Exclusive: Forrester talks 3D tech

As the consumer electronics industry prepares for the beginning of 3DTV, there are numerous issues that could cause problems for the promising technology.  CDFreaks recently spoke with James McQuivey, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, who discussed some of the issues that face manufacturers, movie studios, and viewers.

There are two main issues facing 3D adoption in the future:  “We have technology standards that are still in flux and content producers who don’t want to spend money to distribute content that no one can watch,” McQuivey told CDFreaks during an exclusive interview.

“The biggest roadblock facing 3D is the lack of content to lure consumers. And the biggest obstacle to providing more content is that the technology standards for both filming and delivering 3D to the home are still up in the air. As a result, even though we keep hearing confident pronouncements from the lead TV makers, we have to assume a lot of what they’re doing is trying to encourage content producers to believe that there will be a market.”

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Last November, Panasonic initially proposed a 3D Blu-ray Disc standard, but nothing has been finalized as of yet, with some industry experts concerned a format war may take place.   The company also opened up a 3D Blu-ray lab in Hollywood, as the company attempts to research 3D, working alongside other companies.  Like McQuivey noted, a film and delivery standard must be created if 3D will become a successful format in the living room.

There are a number of movie studios who are now dabbling with 3D — both animated and regular feature films — so movie viewers will have plenty of opportunities to watch 3D movies in theaters.

Even when technology standards are ironed out by movie studios and hardware manufacturers, there are still other things, including marketing, that companies must deal with.

“There is a core group of homes that would be interested in 3D technology because they are passionate about specific types of experiences. Gaming experiences first and foremost, and then children’s movies beyond that. Those are two content types that can make 3D available relatively quickly, because much of gaming is 3D by its nature (though rendered in 2D to match our TV sets) and because more and more Hollywood movies are going 3D as a way to make sure people still pay a premium to go to theaters.”

As such, the type of content TV viewers are willing to watch will also be an interesting tidbit to observe, as McQuivey points out some of the possible early pitfalls of 3D: “There is one other issue that we actually can’t estimate right now because it depends on the viewers’ tolerance for 3D content, but even once 3D content is more available, what types of content will it be appropriate for? Will you want to watch the evening news in 3D? What about CNBC? I certainly hope not!”

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“Part of the issue is actually neurological: our brains were designed to perceive three-dimensional space without a shifting perspective. In other words, we’ve learned from our infancy that when a camera angle changes in a drama, that we are supposed to imagine that we’re looking at the same scene from a different angle. We’re good at making that adjustment because we’ve done it millions of times by now. But in no place in our natural lives have we been exposed to rapidly changing perspectives that are 3D. We don’t have the neuronal equipment to make those changes quickly. I assume the first generation that grows up with 3D will think nothing of rapid-fire editing of 3D content and won’t get queasy or disoriented, but for us old-timers, we’re going to see it as nauseating, much the way the older generation bemoaned the quick-cut visual pace of MTV in the 80s.”

Although there are numerous hurdles that companies involved in 3D must overcome, the technology’s future is expected to be a bright spot in the living room.  Panasonic, Sony, Pixar, and other manufacturers and movie studios continue to push the 3D boundaries, and this looks like a trend that will continue in the future.

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