3D Content

The final part of the puzzle is where that content will come from. Hollywood is, of course, the first source, and once a working format - whether on Blu-ray or for downloadable content - is agreed on, films like Avatar, Monsters vs Aliens, Coraline, Tintin, A Christmas Carol and Up will be standard bearers for 3D in the way that Wall-E, Spider-Man 3, Casino Royale and The Dark Knight have been for Blu-ray, or The Matrix was for DVD. Should Avatar lead to an avalanche of 3D content in the way that some people believe it might, future 3D formats will have little to worry them on this angle, and the proposed 3D conversion of Star Wars might well lead to other classic series' getting the 3D treatment too.

However, to succeed 3D will also need broadcast content. First and foremost, this means sport. The technology, in terms of lightweight 3D cameras is there, and in the US there have already been successful experiments with stereoscopic 3D presentations of key American football and basketball events, though to cinemas rather than home screens. Over here, the BBC has tried similar experiments with Rugby Union. The smart money would be on 3D presentations of the 2012 Olympics and the 2010 World Cup in an effort to push 3D into homes worldwide.

Sky has already worked out a potential 3D system, demonstrated on passive/polarized 3D displays with a standard Sky HD box.

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What's more, in December last year Sky demonstrated 3D TV using a Sky HD box and a Hyundai polarized 3D TV, with footage from Ricky Hatton's bout with Juan Lazcano, Liverpool's Champions League match against Marseille and an England vs New Zealand rugby match at Twickenham. Sky has also stated that, along with sports and films, arts events and casual entertainment programmes could benefit from a 3D treatment. Sky's chief engineer, Chris Longs, has already stated that the satellite TV giant will be building a library of 3D content over the next year.
Sky is preparing to store up 3D content by shooting major sports and live events using a dual HD camera system.

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Finally, don't forget games. nVidia's 3D Vision technology is already running with just about every 3D PC game on 120Hz 3D capable displays, and while only a handful of LCD monitors and DLP and plasma screens are currently officially supported in the driver, end-users are already experimenting with new models as they arrive. You can expect the list to grow as time goes on. And if the thought of playing Left4Dead in full, glorious 3D was not enough, it's also worth noting that consoles might well get in on the act. At CES 2009 Sony was already showing off Wipeout HD and GT5: Prologue running from the PS3 in glorious 3D, and while the company took pains to say that this was, again, just a product demonstration, it shows that Sony is at least thinking in the right direction.

In other words, there should be content online by the time 3D TV hits the home. The final question is, will anyone be there to watch it? Well, even barring the expense of equipment and the problems over standards, a few problems remain to be solved. First, it might take a while before broadcasters and even film-makers master the new language of shooting and editing 3D. James Cameron, Robert Zemeckis and the guys at Pixar and Dreamworks' animation studios are the pioneers here, but there are a lot of ways in which 3D can alienate an audience if not used carefully. For example, we're used to seeing objects appear from the left of the screen 'window' and disappear on the right, but what if they start disappearing when they are, perceptually speaking, in front of the screen? It might take some time and experience before film-makers and programme-makers get this right.
Wipeout HD in 3D could be enough to convince PS3 owners.

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Secondly, there are still remaining questions about comfort in the home. People seem to like 3D in the cinema, where the glasses and the hoopla just becomes another part of the experience, but will they want it for hour after hour in the home? Many people who have tried the initial systems have complained that the effects are tiring after just twenty to thirty minutes. Again, this might just be something content makers will learn to work around, but if not it could spell problems for widespread adoption. After all, most of us watch TV in order to relax.

There's no shame in being cynical about 3D in the home; while it makes perfect sense as a cinema technology given the advantages for filmgoers and Hollywood, not all the benefits ring true in the home - at least not yet. All the same, it would take a brave man to bet against 3D becoming the next HD. If Hollywood opens up a taste for the 3D sensation, the third dimension might just be the only way to go.

Check out The Third Dimension: Part One

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