Tuesday, November 25, 2008

3-D: Someone's Pointing Something In Your General Direction

I've done an awful job of keeping you informed of developments in 3-D, even as I've maintained for the last two years that it's the "next big thing" in both videogame consoles and movies, but two developments this week finally shook me out of my lethargy.

The first was an article in the Wall Street Journal noting that next week, a game between San Diego and Oakland will be shown in select theaters in 3-D. That's interesting, event though it's limited to only a few cities (Los Angeles, New York, Boston), but here's something even better:
It is a preliminary step on what is likely a long road to any regular 3-D broadcasts of football games.

The idea is a "proof of concept," says Howard Katz, NFL senior vice president of broadcasting and media operations. "We want to demonstrate this and let people get excited about it and see what the future holds."

The NFL already did this once, with the 2004 Super Bowl, but I think it's different this time--I think this signals a long-term commitment to the idea of doing weekly broadcasts in 3-D, even if it's still five years away. I strongly believe that sporting events are the killer app for 3-D, just like they were for high-definition.

Second, I saw this today:
Panasonic Corp of Japan has disclosed the submission of a proposal to the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA), for a Blu-ray Disc standard to store three-dimensional (3D) imagery formed of left-/right-eye two-channel full-High Definition (HD) images (1,920 x 1,080 pixels). It is also considering submitting a proposal for a High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) standard capable of transmitting 3D imagery. The BDA hopes to begin formal discussion on the standard proposal before the end of 2008, with commercial adoption probably in 2010.

The creation of standards is an important step in the process of mainstreaming any kind of display technology, and I think it's indicative of the growing significance of 3-D.

I know, maybe it sounds crazy that I believe 3-D is going to be huge within the next ten years, but here's some historical perspective. In 2000, plasma screens had just become available to the consumer market. I know, because in the single most self-indulgent moment of my life, I bought one (it was worth every freaking penny). Fast forward eight years, and plasma screens are freaking EVERYWHERE, and they have far superior quality (1080p resolution versus 480p) for roughly 1/5 the price. The prices of high-definition screens of all kinds of display technologies have plummeted.

It only took eight years.

Why did this happen? I think it happened because watching television or a movie in high definition, on larger screen, was so overwhelmingly superior to the mainstream display technology that existed in 2000. It was a quantum leap.

Having seen 3-D in HD in a movie theater, I think it's another quantum leap. Yes, there are unquestionably significant technical issues associated with home use, particularly viewing angle, but it's a question of "when" someone gets the technology right, not "if."

"When" is going to be here very soon.

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