Blog Post

Why 3-D TV Technology Is All Hype

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

DreamWorks’ announcement earlier this week that all its films will be produced for 3-D production beginning in 2009 is the next step in a partnership with Intel that began on the processing side and aims to end up making 3-D a reality in the living room. The news really just adds the InTru3D brand name to DreamWorks’ previous announcement with Intel, but the fact that it comes just two weeks after we reported on the University of Southern California’s Entertainment Technology Center testbed for emerging 3-D television technologies got me thinking about how real 3-D really is.

The Intel-DreamWorks announcement doesn’t go into a lot of details, and neither did the answers I received from the nascent ETC effort. David Wertheimer, executive director of the ETC, wouldn’t disclose the companies involved or even the name of the Dolby executive heading up the group. Dolby has been active in creating standards experienced in 3-D movies such as this summer’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “Beowulf.”

Today, there are really two ways to do 3-D: with glasses (polarized, spectral or active-shutter) and without them (autostereoscopically). In autostereoscopic 3-D display, images are refreshed rapidly to give the illusion of a three-dimensional image without requiring the viewer to stare at a fixed point on the screen. There are some technologies that allow for content to be delivered without special hardware, but to get the kind of quality seen in the theaters, one needs specialized hardware in the set to synchronize the images.

Wertheimer says the goal of the ETC group isn’t to establish a codec or a primary technological standard, but to create, “the facility where Hollywood will test their content to ensure that the content and the display systems convey the artistic intent.” Sounds lovely, but with any consumer-oriented technology, getting a standard together is important for the buyers of the end devices and the purveyors of those devices. Think about the uncertainty the fight over Blu-ray and HD-DVD caused for everyone.

Samsung and Mitsubishi have 3D-capable TV sets on sale at Best Buy today, but unfortunately for anyone hoping for an immersive experience this weekend, the sets are only “3-D ready.” My local Best Buy was remarkably informed about the technology, but the salesman said he didn’t know when Samsung might release the $400 box that would actually enable the 3-D imagery. In the meantime, I could shell out for a 3-D ready projection television that will one day be able to offer 3-D imagery for movies originally shot in 3-D.

For all the buzz, I think the moment of in-home 3-D is still far into the future. We’re going to need more content shot in 3-D as well as the hardware to make it all worthwhile. I think the masses, having recently shelled out a lot of money for HD equipment and Blu-Ray DVDs, may find InTru 3D, well, intrusive.

photo courtesy of nickstone333 via Flickr

13 Responses to “Why 3-D TV Technology Is All Hype”


    Just what Americans need, another excuse for sitting around the house and getting fatter than we are already. Another generation of children is doomed to diabetes and obesity because of the “world of escapism”, as parents look for ways to keep their children busy without bothering them. It is all so sad.

  2. Man, I just got an “HD” TV…
    Kudos to those who have been working on such technology but I and many other people won’t be in line for the release of a $400 3D TV. It sounds cool and all, but seriously? Didn’t we just make a change and had to buy new TVs and converter boxes… which for broke college students… ahem.. isn’t the best option. Now we have to buy a whole new TV set and whatever other accessories are neccessary!? By the time I make it to 3D other tec-savy people with expendable cash will be on 5D. :(

  3. Ross Stokell

    Having dedicated the last twenty five years to stereoscopic imaging research and describing/publishing the unequivocal standard for stereoscopic capture, process and display several times during this period, why are so many groups attempting to “set” new standards. There is only one.
    It is the one that complements, corresponds and is in concert with the human physiology.
    If “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” is an example of the current state-of-the-art commercial (3D) technology, this proves that producers do not understand the fundamental science relating to visualisation/sight.
    Ross Stokell, Futurist, Interactive Visualisation.

    • to ross stokel—what happened to your 3-D televison from 1990, i have the programme ‘beyond 2000’ on video, and often show your system to friends, and wonder why it has not yet been perfected and in use? it certainly worked for me–on that programme–and the only poblem i can see is the peripheral one—the two screens that you don’t watch, on either side…..the programme ‘can we help’ on ABC_TV has had a segment on a new type of 3-D , but i don’t think they demonstrated it……garry–brisbane

  4. Andrei State

    Miss Higginbotham, Paul is right. The 3D TV sets work today, if one knows how to view or generate 3D imagery on a computer (and you can take stereo pictures with your off-the-shelf digital camera). I have such a set at home and use it every day. There just isn’t any stereoscopic Hollywood movie content available for them at this point, but neither Samsung nor Mitsubishi claim that. The required active shutter glasses can be bought for about $100.
    Furthermore, your explanation about how autostereoscopic displays work is purest BS and shows that you have zero understanding of that technology. So now, how much of the rest of your article shall we believe? At least there was a cute word play at the end.

    Andrei State
    Senior Research Scientist
    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  5. Consumer level 3D is starting to get cheaper. I’ve seen footage from professionals on a Zalman 22″ LCD and I’m thoroughly impressed. Next, year, more and more TVs and monitors will be 3D ready. Now to simply define what that means :)

  6. Stacey, you can easily buy the software and glasses that work perfectly with the Samsung 3D capable TV’s from DDD if Best Buy is out of stock.
    No hype, it works here and now.

    From next year, the 3D TV’s will have the 3D chips built in.

  7. Joshua Koopferstock

    If these movies that are shot in 3D become popular, consumers’ imaginations are going to start getting fired up about the possibility of 3D for the home theatre and PC. This could bring 3D into the home faster than you might think. After trying a bunch of the different 3D displays at SIGGRAPH last week, I definitely saw some that were quite impressive (and didn’t give me a headache).

    However, if this batch of 3D movies doesn’t go over well, all this buzz might be for naught, or at least it may lengthen the adoption cycle. These next 12 months should be interesting for all the industries related to 3D.