3D TV arrives

Manufacturers suddenly unleash product in time for CES

The stereoscopic 3D (S3D) home entertainment landscape has been transformed just in time for CES.

The Blu-ray Disc Assn. announced its S3D Blu-ray spec on Dec. 17. That same day Sony announced plans to license RealD’s S3D active-glasses technology for the new lineup of Sony Bravia LCD TVs. Meanwhile, Mitsubishi and Panasonic both are introducing hi-def/S3D TV lineups today.

A Sony spokesperson says the new TVs will begin shipping sometime this summer, while a Panasonic rep says its HD S3D plasma lineup will hit the consumer market in late April.

How did things come together so quickly? “The key industry providers in the production and distribution of content all were motivated to sing off the same song sheet,” says BDA prexy Andy Parsons. “We made something we’re proud of because everyone involved had something to say about it.”

BDA’s S3D spec calls for full 1080p in each eye while using only 50% more disc space than 2D Blu-ray discs. The MVC (Multiview Video Coding) codec takes advantage of the similarity of the left and right eye images to keep file size under control, Parsons explains.

S3D Blu-ray players will be backward compatible with 2D technology will work with any S3D-capable TV, including LCD, DLP and plasma screens, so consumers won’t have to worry about whether players and TVs are compatible.

RealD CEO Michael Lewis says that although the TV viewing experience may differ dramatically from 2D to S3D, from a technology viewpoint it’s actually a bigger leap from standard-def to HDTV because hi-def provides the foundation for S3D.

Steve Koenig, director of market research at CEA, says more S3D content on Blu-ray and broadcast will guide consumer migration to S3D technology: “With HDTV, household penetration rates kept pace as content rose. We believe S3D adoption will happen at a faster rate.”

But price will ultimately dictate how quickly consumers upgrade to S3D. “No one is going to buy a 3DTV for 2 times as much, let alone five times as much, as was the case of HD when it first came out,” Koenig asserts. “But a slight premium, similar to that of 720p vs. 1080p today, is within reach.”

Still, top electronics makers aren’t revealing their pricing structures.