As the wild anticipation surrounding Jim Cameron’s 3D “Avatar” heightens, a milestone has been reached that will help bring theatrical-quality versions “Avatar” and other 3D studio titles into the home.
The Blu-Ray Disc Association—a consortium of leading companies including Sony, Panasonic, Philips, LG and Samsung—on Wednesday announced technical spec for a standardized 3D Blu-Ray format.
Hopefully forestalling the format wars that occurred between Beta and VHS and, more recently, Blu-ray and HD DVD, the new specs provide a standard blueprint for studios, the electronics industry and other stakeholders.
Until a standard was defined, manufacturers have been unwilling to move forward with Blu-ray players that could bring 3D into the home.
The spec includes characteristics including HD (1080p) resolution for each eye and backward compatibility — meaning that standard Blu-ray discs will play in a 3D player (although not in 3D).
It also ensures that Blu-ray 3D products will deliver the 3D image to any compatible 3D display, regardless of whether that display uses LCD, Plasma or other technology and regardless of what 3D technology the display uses to deliver the image to the viewer’s eyes.
"Throughout this year, moviegoers have shown an overwhelming preference for 3D when presented with the option to see a theatrical release in either 3D or 2D,” said Victor Matsuda, chairman, BDA Global Promotions Committee, in a statement. “We believe this demand for 3D content will carry over into the home now that we have, in Blu-ray Disc, a medium that can deliver a quality Full HD 3D experience to the living room.”
A massive launch of the new format — including demonstrations of players, support for game consoles and feature film titles on the format — is being planned for January’s 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
So far, the digital 3D format is considered a success for theater owners, who have been able to charge a premium of roughly $3 over the regular ticket price for 3D hits, including “Up,” “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” and “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.”
More than a dozen 3D titles came to theaters in 2009 — the biggest, "Avatar," due to arrive at midnight Thursday — and a greater number of 3D productions are planned for 2010 and beyond.
But there are still a limited number of 3D-capable theaters, so the 3D Blu-ray format gives studios a new way to reach more consumers, while providing a new outlet with which to amortize their 3D production investment into the home market.
Following product introductions at CES, many execs expect that product will begin to reach the shelves during the second quarter of next year, although studios have been silent about specific titles planned for release.