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"From the Trenches" is a new column I've decided to start to give you, the reader, some perspective on what I see and hear "out in the field" as a calibrator and servicer of High Definition televisions and home theaters. I hope you find this perspective beneficial.

- Richard

3D is coming to a device near you, in the form of displays, broadcast TV, Blu-ray players mobile phones and new technology to convert 2D to 3D. While I am “up” on 3D technology, I was not aware of the mass market 3D infrastructure that had been put in place over the last few years until I attended the CEDIA show in Atlanta this past fall. 3D is coming, Blu-ray specs have been delivered and broadcast is just around the corner!

Us?

I was not aware the mass market had a desire for 3D. Here at “The Magazine” it wasn’t even on the radar screen for our readers until recently. Customers have been asking me about 3D but that is simple curiosity over a news blurb related to the recent release of Avatar in 3D for movie theaters, which then naturally picks up on 3D in the home for 2010.

So from where does this claimed desire for 3D come? The most common template is that when movie theater patrons are given a choice between watching the 2D and 3D versions of a new release, they typically choose 3D and pay extra for the privilege. I fail to see how that makes a home 3D market. With HD in my home playing on a very large screen, I don’t go to theaters anymore; and if I did then I would also choose to enhance my experience by watching the movie in 3D. Indeed, 3D is one element that might get me and so many others back into the theater. From this perspective, 3D is a singular entertainment event that we choose to experience for about 2 hours. I might like roller coasters and go to amusement parks to ride them, but that does not mean I want to take one home!

The biggest hoot for me in this 3D marketing bonanza is the promotion of designer 3D glasses. The pitch men are doing their best to convince us that this aspect of 3D is going to turn into a cool concept. The reality is nearly all people wearing glasses do so only because they have to and plenty of them pursue contacts instead!

While I didn’t check national stats, the 3D that has been released over the last 3 years for PC hasn’t gained any notoriety in my part of the world and it’s not due to a lack of content considering all the games that provide 3D support. Taking into account the $200 for glasses along with another $300 for a 3D display, the lack of excitement may be obvious. If you are a performance gamer, 3D delivery will require twice the video graphics power. Adding 3D capability to your current machine will cut your frame by half, if not more. Another factor is the lack of rave reviews and the fact that hard core gamers appear to prefer the 2D version for better game play and response at this time.

Ultimately, the only 3D that would generate real excitement for the masses, viewing a 3D image naturally with perfect clarity just like real life, may not be available any time soon. If it were, the cost would likely be too prohibitive. There are glasses-free 3D displays, in R&D labs mostly, but I have not seen one to comment on these aspects of performance.

Them?

Hollywood has been busy as of late producing 3D movies for the theaters. A reasonable, if not highly recommended, choice to get us away from our HDTVs and back into the local cinemaplex. Many theater owners welcome 3D with open arms. Unfortunately there is an economic catch. Most of the money for the production studio comes from the home video market, rarely the theater. While they can sell these 3D titles in the 2D format they rightly suspect sales would be higher if we could actually watch them in 3D instead. Problem is, 3D doesn’t exist in the home.

Enter the consumer electronics manufacturing industry! They also are running into a problem that 3D would resolve. At some point the retail sales price of a technology plateaus becoming a commodity and the manufacturer has to emphasize efficiency and cost instead to remain competitive in the market. The big money is made on new technology which allows the manufacturer a 5-10 year window of higher than normal profit margins. Ultimately a manufacturer is always looking for some new technology every 5-10 years to maximize profit margins on new product or better yet new cash flows from intellectual property, better known as royalties. History is chock full of new products that went down in flames for a manufacturer, but 3D is vastly different due to the massive involvement by the industry as a whole.

I suggest that HDTV and associated products have plateaued and manufacturers rightly see them as a commodity, if not now then shortly. If 3D gets traction in the marketplace, there will be a host of new products that most of us will feel compelled to acquire: like a new 3D display, 3D Blu-ray player, HDMI 1.4 cables, HDMI 1.4 switching on new A/V receivers, 3D video processing/scaling and of course 3D glasses for every member of your family. That’s just home video and doesn’t cover internet 3D, 3D mobile phones, 3D processing software, 3D cameras, 3D commercial cameras, 3D production studios, 3D mastering studios and 3D local news.

I Think it’s Them

HDTV was light years beyond what we had in performance and the public enthusiasm to have it delivered an obvious conclusion. It appears 3D is the rabbit Hollywood production companies and manufacturers pulled out of their new technology hat all on their own and they are betting big bucks that we will all want it.

Posted by Richard Fisher, February 23, 2010 12:30 PM

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About Richard Fisher

Richard Fisher is the President of Mastertech Repair Corporation, serving north east Atlanta, Georgia, and has been servicing, calibrating and reviewing audio video products since 1981. Tech Services USA, a division of Mastertech, creates sites, communities and libraries for consumers and professionals to share their technology knowledge and learn from each other. These include The ISF Forum and HD Library. HDTV Magazine exclusively publishes HD Library and Forum for Tech Services USA.

Richard is ISF and HAA certified providing calibration and A/V reproduction engineering services. Richard is a technical consultant and also provides performance ISF and HAA home theater systems and calibration via Custom HT. Mastertech Repair Corporation is a factory authorized service center for Hitachi, Mitsubishi and Toshiba and a member of the National Electronics Servicing Dealers Association, NESDA, and the Georgia Electronics Servicing Dealers Association, GESDA.