Al Caudullo, a long-time business partner and friend and I just returned from our second 3D Expo in Beijing. Last year we were successful with selling his (and other) films to the Chinese 3D channels. And 2014 looks to be promising for the 3D industry in China as well. I have spoken at several 3D events and blogged at length about this market in the past. See here, here, and here. So today, I am copying Al’s speech from last week about the Chinese Opportunity in the 3D Industry.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Honored guests and 3D industry professionals I would like to thank the organizers for inviting me back for a second year. I have lived in Thailand for the last 12 years. And have been asked to speak about Chinese opportunity in the 3D Industry. A statement was made recently that, I felt summed up the theme here today.
“Hollywood must start thinking bigger about China.”
That statement by Janet Yang of “Joy Luck Club” and “Shanghai Calling” fame. The pronouncement rings very true. And things have started to change in that regard. The world has taken note of those changes. IronMan 3, The Man With the Iron Fists and the upcoming Transformers 4 and Kung Fu Panda 3, all 3D movies, are blockbuster proof of that.
The list of Hollywood Studios coming to China grows almost daily. Disney, Cameron-Pace, Dreamworks, Legendary Pictures, Paramount and 21st Century Fox are just some of the major studios with projects or companies based in China. China has overtaken Japan to become the second largest film market worldwide, and is on the fast track to overtaking the United States. By the end of the next decade, China will be the largest film market in the world.
Last year, China’s comedy, “Lost in Thailand” became the first Chinese production to break the one billion yuan mark. Over the same period, Hollywood’s Oscar-winning Zero Dark Thirty made 715 million yuan, despite being released in more than 60 countries. The lesson there is that films distributed in China now have the ability to make more than films released internationally.
But it is not just the big budget films that have that opportunity. Low to medium budget productions possess the ability do the same.
3D, I believe, is the perfect vehicle to move forward with this agenda. China stands at a precipice, it has the ability to become the world leader in 3D production in both Film and TV.
All of Asia has a huge audience that is hungry for 3D films. The strong sales of my own Explore3D Travel Asia Series is ample proof of that. From the experience of creating some 14 episodes about Asia, I believe the world is hungry for content that can be created in and about China. China’s commitment to 3D is unprecedented in the world. It demonstrates commitment to the future.
In the US, corporate greed and the inability or unwillingness to work in harmony to create a unified 3D blueprint for the future have derailed 3DTV. To listen to the media in America you might believe that 3D for TV is dead. The truth is far from that. The media in the US have somehow come to believe that the world revolves around the US. And whatever happens there, happens everywhere. Like the uninformed of old who believed the the sun revolved around the earth. They have it wrong. The US is not the center of the 3D universe, it is just one part of the global community.
At this point, China is leading the way in 3D for TV. To illustrate how important the Chinese market is to Samsung, they created Color of China. Created in 3D to showcase the beauty and grace of Chinese culture.
Chinese TV manufacturers Hisense and TCL have got the big boys worried. Samsung and LG are watching as their once clear dominance of the TV market is being eroded by the Chinese titans. At this year’s consumer electronics show in Las Vegas TCL created a massive booth in the central hall, one of the biggest. Hisense made a splash at the show with a 110 inch 4K 3-D TV called the “China Star”. It launched as part of a tie-in with Marvel’s Iron Man 3. That’s the kind of product placement that had normally been reserved for the other giants of the industry. Along with that they also unveiled a 60 inch auto stereoscopic UltraHd 3-D panel.
And industry experts including David Ellis who has attended CES for more than 25 years agree that the Chinese impressed this year and that “the Chinese products were some of the highest quality at the show”. Responding to the tight economic times both Hisense and TCL have since released 65 inch Ultra HD TVs. What’s more is that they released them at low price points that make them ultracompetitive with LG and Samsung. It indeed is highly possible that Hisense and TCL could snatch away the crowns from Samsung and LG.
Worldwide sales of 3DTV’s jumped 72% last year despite industry-wide slump in the global TV market. 3DTV shipments told 41.45 million units last year, compared with 24.14 million units in 2011. Those numbers come from market researcher Display Search. That figure marks a nearly 18 fold growth from 2.26 million units in 2010. Globally, it is been predicted that 3DTV Sales will increase by 166% by 2017. What do all of those numbers mean? Well, with 3-D in the cinema growing steadily. Hollywood studios coming to China by the droves and 3DTV sales expanding rapidly, the future of 3-D is secure.
All this explosive growth gives China the opportunity to advance on all fronts. The question is what is the right way to proceed? How can China be sure that Hollywood doesn’t come in and just take over the market with their style of production? The first step must be training. With the proper tools and training quality 3D productions with small budgets can be a reality. And that doesn’t mean one round of training it means ongoing support training.
Let me give you an example:
After I completed the 3D Expo last year, I had the privilege to teach 3D production techniques to highly talented teams at Beijing TV and in Shanghai, at the Shanghai Media Group. I was invited to be guest Stereographer at a Chinese Basketball Association game. What I witnessed in both cases was a very professional production team creating good, entertaining 3DTV. But there was a hitch that night in Shanghai. The very expensive 3D beam splitter systems were having trouble communicating with the production truck. Meanwhile the Sony TD 300 single body twin lens 3-D camera and the Panasonic 3D P1 were up and running with no trouble at all.
