Considering buying a 3D TV? CNET has a Buying Guide

Some studies show that 3D in the home is booming, other studies show that it is taking a nose dive.  Presumably it depends who you ask and how you ask. If you are considering making the leap, the venerable technology website CNET has a very useful buying guide for 3D TVs.

 
Written by David Katzmaier, topics include:

The guide also has some useful observations:

Unlike Blu-ray, 3D broadcasts on TV currently use a half-resolution 3D format known as side-by-side, resulting in a significantly softer, non-high-def look. We know of no plans to add more 3D channels or introduce a full-HD resolution 3D broadcast, although we expect both improvements to occur sometime over the next few years…

and some interesting insights:

3D Content Has A Chicken-And-Egg Problem That Will Hinder Faster Adoption.

If few people own 3D TVs, content producers have little incentive to deliver 3D programming and games. But lack of 3D content is a big reason people don’t want to get a 3D TV today. We don’t see this situation changing in the immediate future, and we feel glasses-free 3D TVs need to be available at mainstream prices–and work well–before 3D content has a chance to become as common as 2D high-def content is today.

Planet 3D says:

In terms of wide adoption of 3D TV, we are where we were ten years ago with HDTV. The first sets are available at high (but rapidly falling) prices, content is scant and not yet compelling. The difference is that as consumers and media aficionados we are more accustomed to having content at our fingertips when, where, and how we want it.  I think the current renaissance in quality 3D content will inevitably lead to an acceleration in demand for 3D-enabled home theatre.

In other words, the question for home theatre impresarios isn’t should you invest in a new television with 3D capabilities, but rather should you invest in a new television without 3D capabilities?  Do you want to run the risk of not being able to enjoy the coming wave of very cool content as it was meant to be seen?

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Pina gets wider (limited) release

Billboard in Montreal last week.

I spotted this behind the building where I work, announcing the December 16 release date for Pina in 3D. It’s playing in Montreal now—check and see if it’s close to you. Then go see it!

For more info on the film, 3D, art, and ideas (as well as gorgeous still photography) visit this website.

Martin Scorsese’s Hugo 3D debuts: the golden age is here

My review in seven words: the film is excellent, go see it. 

But I’m not here to review films. This is a blog about 3D so this post is going to be about Scorsese’s first 3D film Hugo, a new landmark in 3D filmmaking.

Martin Scorsese has made a fantastic film on at least two distinct levels.  It’s a great story told beautifully.  Plus it’s a turning point in filmmaking that examines another major turning point in filmmaking history with great insight and love.

Visually it’s gorgeous, very well suited for 3D treatment.  Hugo is full of dark moody interior shots that lend themselves beautifully to the low light limitations of 3D. Lush period sets, lots of steam, snow, oversized clockworks—these all work very well in 3D.

Scorsese has also mastered the art of expressive 3D close-ups.  Having an incredibly talented cast certainly helps, but there is an intimacy in his technique that I haven’t seen before. It adds to the story.

Sidebar: at the showing I attended there was something funny going on with the right side of the screen, not in every scene, but many. It looked like perhaps some alignment was off.  I was seated slightly to the left in the theatre, but not far enough to make a difference. It was distracting (so was the row of eight little boys loudly chewing popcorn behind me) but not enough to keep me from being completely caught up in the film.

Hugo is a story-driven film, not the effects-driven cross-merchandised product so many people have come to dread.  The story is a powerful one, featuring an archetype most of us can identify with—the plucky resourceful orphan. From Dickens’ Oliver Twist and David Copperfield to Harry Potter, it’s a great formula.  When you see it bring tissues.

Georges Méliès (1861 to 1938)

But there’s another very meaningful level to the film centered on Georges Méliès, an early enthusiastic pioneer of spectacular cinematic visual effects.  In gorgeous and (as far as I can tell) quite accurate flashbacks Scorsese captures his delight in the new technology, the highs and lows of the business, as well as the risks of ridicule, ignominy, and obscurity.

Méliès took what was literally a sideshow gimmick and turned it into the most important storytelling tool since the invention of the printing press and moveable type. You see where I’m going with this? 

This had special resonance for me.  There are parallels with the artistic tribulations of 3D and I had an overwhelming sense of the historical moment—the cinema crossroads if you will—we’re at today.

