2009 will witness the release of some twelve 3-D movies, but the first 3-D program to appear in theatres was the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) college football (American-style) game on January 8. Camera work was by 3ality, and the live broadcast by Cinedigm to 150 screens in 80 locations. While the presentation was awkward, the event was successful.
3ality had difficulty keeping camera pairs in focus during zooms and while following the ball, making such camera action difficult to watch. On top of which camera convergence alignments took place while on air, sending eyeballs uncomfortably in opposite directions. But Cinedigm’s execution was good. Cinedigm uses Sensio technology to encode left/right images in a single frame for broadcast, allowing it to use normal HD distribution channels. While some sites reported drop-outs, I didn’t see such flaws at the Chinese Mann Theatre in Hollywood. In spite of 3ality’s difficulties, patrons appeared to enjoy the show. A small sample of interviews said the experience was enjoyable enough to do it again. This was heartening to hear, as the technology is young, and it will take time for companies such as 3ality to develop the skills and systems needed for live 3-D sports.
The 3-D movie season began with the Lionsgate release of My Bloody Valentine 3D. Box office was the 3-D proponent’s dream, with 3-D screens pulling in six times the revenue of 2-D screens. Just goes to show, when audiences want horror, they want it in the worst possible way. But in terms of 3-D quality, interestingly, several revues had more praise for the 3-D Lionsgate logo than the movie itself. Chalk one up for In-Three, who converted the Lionsgate logo to 3-D. More 3-D movies to come in February, with the release of Universal’s Coraline and Disney’s Jonas Brothers.
3-D made its way into living rooms as well. History was made as the first 3-D television advertisements were broadcast during half-time of the National Football League (NFL) Super Bowl game, famous as the most watched television broadcast in the US. Three 3-D ads were shown: a preview of Monsters vs Aliens, an ad for Pepsi’s Sobe drinks, and an ad for NBC’s Chuck, whose Feb 2 evening episode will be the first television program broadcast in 3-D. All of the NBC broadcasts (Super Bowl was on NBC) utilize the ColorCode 3D process, which presents a reasonably compatible 2-D image when 3-D glasses are not worn. As Katzenberg describes the ColorCode process in Time magazine: “If you don’t’ wear 3-D glasses and you have three beers, it’ll look like everything else you’re looking at.”
The ColorCode glasses used for the Super Bowl and Chuck broadcasts were freely and cleverly distributed by means of kiosks in grocery stores. The passive glasses were printed four to a sheet, requiring viewers to cut them out and fold for wearing. ColorCode 3D uses a process similar to that of Trioviz. But instead of the ColorCode brand, viewers saw the Intel InTru3D brand on glasses and in the production.
Where is Intel going with the new brand? Intel CPUs, notably, are not in either Playstation or Xbox game systems, and certainly are not needed to view Blu-ray discs. But Intel is introducing a new graphics chip, code-named Larrabee, that will introduce 3-D capabilities, including, one would expect, ColorCode 3D encoding. I wrote earlier about ColorCode competitor Trioviz’s plans to introduce its software development kit (SDK) to game developers. ColorCode has taken the hardware approach by marrying up with Intel. Intel, in turn, hopes to steal market share from graphics competitor nVidia by tying its InTru3D brand and 3-D graphics capability to both its Larrabee chip and future integrated graphics capability in its CPUs.