Expensive does not mean better.
Hollywood companies have been quick to come to China to sell their big-budget production equipment. And when you’re making a blockbuster movie these ultra expensive 3D rigs are excellent. But a more budget based solution that gives equally good results involve working with single body 3-D cameras.
Another excellent low budget, high yield tool that Hollywood is now discovering is the Go Pro Hero 3 and the new 3+. While GoPro has not yet released a 3D kit for the Hero 3, they did show off 2.5k 3D videos at the National Association of Broadcasters Show this past April.
Not one to wait, I have designed a Hardware/software package to shoot 3D with the GoPro Hero 3 and 3+. Plus I built the system using a 3-D printer that I designed and assembled. The electronics came from China. It is a very effective, budget based 3-D rig and sales of it are going very well. Back at the production offices of both Beijing TV and Shanghai media group I reviewed and critiqued the 3D work that these wonderful crews have been doing. The productions were compelling and well put together. Although there were some mistakes made. This illustrates the training must be an ongoing process.
3D productions are more complicated than 2D. There are rules and processes that must be followed. Certain 2D techniques must be put aside. For some who grew up with 2D that can be difficult. Hence the need for ongoing training and critiques of the production process. The biggest problem with many 3-D training programs is that they teach you on a shot by shot basis. But they do not take it further to explain how shots must be interwoven together. One scene leading into another into another into another. And the 3D must flow. Depth jumps are a major flaw that can ruin an entire production. These kind of mistakes are totally avoidable with the proper training.
Don’t misunderstand what I say that 3-D is more complicated. Complicated does not mean more expensive. All my productions have been done on a tight small budgets. The results have been accepted around the world including here in China at CCTV.
On the Post Production side budget minded programs are far better than many of the expensive ones. The best 3-D editing tool that I have found is Grass Valley’s Edius 7. The built-in 3-D toolset is second to none. There are an abundance of excellent plug-ins available for it as well.
Things like New Blue FX suite of plug-ins give you the ability to turn out fantastically creative and professional productions without breaking the bank. China’s own Vis-Title is a tremendously powerful and professional broadcast quality graphic title production tool that works seamlessly with Edius 7. iZotope a world leader in professional audio software. They also have plug-ins that complement Edius 7. Nectar and RX 3 Advanced are world-class production tools that don’t cost a fortune but yield professional grade results. And finally Emotion 3D, plug-in for Adobe After Effects, is the leader in 3-D finishing. This program allows you to check your 3-D integrated to make sure that the stereo is within specs for broadcast and film standards. With these tools China can create an infrastructure of talented media professionals that can support the growth of 3D in film and TV.
3D conversions is another huge area of opportunity for China. 2D to 3D conversions have come a long way in a short time. I just interviewed Richard Baker, Senior Stereo Supervisor: London and Matthew Bristowe, Senior VP Production – VFX and View-D: London about their work on “Gravity”. This intensely beautiful high tech film was purposely shot in 2D with the plan to convert the movie to 3D. The movie has achieved stratospheric heights, taking in over $360 million. It is due to open in China very soon which will undoubtedly propel it to even further highs at the box office. In the film, China comes to the rescue of the main character, Ryan Stone, played by Academy Award-winning Sandra Bullock, allowing her to find refuge in its state-of-the art space station. Prime Focus World bills itself as a global entertainment services company providing visual effects and stereo 3D conversion to major studios and filmmakers around the world. With its Global Corporate Headquarters in Los Angeles, Prime Focus is an integrated global business comprising world-class facilities in the United States, Canada, the U.K., and India. Prime Focus’ ‘Global Digital Pipeline’, a dynamic high-speed internal network, provides access to nearly 3,000 artists and expert technicians working in four time zones on three continents. This ‘Worldsourcing’ model enables Prime Focus to deliver efficient service around the clock at highly competitive prices to clients around the globe.
Therein lies the opportunity. It wasn’t that long ago that this company did not even exist. Now, they are a global leader in their field. China could easily be able to rival them in a few short years. All it would take is a capable university level program put into place to train Chinese students and an ambitious and well executed corporate plan.
Ultimately though, I believe that 3D TV offers the greatest promise. First, as new 3D movies continue to be cranked out in record numbers, there is a new trend of 3D conversions of classic movies. The Wizard of Oz and The Last Emperor, two of the latest. All of these movies need to go somewhere beyond the box office and Blu-rays and the logical place is 3DTV. Couple that with the urgent need for 3D programs to fill the hours on the Chinese 3DTV channels.
Second, along with that, you have an exploding Asian market for 3D content. Just last week, Thailand’s Truevision announced it’s first 3D channel. Chinese TV exports are already a favorite among Thai viewers.
Third, internationally, the world is curious about China. Travel and cultural shows would be an instant seller to foreign markets. Further enhancing China’s 3D standing.
The list of opportunities is ever expanding, much like China’s growth. The possibilities are tremendous. China has already taken the first tedious steps in the 3D industry, now, it has the opportunity to leap ahead of everyone else.