Scorsese is a prominent film preservationist, cineaste, and promoter of film history—as well as one of the most respected directors of our time. His study of and respect for film history is visible in every frame.  He shows the seminal L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat or The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station by the Lumière brothers—one of the first things I blogged about here.  Even the film’s poster depicts little Hugo dangling from a clock hand in an homage to Harold Lloyd.  With this film Scorsese now joins the ranks of Wim Wenders and Werner Herzog as pioneers elevating a lowly gimmick into a powerful storytelling tool, an art.

With every 3D film of artistic quality and integrity released the industry gains important experience and the negative stereotypes about 3D are eroded a bit more.

3D isn’t finished—it’s just getting started

Our culture is nostalgic.  The good old days always seem to be behind us.  Every generation believes the parade’s gone by. With Hugo we are finally seeing what 3D can do in the hands of a visionary filmmaker—from my vantage point I am increasingly convinced that the golden age of 3D film is just beginning.

3D sells!

In honor of “Black Friday” in the US—a day dedicated to crass commercialism I’m posting some of the random ways the term “3D” is being used to generate interest in things that have precious little to nothing to do with 3D.

The lesson?  3D still sells!

This product line has been around for a year or so:

[Full disclosure, I actually bought some of this!]

3D crayons…I guess this sort of counts.

But this is the weirdest yet—a surreal commercial for Toblerone.

Stay tuned, more to come!

Dispatch from 3D World, NYC (part of CCW/Satcon/HD world)

This has been a hard post to write!  You know how little kids sometimes get so excited when describing something amazing that they stammer and ramble—unable to just spit it out?  That’s what I felt like after attending the excellent keynote session “Your World in 3D: Separating the Facts from the Hype” at 3D World in New York City last month.

There’s so much to say, so much to share, it’s hard to boil it down to a digestible blog post so I will summarize and probably be quoting this in the weeks and months to come.

The session kicked off with an introduction by Jim Chabit, CEO of the International 3D Society—an organization doing important work in bringing together a community around 3D.  (Full disclosure, I’m a card-carrying member). This group is putting together events, awards, and information to build some momentum for 3D.  Using facts and figures he asserted that 3D continues to do strong box office—especially internationally.  He also focused on some upcoming major releases in 3D—Scorsese’s Hugo Cabret (which got rave reviews for an unfinished cut screened at NY Film Festival a couple of days earlier), Spielberg’s Adventures of TinTin, and the James Cameron’s 3D conversion of Titanic.

Buzz Hays, Senior VP 3D Production at Sony is an incredibly knowledgeable and dynamic speaker.  He focused on some of the important technical issues and gave an overview of the stereoscopy training Sony has developed for film professionals.  These in-depth (forgive the pun) materials are aimed at fine-tuning 3D cinema skills. Sony has been offering this course to help raise the overall technical level in the industry.   He walked us through some of the key variables—tools that can be used for subtle (and no-so-subtle) effects.  We also saw examples of common pitfalls (misalignment, mismatchs, and distortions) that helped explain and quantify when/why 3D becomes more uncomfortable to watch.

This presentation clearly and eloquently articulates the flexibility of 3D as a tool.  When waved about recklessly it can be annoying and even uncomfortable.  When it’s wielded with finesse it adds depth on many levels to story telling.

John Cassy from Sky3D in the UK stressed the importance quality and variety in content. “If you think 3D can paper over the cracks, you will fail”.   He insists that quality 3D content relies on combining stories, people, and partnerships.  We saw gorgeous footage from upcoming releases: “Meerkats” (cute animals in awe-inspiring scenery) and “Kew Gardens” (luscious, HD/3D time-lapse shots from one of the world’s great botanical treasures).  He hailed Sir David Attenboroughfor being an early leader in 3D, the way he was an early pioneer of color TV 45 years ago.

Michael Duenas, DO, from the American Optometric Association (AOA) was the final speaker.  The AOA recently released a fascinating report on 3D in education and in that context Dr. Duenas gave a passionate and wide-ranging presentation on the role of 3D in vision health and the far-reaching repercussions of not having adequate screening at an early age.  It’s a bold assertion—that traditional eye examinations, in focusing on only one aspect of vision health, overlook the critical capability of stereoscopic vision.  The resulting misdiagnoses and lack of treatment impact student engagement, learning, and broader issues such as crime and recidivism.

The AOA is going beyond debunking fears about 3D and championing it. This is a fascinating area that I’m sure will be getting a lot more attention.

The session wrapped up with a clip of silent film legend Harold Lloyd, an early enthusiast of 3D, converted to 3D.  It looked pretty darned good.

 

Own your own 3D Glasses

3D glasses are starting to pop up in retail venues.  Here are Oakley 3D glasses for sale at Chicago airport.  I chatted with the sales clerk and he told me they are selling pretty well.  The pair on the right are “Transformers” special edition.

