The most exciting project the PHL is currently working on in this area is revealed to be the standardisation of active shutter glasses. At the time, this extremely welcome process seemed to be in only its infancy. But then, on the very day this article was being completed, we got an announcement from Panasonic stating that, together with XPAND 3D, it had created a new M-3DI standard for cross-brand active shutter glasses. Licensing of the M-3DI technology will start in April, with support for the new standard already announced by Mitsubishi, SIM2, ViewSonic, FUNAI, Hitachi and Seiko, among others. Fingers crossed more of the other major players get on board with this initiative sooner rather than later.
With so much input at all ends of the AV business, it's no surprise to find that the PHL has received plenty of recognition for its work. In 2008 it bagged an Outstanding Engineering Achievement award for leading the development of the MPEG-4 AVC Blu-ray video encoding system. In 2011 it won another Emmy for the creation and establishment of the Blu-ray format. And in 2010 it bagged the Sir Charles Wheatsone Award from the International 3D Society in recognition of its "outstanding leadership in 3D innovation and dedication to professional development".
Its authoring facilities have also won numerous awards for the quality of the Blu-rays they produce, including such titles as Pirates of the Caribbean, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and, most recently, A Christmas Carol, which in January won "3D title of the year" from the Digital Entertainment Group.
Before kicking off a tour of the Labs, we get treated to a couple of pretty remarkable film clips on the cinema room's swanky screen. The first of these features, inevitably, Avatar. But there's more to it than that, for after watching it for a minute or two, it was revealed that while half the picture comprises the original master footage shot by James Cameron, the other half shows the PHL-compressed version that eventually made it onto the film's Blu-ray release. The idea being, of course, to see if you could spot any difference between the two. Personally we hadn't noticed any difference at all before the little trick was revealed, and even after we started looking more closely for signs of compression, the amount of difference really was remarkably minimal considering we were looking at the video on a 29-ft screen.
The other, even better treat was a short 3D film called 009 The Reopening, directed by Mamoru Oshii and based on Shotaro Ishinomori's Cyborg 009 universe. This short film features three to four minutes of simply jaw-dropping animated sci-fi destruction in the sharpest but also most powerful 3D we've ever seen. Honestly, if Panasonic could get this footage into more demo rooms, 3D TV sales would likely double overnight. It's that good.
So good was it, in fact, that the actual tour that followed felt initially a bit flat, as we were abruptly whisked away from the fantastical 009 landscape into a far more mundane world of products and teccy stuff. But of course, it didn't take long for our inner tech geek to start reasserting itself.
Our first port of call was the 3D Innovation Center Experience room, featuring an array of Panasonic's 3D gear, from TVs through to broadcast-level film cameras and even a 3D mixing deck. Given the intensity of the active vs passive 3D TV battle these days, we cheekily have to admit that for us the most eye-catching thing in this room was a passive 3D Panasonic monitor. Though of course, Panasonic was quick to stress that this screen was only for professional monitoring environments. It's not planning to launch any passive screens for your living room any time soon.