The first reaction to the topic of 3D is “how can I watch 3D?” or “how does 3D work?” Let me give you a first introduction by looking at the value chain step by step.
First, the content producer needs to produce in 3D. This is done by using two cameras (or one camera with two lenses) instead of just one. Remember that we also have two lenses and call them eyes. Eyes enable us to see two slightly different angles of one object and our brain translates this into a three dimensional picture. The method of producing with two separate cameras is called stereoscopy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereoscopy). The alternative method is a digital conversion from two dimensional video into 3D. This conversion can be done at low cost in large volume (even in real-time!), and there are also high-end service providers who manually work on a frame-by-frame basis with higher quality and cost. However, please be aware that most buyers we know, are looking for genuine (stereoscopic) 3D.
The second step is postproduction. Even off-the-shelf edit suites today can handle the necessary functions albeit requiring more computer power (http://www.apple.com/uk/finalcutstudio/motion/). The most common end product is a side-by-side video file or discrete (separate) left and right eye streams (http://www.best-3dtvs.com/what-is-side-by-side-3d/).
Third, broadcasting a 3D signal as a TV channel or as VOD offering requires technical adaption of existing HD infrastructure in order for the 3D signal to reach the audience.
Finally, how can a consumer watch 3D. Obviously there are many methods and I want to highlight the most important ones.
– Movie Theatre
The projectors in the theaters alternate left and right eye at very high speeds and the glasses separate the two streams again so that the brain compiles it into a 3D image. For example: www.xpandcinema.com
– On your laptop or handphone
German optical firm Zeiss has developed high tech viewing devices with two separate screens for each eye. I have seen the new OLED prototypes and the 16:9 picture quality is superb. You can plug in to any HDMI or VGA output and the Cinemizers are also compatible with the iPhone and other smartphones. http://www.zeiss.com/cinemizer
– BluRay Players
Yes, new BluRay players are 3D compatible and the first titles are already available for rental or sale. But don´t forget that you still need a viewing device (Cinemizers or a 3DTV) to be able to enjoy the 3D effect. The BluRay is just a storage medium.
New 3D TVs have been the hottest consumer electronic gadget since CES 2010 and the FIFA World Cup with all manufacturers introducing new models to the international markets. Prices still vary but are dropping very fast. Early adopters are complaining about the relatively high cost of each pair of glasses (these are active glasses that shutter at high frequency and need to be recharged), but sales are picking up everywhere. LG, Toshiba, Panasonic and Sony´s Bravia are the most popular brands but Samsung claims to own a 90 percent global market share. www.samsung.com
– The Future: No glasses needed
This is by far the most exciting trend in 3D. Playstation introduced a handheld console with a 3D screen in early 2010. LG announced the first 3D phone without glasses in early 2011. And numerous TV manufacturers including Toshiba are developing a large screen 3DTV that do not require glasses. While everyone in this space believes that this will be the killer application for 3D, 2011 and 2012 will probably not see widespread introduction of these next generation TVs.