3D in the Classroom Picking up Momentum

On the heels of the American Optometric Association report‘s praise for 3D as beneficial to learning and health, there is new research being published that expands in more detail on 3D as a tool for engagement, learning, and retention.

These initiatives are interesting for a couple of reasons.  First, if 3D is not only not bad but actually good for kids, if schools trust it, then that goes a long way to debunking some of the anxieties—specific and generalized—about the impact of the technology on young people.

The education market is also a potentially large and lucrative one for selling projectors. The theatre market is not high growth–the TV market will focus on sets, not projectors. This is good business.

Here’s an interesting video case study:

A tip of the hat to Wired magazine’s “Geek Dad” column for covering this!

Finally, here’s the complete announcement of the research findings:

3D Lessons Deliver Higher Levels Of Understanding And Increased Focus To Students Across Europe

European research highlights significant improvements in test scores as a result of learning with 3D content

LONDON – September 29, 2011, 12:00 p.m. GMT: Texas Instruments (TI) (NYSE:TXN) DLP® Products presents data that shows 3D, when used as a teaching tool in classrooms, has a widespread positive impact on how students learn. The independent study is announced today at the UK launch event in Claridges, London and hosted in collaboration with The Company of Educators. Conducted in classrooms across seven European countries, the research compares the difference in comprehension, information retention and overall behaviour between students learning via traditional 2D methods versus learning via 3D projection.

A long-time partner in providing technology for education, DLP Products initiated the study as a way to gather information and feedback on teaching with content displayed using 3D projectors. The research team, led by Professor Anne Bamford, Director of the International Research Agency, commissioned pre- and post-testing on control and variable student groups to track information retention and understanding, as well as collected observational data during classroom visits to measure student attentiveness and behaviour.

Highlights from the survey include:

  • On average, 86% of pupils improved from the pre-test to the post-test in the 3D classes, compared to 52% who improved in the 2D classes.
  • Individuals improved test scores by an average of 17% in the 3D classes, compared to an 8% improvement in the 2D classes between pre-test and post-test.
  • 92% of students on average were attentive during 3D lessons, while only 46% were actively paying attention during non-3D lessons.

“Teaching in 3D is a remarkable educational tool that enables students to enhance their learning capabilities by truly engaging and interacting with the subject criteria in a highly effective way,” explained Kathryn Macaulay, Deputy Head (Data, Operations and Communications) at The Abbey School, Reading, UK. “This research clearly demonstrates the ‘real’ results that high quality teaching in 3D generates and further reinforces the need for wider appreciation of how 3D technology can be adopted in the classroom to allow students of today and tomorrow to fulfill their potential.”

The research project involved 740 students (ages 10-13), 47 teachers and 15 schools across France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, United Kingdom and Sweden between December 2010 and May 2011. Students were tested before and after the
lessons, with one control group learning with 2D methods only, and the other receiving the same instruction, but with 3D content added into the lessons. Students were also tested on their ability to recall the information four weeks later, and researchers collected observational data on the engagement level of students at set intervals during each of the lessons.

Bamford said, “Across all of the schools involved in the study, 3D shortened the time it took for students to learn concepts, increased their attention spans and resulted in overall deeper thinking from the students. The findings indicate that 3D projection should be considered now and into the future when looking for ways to improve students learning and engagement.”

Adoption of 3D-Ready projectors looks to have no signs of stopping. According to the Pacific Media Associates (PMA) 2011 Q2 Census Report, nearly 2 million DLP 3D-Ready projectors were available globally at the end of 2010 and 4.1 million units are expected on the market by the end of this year. This comes as no surprise with the lifelike images that 3D projection can provide, which not only keep students‟ attentions, but also provide an immersive, 360-degree view of content that previously could only be taught using flat, 2D images and videos, or rudimentary models and figurines.

“We are delighted for the opportunity to jointly host the UK launch event with TI DLP Products,” said Peter Briggs, Master of The Company of Educators.

“At Texas Instruments, we work to provide technology that improves people‟s lives and the results of this study show that we‟re putting our resources in the right place,” said Roger Carver, Manager of Front Projection, DLP Products. “As the technology powering the vast majority of 3D-Ready projectors around the world, from cinemas to classrooms and home theatres, TI DLP is focused on enabling teachers and students worldwide to experience the same kind of learning success that has been found through this project.”

To view the full report of the findings, please go http://www.DLP.com/aoapresspdf.