by Mark Fihn
Jon Peddie is one of the most well-known and respected analysts in the world of displays – truly a gentleman and scholar, while at the same time unafraid to express his opinions. At a recent conference, I gave a rather optimistic presentation about the future market for 3D displays. Jon spoke immediately after my presentation and suggested that I was under the influence of some illicit drugs – and that the market for 3D displays was still far off in the future. Jon and I have had several conversations on the subject of 3D displays, and sometimes I think that at least a tiny bit of my optimism related to the market potential is starting to rub off on him.
In the last edition of the 3rd Dimension, we published a “Last Word” piece from Jon that was a bit less than optimistic about the future of 3D displays. Although my opinions differ from Jon’s, my experience suggests that it’s a positive thing to air contrary opinions – both to sharpen one’s own arguments, and to better understand weaknesses in one’s opinions.
Having myself been humbled a bit by Jon’s world view, it was with great interest that I read a rejoinder to Jon’s Last Word piece from Meant To Be Seen guru, Neil Schneider, who stirred up the discussion a bit. Neil is a passionate supporter of the 3D display industry – particularly as it relates to the gaming industry.
Jon and Neil agreed to continue the back/forth in this edition of the 3rd Dimension where we give them both an opportunity to respond to several of the issues brought up by their dual. First, we repeat Jon Peddie’s editorial from the last edition; we follow it with Neil Schneider’s rejoinder, and then we ask a series of questions to the two of them to help identify if there are some common viewpoints, both pro and con, about the future of the stereoscopic 3D display market.
Dr. Jon Peddie is one of the pioneers of the graphics industry, starting his career in computer graphics in 1962. After the successful launch of several graphics manufacturing companies, Peddie began JPA in 1984 to provide comprehensive data, information and management expertise to the computer graphics industry. In 2001 Peddie left JPA and formed Jon Peddie Research (JPR) to provide customer intimate consulting and market forecasting services.
Peddie lectures at numerous conferences on topics pertaining to graphics technology and the emerging trends in digital media technology. Recently named one of the most influential analysts, he is frequently quoted in trade and business publications, and contributes articles to numerous publications as well as appearing on CNN and TechTV. Peddie is also the author of several books including Graphics User Interfaces and Graphics Standards, High Resolution Graphics Display Systems, and Multimedia and Graphics Controllers, and a contributor to Advances in Modeling, Animation, and Rendering.
Neil Schneider is the president & CEO of Meant to be Seen. He runs the first and only stereoscopic 3D certification and advocacy group. MTBS is non-proprietary and they test and certify video games for S-3D compatibility. They also continually take innovative steps to move the S-3D industry forward through education, community development, and member driven advocacy. In addition to game certifications, they have recently added a game review service that measures the enjoyment and quality of games from a stereoscopic 3D perspective using modern hardware solutions. The following article was originally posted on September 22 on the MTBS website: http://www.mtbs3D.com
Published in the October 16, 2008 edition of the 3rd Dimension newsletter in the “Last Word” column The industry, or perhaps I should say the industries, are hurling themselves toward the newfound wonder of stereovision, which is being called 3D (not even 3D vision). 3D in the movies, 3D in games, and 3D on TV. It’s even being proposed for handheld devices.
3D for entertainment, 3D for signage, 3D for science and engineering, 3D for defense, 3D forever. We, happy consumers who will do just about anything we’re told, will now have a new fashion accessory – 3D viewing glasses. We will have multiples of them, different sizes, shapes, and colors to fit the clothes we are wearing, or maybe not wearing at all considering some of the uses of 3D.
3D, of course, is not new, and to borrow a page from Kathleen Maher’s book, it has sputtered and stopped and sputtered and stopped again due to the inability of its promoters to cross the practicality gap. But today’s promoters and supporters tell us, yell at us, that that’s all solved now, all those problems have gone away, been resolved, and it is the new wave, the new thing, our lives will never be the same. Sound familiar? I do believe we have been promised such things before.
The powerful people cite the inevitability of this new wave. They say that just as talkies replaced silent film, and color replaced black and white, and multi-channel sound replaced mono, 3D will be the way we watch all, not some, but all movies in the future, and that future is rushing towards as giant studios like Disney and DreamWorks commit to 3D 100%.
Right behind them, or maybe in synch with them, are games, PC games to be exact. PC games, modern PC games, come with a built-in advantage, they are already constructed in 3D, so getting them to display 3D vision is easier, or so we are told – there is that little issue of refresh rate and 60Hz LCD displays, but not to worry, that will all be taken care of.
