3D Blu-ray Coming Next Year

Posted Wed Nov 11, 2009 at 03:00 PM PST by

Our recap of Blu-con 2.0 continues with a look at the emerging world of Blu-ray 3D!

By Michael S. Palmer

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3D is the hottest thing in movies right now. It’s a box office buoying premium experience that has captured audience attention around the globe (internationally, ‘Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs’ is the third highest grossing movie of all time, behind only ‘Titanic’ and ‘Return of the King’). And next year, it could be in your friggin' living room!

The Blu-ray Disc Association, a 170-company conglomerate responsible for establishing Blu-ray standards, is currently finishing up specs (a.k.a. requirements) that will usher Blu-ray into the 3D era. They plan to announce these new specs next month (before the end of this year), with the hope that manufacturers can produce equipment by Christmas 2010, perhaps even sooner. Panasonic was in house to say that they consider 3D a “revolution, not just a small feature.” They’re planning to get to “mass market pricing” as soon as possible. 3D won’t simply be for “the exotic few” who can afford luxury.

What do we know?

Though the standards are not finalized, we know we’ll be getting full 1080p video projected to both the right and left eyes. And they’re building in backwards compatibility on hardware AND software. Meaning, not only will 3D Blu-ray players be able to play CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays, and 3D Blu-rays, but 3D Blu-rays will also play in 2D Blu-ray players (but ONLY in 2D).

Wait, so none of my current equipment will play 3D?

Correct. The BDA wants you to know that your current devices aren’t going to be obsolete (which is why they built in the backwards compatibility onto the discs themselves), this is just an added layer for those who want it. Meaning, 3D at home requires the purchase of a 3D Blu-ray player as well as a 3D Blu-ray compatible TV and 3D glasses (which will be handled by the TV manufacturers).

So how does it look (a.k.a. is it worth it to wear silly glasses)?

As a fan of all things high def and a rampant early adopter. Ohhhhh yeah! Panasonic had a slick demo at Blu-Con 2.0 displaying 1080p to each eye, 120 frames-per-second. They’re planning to have their 3D devices available as a bundle (player, plasma TV, and glasses) when the technology hits the big box stores next year. We screened the trailer for Disney’s ‘A Christmas Carol’, footage from the 2008 summer Olympics / a preview for the 2010 winter games, and the teaser trailer of James Cameron’s ‘Avatar.’ Having recently seen both trailers in 3D cinemas (‘A Christmas Carol’ was on the ‘Toy Story 1 & 2’ double feature), they looked exactly as they did in the theatre. Both the good and bad aspects. The 3D effects were great, but sometimes the focus was hard to find and the image could be occasionally dim (thanks to wearing glasses; Roger Ebert wrote about this in his review of ‘Up’). But the 3D HD video footage of the sporting events was breathtaking. I’ve never seen anything like it (except for IMAX, which stands seven stories tall). It literally felt like there was a portal in the wall of this demo truck, and that I could have leapt through it into the stadiums of Beijing, or onto the snowy ski trails outside of Vancouver. It was so bright, clear, and crisp (sign me up for the first 3D Super Bowl).

One of the themes of the Blu-Con is that Blu-ray needs that wow factor to break into the mass market beyond the ten or so percent it has currently reached (interesting note, no video format has ever hit 10% of a market share and NOT gone on to mass adoption). That Blu-ray and its BD-Live technology need to be so exciting, people forcibly drag friends and families over to see it, and say, “you gotta get Blu-ray, look at what it does.” It’s been a huge obstacle to get people away from, “yeah, well my DVDs look good, so why do I need Blu-ray?”

3D Blu-ray is the game changer. Anyone and everyone will see the difference, whether or not they understand data rates, bandwidth, or other tech terms. This is the leap forward DVD brought to the home entertainment world over VHS in 1997. Look out cinemas. We may soon have a reason to never leave the house again.

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Tags: Blu-con, Michael S. Palmer, Industry Trends, 3D (all tags)