The 3D market in China has been called the ‘last one standing’. International 3D distributor Torsten Hoffmann (3D Content Hub) sits down with three Chinese experts to talk about the latest developments. Torsten has licensed a large amount of stereoscopic 3D titles to Chinese broadcasters and VOD platforms and has also successfully exported 3D documentaries made in China to the international market place. Yulu Wang is from the international Relationship Department, China Television Artists Association (CTAA) 3D Council, and has been involved the 3D work from 2012, focusing the 3D international Relationships. Jim King was active in the TV broadcasting industry as a distribution manager of foreign satellite TV channels before shifting to the online video markets. He produced the CCTV Internet Spring Festival Gala 2012 in 3D and is now focusing on R&D, holds several patents and is now working as CTO with imcube Technologies. Jingyu Lee is the general manager of mosky4D. This Chinese company is mainly engaged in producing stereo effect movies for Science and Technology Museums, including circular-screen and full-dome documentaries such as Morph.
Torsten: China has become a more important player in the global 3d industry. Why do you think there is more interest in 3D in China than in the West?
Yulu: First, the size of the market is so much bigger. 900 million people live in large cities. Second, there is full Government support. From 2011-2014, the Chinese government has already invested more than 600 million USD to improve and support the new tech by film industry. At the national Chinese 3D TV Channel over 300 million USD were used for broadcast and content production from 2012 to 2014. This large amount of investment results in an audience that has experienced 3D.
Jim: According to market research of Entgroup, the movie market of China will become the biggest in the world overtaking the US. So, why wouldn’t it also be the largest 3D market in the world?
Lee: Yes, 3D industry in China is on the stage of repaid development, the reason why becoming more important should be the population size and purchasing power. The box office of Transformer 4 has proven this: China is a very large market for Hollywood. From the aspect of 3D production, native 3D products still lack global competitiveness. However, from consumption capability, absolutely, China as a market cannot be ignored.
Torsten: How does the Chinese audience like 3D in the Cinema? Are consumers willing to pay more for movies?
Yulu: Absolutely the peoples will pay more about 3D in Cinema. There is no doubt that Chinese people are still finding the more interesting image’s experience in the cinema. That is the reason we saw so amazing box office record in China.
Jim: Of course Chinese people know the difference between 2D and 3D, 3D movies especially in IMAX provides a better movie experience. They will pay more money for the better experience. But some 3D projections might be too dark and the discomfort of heavy glasses will harm the audience’ interest for 3D.
Torsten: How does the Chinese audience like 3D TVs? Are consumers spending more money on it?
Yulu: The 3D function is already an essential function for a TV device for the Chinese consumers. But only a few people are using their 3D TV to watch3D content. The 3D Channel is using the HD network to broadcast their content to audience, but it only works in some of the big cities in China now. And as all of us know, the DVD and Bluray market have been ruined by the piracy. Even though the situation is improving, there is still almost no Home Entertainment market here. Some of the VoD platforms are running good business in China and they will also provide some 3D content.
Jim: I think that 3D TV sets have succeeded already in China, 3D almost is the essential function in any of new TVs. If you don’t like 3D, you can refuse to buy the 3D glasses and the price will be a little bit cheaper. Of course, you can buy 3D glasses once you want to see 3D in the future. There are several public 3D program resources in China for example CCTV 3D channel. Recently the interest by the public has decreased due to the lack of quality 3D programs, just like in any other 3D markets in the world. Thus, the question is: what can be the enough and good 3D programs? 3D movie can be good, but hardly enough for a 24/7 channel. People want to watch TV every day/ every week and want to see something new. I think the answer would be TV series. The America TV series walking dead is popular in China, the video views of the latest season of it on Youku (an online video web site in China) is two hundred and seventy million. What will happen if there are 4 seasons of walking dead or other your favorite TV series in 3D in your living room?
Torsten: What about 4k televisions and glasses-free technologies?
Lee: 4k TVs are still very new and delivery of 4k is restricted by low internet speeds.
Yulu: Dimenco, a Dutch company, doing the auto-stereo 3D TV right now. Some of the manufacturers are also working on auto-stereo 3D tablets. The Effect is much better than a year ago. But I think it cannot satisfy the audience yet.
Jim: I personally don’t like large screen glasses-free TVs because they make me feel dizzy. I hope it could become better and better. I am looking forward to the glasses-free tablets.
Torsten: China has been producing a lot of 3D content. Are producers relying on Western staff and stereographers or is most production handled by Chinese now?
Jim: Both. There are kinds of situation and I think it’s not important as long as the right people do the right things.
Yulu: For native 3D productions the Chinese teams have taken some of the experiences and equipment from the western teams in the past and sometimes still do so now. For the 2D-3D conversion market Chinese companies are already world-class in my opinion.
Torsten: What were the largest Chinese 3D TV productions?
Jim: The 25 minutes TV documentary National Museum made by CCTV. It’s a traditional and serious 3D documentary and was a breakthrough, something like a beginning for our 3D TV industry.
Yulu: The China national Museum 3D documentary is top of the list. Now we are involved with another large 3D documentary project called “The Silk Route” which will be released soon.
Torsten: Do you think that Chinese 3D content can be licensed globally? Which genre?
Yulu: There are many Chinese 3D productions but I am afraid that this content will not find many international platforms due to the fact that many 3D services have shut down globally.
Lee: Our own 3D documentaries are successfully internationally both in the 3D and in the 4k (2D) versions. We have not many customers requesting our films in 4k3D (per eye) yet.
Jim: I think there are some Chinese 3D movie which were licensed globally already such as Monkey King and Young Detective Dee (with 100 million USD box office). I expect Gone with the Bullets directed by Jiang Wen at the end of this year could go international. I also hope there will be more co-production including movies and TV productions with foreign partners.