Now playing: 3D specs for Blu-ray

Blu-ray Disc Association finalizes specifications

The Blu-ray Disc Assn. has finalized and released its 3D specification, clearing the way for advanced home 3D to hit the market next year.

The long-anticipated spec calls for every 3D Blu-ray software/hardware product to be TV agnostic: The 3D images will work with any compatible 3D display regardless of whether it is uses LCD, plasma or any other technology. In addition, 3D Blu-ray products will output eye-popping content regardless of what 3D technology format the displays use.

In keeping with past Blu-ray specs, new 3D Blu-ray players must deliver full high-definition 1080p resolution.

All Blu-ray 3D players will be backward compatible, supporting playback of existing 2D discs. Also, Blu-ray 3D discs can be run in existing 2D Blu-ray players but will display images in 2D.

The Blu-ray 3D spec will apply to the PlayStation 3 game console, the current version of which is expected to be upgradable to play 3D.

While the spec will allow developers to create 3D games, most industry observers feel there will not be a rush to do so. The industry is currently focused on creating titles for motion-control devices from Sony, and demand for Ubisoft’s “James Cameron’s Avatar” — the first 3D game — has been light at the retail level.

“Throughout this year, moviegoers have shown an overwhelming preference for 3D when presented with the option to see a theatrical release in either 3D or 2D,” said Victor Matsuda, chairman of the Blu-ray Disc Assn.’s global promotions committee. “We believe this demand for 3D content will carry over into the home now that we have, in Blu-ray Disc, a medium that can deliver a quality, full-HD 3D experience to the living room.”

Blu-ray 3D will be encoded using the Multiview Video Coding (MVC) codec, which is an extension of the current AVC codec now supported by all Blu-ray hardware. The 3D encoding process will feature 3D menu navigation as well as 3D subtitles positioned within the 3D video.

Studios should soon start making their first announcements of 3D Blu-ray releases now that the spec is officially complete. Technicolor has already said it is ready to create and replicate 3D Blu-ray discs starting in 2010. Only Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has formally committed to releasing a 3D Blu-ray Disc, which is set to feature footage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, although 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s “Avatar” is widely expected to be released in 3D Blu-ray.

Blu-ray Disc Assn. members believe consumers are ready to upgrade to 3D entertainment in the home. “In 2009 we saw Blu-ray firmly establish itself as the most rapidly adopted packaged media format ever introduced,” Matsuda said. “We think the broad and rapid acceptance Blu-ray Disc already enjoys with consumers will be a factor in accelerating the uptake of 3D in the home. In the meantime, existing players and libraries can continue to be fully enjoyed as consumers consider extending into 3D home entertainment.”

Analysts also feel bullish about 3D in homes, as there is expected to be a rush of new 3D TVs and 3D Blu-ray players on display at January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

“For those consumers not yet convinced by the HD experience, 3D will be another key selling point and a highly persuasive reason to upgrade,” said Futuresource director Jim Bottoms. “Our research shows that 3D-enabled (Blu-ray) players will be available in Q2 next year to support the major push on 3D TVs. Further interest will be driven by owners of PS3 consoles, which will be able to play Blu-ray 3D content.”

(Susanne Ault writes for Daily Variety sister publication Video Business.)

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