On Sunday, July 11, 2010, the future of
television news will be decided in South Africa.
As billions watch the Netherlands and
Spain play for the FIFA World Cup, a few tens of thousands will be
watching that all important match in 3D actually “stereoscopic
3D” (the official term, you’ll hear a lot from now on, as well as
The experts are already saying that the
main electronic item this Christmas will be the dual capacity 2D and
3D HDTV set, so the consumer can watch 3D broadcasts (with glasses
for now) from cable, satellite or off air, and switch to standard 2D
for the rest of the program schedule.
Three-D is coming
faster than anyone expected. The experts, those who are already
shooting 3D, say technical requirements of 3D will demand a highly
professional approach that, done properly and skillfully, will
return the photographic profession to the standards of the film era.
In May, I attended
the HotDocs conference in Toronto.
There were two
sessions on emerging 3D, one focused on production, the second on
I walked into the
first session, “Crafting 3D,” expecting to hear about megabuck
high tech equipment and a future years away, only to find out that
the future is now.
It began with the
release of James Cameron’s Avatar in London on Dec. 10, 2009. The
next phase of evolution began on June 11, 2010 when the first games
of the FIFA World Cup opened in South Africa. Twenty-five of the
games were to be broadcast in “stereoscopic 3D” using Sony
cameras, the $100,000 HDC-1500 and the new $30,000 P1, plus the
backend software required to put it all together. The 3D games will
be broadcast by EPSN’s, Sky’s new 3D networks and Al Jazeera.
(There’s a summary in this report from Broadcasting and Cable )
The final game will
also be broadcast in Canada in 3D by the CBC which has the Canadian
rights for the World Cup. Unfortunately the CBC (once long ago a
leader in technology) was, under its current management, late to
announce they would broadcast the 3D game -and my usually reliable
sources in the Toronto Broadcast Centre that it was pressure from the
Rogers cable company which is also one of the sponsors of the
broadcasts that forced CBC Sports into the 21st century,
The buzz was out
there for 3D coverage long before the first whistle of the World Cup.
Three-D sets were already in sports bars and sports pubs (the
Masters was broadcast in 3D) and according to the members of the
second, tech panel, “Stereoscopic 3D from script to screen” what
fans were seeing in UK sports pubs in May was already driving
consumer demand for the sets far beyond anything Avatar could have
done. It was that panel that predicted that the biggest electronic
item this Christmas will be a dual capacity 3D/2D HDTV monitor. The
standard HDTV set is already obsolete.
newspapers around the world are full of ads for 3D sets. (But one
has to wonder if the bean counting corporate publishers are paying
any attention beyond the revenue from those ads.)
The networks around
the world are keeping a close eye on the World Cup and there are
already demands for 3D content as the world telecoms put together 3D
offerings on satellite and cable. (This is also going to be a huge
headache for network bean counters who, just a couple of years ago,
spent hundreds of millions implementing HDTV, only to find that
investment has be made all over again with 3D).
There are already
shoulder mounted 3D cameras, about the size of the first heavy video
cameras or a large, professional 16mm film rig.
At “Script to
Screen” I asked the panel when there would be news crews using 3D
cameras. The consensus answer was “‘within two years.” Discovery
already plans a 3D channel for nature and science programming,
which was also the first first attractive market for HDTV.
The consensus of
the panel was that like HDTV, the first efforts in 3D by news
organizations will be high-end, prestige documentaries, then the
current affairs programs and finally the evening newscasts. The
panel said that there were rumours in the 3D community that 3D
planning by CNN was already well underway.
expected to launch a smaller, lighter 3D camera costing $21,000 this
autumn, a camera that reminds one of the movie robot Wall-E.
recent Profusion trade show in Toronto, both Sony and Panasonic had
3D displays. The Sony display was a mind blower, a large 3D HDTV
with a video of fish in an aquarium, quality that came close to
Avatar. Panasonic had a prototype camera that did not impress the
tech savvy crowd, whether it was the technology or the sales tech staff that set it up. The glasses didn’t work well and there were ghost
images on the screen. (But it is likely those bugs will be worked out
by the official launch)
The electronics business wants a consumer-friendly 3D market ( amateurs and family
shooters are now an estimated at 90 per cent of the photo and video
market) and wants those photographers to shoot 3D, and already have
announced low end 3D equipment. But the experts on that panel said
that shooting 3D so that it creates an environment that draws in the
viewer–and doesn’t make them sick or trigger a headache–will
require high skill levels to shoot.
In others words it
could be a return to the film era. There were millions of amateur
photographers during the film era, but in 95% of cases, the
professional was paid for the professional product.
Professional photographers and
videographers have been facing the future with
fear and loathing for the past few years as the value of their work
has declined in competition with the prosumer and amateurs whose work
is easily available for a just a dollar or more often for free.
By Christmas, 2010,
that too will begin to change. The best present for those who want
to create visually and earn a decent living, is that a blue alien and
the beautiful game will revive and reinvigorate professional
will have to master parallax, depth cues, stereoscopic depth
perception and depth resolution, interocular distance, depth
placement, convergence, orthostereoscopy and the audience’s 3D
comfort zone. (All beyond the scope of this blog).
So whether you are
cheering for the Netherlands or Spain, give a couple of cheers for
the 3D crews as well. Because if it works, it’s a whole new ball