3-D TV in the home.

"Some 3-D enabled TV sets are already out," said Jeff Edson, CEO of manufacturer Assimilate, whose Scratch technology is being used as part of the "U2 3D" post workflow at Burbank-based 3Ality. "3-D started in the theater but needs to become more pervasive."

Vince Pace, president of Burbank-based 3-D company PACE, suggested 3-D production needs to increase, and he added that there now are post tools that can efficiently handle 3-D material, making production more cost-effective. Pace developed the Fusion 3-D production system with James Cameron and has been working with Quantel on its 3-D post technology.

"More of the artists and producers and directors are starting to think a little bit more from the start of the project (about 3-D)," said Warner Bros. VP Technology Wendy Aylsworth, who chairs the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers' DC 28 digital cinema committee.

Other 3-D issues will also likely be tackled at the confab, including the challenge of subtitling.

"Most of the 3-D movies that have gone out have been children's movies, so they have been dubbed," Aylsworth said. "But with adult movies, a lot of cultures prefer to have them subtitled.

"There's no good way to display subtitles with a 3-D movie. There are tools that are going to have to be developed for that."

IBC is a partnership of six sponsoring bodies: The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, the International Association of Broadcasting Manufacturers, the Royal Television Society, the IEEE Broadcast Television Society, the Society of Cable Telecommunication Engineers and the Institution of Engineering and Technology.