For anyone in the production and post industry, the format wars is a recurring theme.  Industry leaders addressed this very issue as it relates to emerging 3D devices at another panel on the all-day ETC (USC's Entertainment Technology Center) seminar held 3Dhomeat CES 2010. Moderated by Rick Doherty, co-founder/director of Envisioneering Group, panelists included Josh Greer, president of RealD; Eisuke Tsuyuzaki, CTO of Panasonic; and Nandhu Nandhakumar, senior VP of advanced technology at LG Electronics.

Even though 3D TV is in its infancy, the format wars are already at play. Doherty noted that one manufacturer has put out seven different 3D TV models but only two have the same format. He asked the panelists to describe what they see as the challenges going forward. "We’re almost at the beginning of 3D," said Greer. "3D has been around for a long time but we need a consistently good experience with delivery and content." He noted that RealD works with DLP partners for projectors and, in the home, will be working with "most of the consumer electronics partners." 3D TV, he said, "has to be very good, easy to use and have a lot content." "Our goal is to stimulate as many of those areas as possible," he said. "We’re seeing major MSOs, satellite companies, and gaming [going to 3D]. We’ll see  a tidal wave of content and that’s what you need."

Tsuyuzaki, who noted that Panasonic built its first 3D TV set in 1997, said that this year the company offers numerous 3D products, including BluRay players and TV sets, as well as having announced its partnership with DirecTV for 3D channels. "We’ve also announced the low-end, professional 3D camcorder," he said. "It’s a camera for documentaries, music,  for getting people started. Going forward, if you’re a creator, your content will be more valuable if you create it in 3D."

Nandhakumar announced LG made a commitment to widen its product offering. "We’ve been  careful in entering the market," he said. "We want to make sure the whole ecosystem is ready." Avatar has raised awareness about the production of 3D content, noted Tsuyuzaki, but 3D has always needed a distribution platform. Panasonic's deal with DirecTV is providing just that, he added. "You’ll see a lot of announcements about content and marketing to do with the 3D world in coming months," he promised.

Greer agreed that "the key will be content." "We live in this leapfrog state," he said. "There's great technology but no content. In the last couple of years, it's gone to the larger content community. The big studios understand, and we’re talking to gamers and broadcasters. They all say, where are the 3D TVs. Now we can say to them,  the TVs are here. Now let’s get moving."

Panelists discussed 2D-to-3D conversion, stressing that the best results come from non real-time solutions. Generally speaking, however, all the panelists stressed that the best 3D content comes from acquisition in 3D. "Shoot and store it in 3D, all the way throughout," said Tsuyuzaki. "That’s the basic philosophy."

Doherty asked the panelists when they thought we'll start seeing user-generated 3D content. Tsuyuzaki predicted it would be "a lot earlier than five years. " "More 3D is good," he said "We have said 3D is transformational, and rejuvenates the CE business."
Nandhakumar believes that it's difficult to predict user-generated content. "The fact that YouTube has the ability to support 3D is really interesting," he said. "The whole 3D wave has really snow-balled and caught a lot of people by surprise with how quickly it’s moved."

The challenge is educating people about all the parts of 3D in the value chain, especially because of differing formats. "There’s no one-size fits all," said Greer, referring to 3D glasses. "Quite often there aren’t a lot of synergies due to cultural reasons. We said, we have seven different protocols: can’t we come together on the shutter glasses side so there’s one set of glasses that can work on Sony, Panasonic and other TVs? That’s one area where we can help." CEA (Consumer Electronics Association) has a working group on 3D glasses, noted Doherty.

But the issues of compatibility between protocols is complex, added Greer. "Media is going to change as it goes through the various pipes," he said. "What we’re trying to do is get to the point where consumers can plug in the beautiful TVs and have a great experience without pushing any buttons. There will be transcoding, but at what point in the chain?  Hopefully the options for the consumers will be transparent. We just now have to learn to play well with each other. Both Sony and Panasonic have to feel they have a competitive edge but also are close enough together."

Glasses are an extension of the display experience and ultimately many manufacturers will make them. But, said Greer, the relationship of glasses to other portions of the 3D display process is intimate. "You can’t just make a pair of glasses," he said.

"Our belief has been consistently that 3D isn’t a feature but a new function with a new platform and everything will be in 3D," said Panasonic's Tsuyuzaki. "We’re crazy enough to make everything ourselves." Greer gave "huge props" to Panasonic for its commitment to 3D. "There is still concern as to whether consumers will buy this stuff," he said. "You will have to buy accessories like glasses, so if people buy 3D TVs, you’ll see more sophisticated and elegant solutions."

A member of the audience asked about auto-stereoscopic solutions, or 3D TV without glasses. "It's very exciting," answered Greer. "There are a couple of fundamental problems with making this a consumer experience. The bigger problem is content because content for auto-stereoscopic display isn’t the same as that for display with glasses.  There may be digital technologies to make it easier, but there has to be a paradigm shift in terms of capture. You’ll see it at Panchinko machines in Japan, and at kiosks. But in the living room, we’re at least a decade away." Nandhakumar confirmed Greer's assertion, noting that LG has auto-stereoscopic displays that are meant for digital signage, not the living room.

Doherty asked the panelists to predict what the biggest challenges to 3D will be in one year.Tsuyuzaki predicted that in a year, at least 15 percent of the audience will have a 3D TV.  "It's real, it's here," he said. "Let's move ahead and broaden the base in health care, design government applications. 3D is as natural as your own vision."

"The No.1 thing is titles," Greer said. "BluRay will be the beginning of this.  DirecTV will come on in June. We hope by this time next year, every game company is making 3D, all the broadcasters are making 3D. Hopefully we take this dialogue beyond “if” it’s 3D, but how to evolve it further. I keep my fingers crossed on evolving capture technologies. As Steve Sklair says,  Capturing 3D isn’t for the faint of heart."