3D TV will have to wait a while as standards and displays get developed. 3D TV is theoretically possible now with high-speed DLP TVs and projectors, and high-bandwidth media like Blu-ray. So, we can don our evening wear 3D glasses, pop in the season collection of Battlestar Galactica, and bask in the joy of missiles, Vipers, and number six protruding into our living room. Once number six is projected in 3D there will be no going back.
Well, I’m still waiting for the share price of my dot-com companies to come back up to the purchase price so I can sell them and put the money back in my retirement fund. I’m not really in the market right now for the newest old best great thing. I’m not convinced the practicality gap has been crossed. One of the reasons I’m taking that position is the abundance of solutions. There are five choices of glasses. That’s three too many. We can have two types, one for movies and one for PC and TV, but not five. Before 3D is the de facto entertainment standard, it first has to get some – standards that is. It also has to overcome the chicken-egg thing of installed base of the necessary technology vs. the content. And then there’s that content issue. One of the things that killed, well I guess it didn’t kill it, but at least severely wounded 3D back in the 1950s was the awful content. And, with the exception of some of the IMAX stuff, it has remained awful, poking things out at the audience, no story, and then the ultimate eye fatigue and disorientation. One of the most recent movies the studios are raving about, Journey to the Center of the Earth, is so bad it’s amazing it got released.
Sports, on the other hand, do look good, better, and more interesting in HD and 3D. Sports, for the most part, aren’t staged, and there is no director yelling throw the ball at the camera. And sports, especially fast-paced sports like basketball and soccer (football) are especially challenging to the refresh issues, but, when they get it right, they are truly thrilling to watch.
So that’s my prediction. 3D will not become a mass consumer home entertainment vehicle for quite some time, but special-event 3D will. Special sporting events, special well-made movies, and maybe even a well-made computer game will be the market.
So don’t rush out and buy your designer 3D glasses just yet, be happy with the ones the theater loans to you for a couple of hours, which ever type they may be.
Epilog – movie director that I want to be, I have observed that the 3D effect in movies is more believable and more effective when things point into the screen, away from the viewer, rather than out and at the viewer.
Published on October 23, 2008 as an MTBS editorial.
A few days ago, I read an article by Dr. Jon Peddie. Dr. Peddie is credited as being a pioneer in the computer graphics industry and is currently best known for the reports put out by his Jon Peddie Research firm. His work is very credible and he is a well respected individual.
Most recently, he wrote an article for Veritas et Visus entitled “Last Word: 3D to be, or not to be…” In it, he criticizes the viability of stereoscopic 3D technologies and – between the lines – suggests that our industry is in Fantasyland with our market expectations with quips like “we, happy consumers, will do just about anything we are told”. In reference to the technology’s former problems, he remarks that “today’s promoters and supporters tell us, yell at us, that that’s all solved now”.
It saddens me that the whole article was a blurred wash of our industry’s hopes and dreams, and I’m convinced that Dr. Peddie was more doubtful of the actual merits of 3D rather than the industry requirements to make 3D work. He begins his over-enthused oatmeal tone (yes, I can be sarcastic too) with “The powerful people cite the inevitability of this new wave… just as talkies replaced silent film, and color replaced black and white, and multichannel sound replaced mono, 3D will be the way we watch all, not some, but all movies in the future, and that future is rushing towards as giant studios like Disney and DreamWorks commit to 3D 100%,” Dr. Peddie writes.
I consider MTBS a valuable resource for credible information, and we are not a razzle-dazzle marketing ploy that gets consumers to buy technologies with over the top evolutionary promises. I don’t recall yelling at people or forcing ideas down their throats. If we yell, it’s only because it is frustratingly difficult to convey what is meant to be seen.
After his remarks about 3D cinema, he says “right behind them, or maybe in synch with them, are games, PC games to be exact. PC games, modern PC games, come with a built-in advantage, they are already constructed in 3D, so getting them to display 3D vision is easier, or so we are told – there is that little issue of refresh rate and 60Hz LCD displays, but not to worry, that will all be taken care of.”
What’s this about “or so we are told” in reference to the ease of getting games to be S-3D compatible? His sarcasm is deafening. I guess he isn’t aware that modern S-3D equipment has very little to do with 60Hz LCD displays. Our future is more dependent on faster refresh rate 120Hz LCD, Plasma, and DLP panels mixed with modern LCD shutter glasses (e.g. Nvidia), and novel dual (e.g. iZ3D) and interlaced (e.g. Zalman) panel solutions based on polarized glasses.
Speaking of glasses, “There are five choices of glasses. That’s three too many. We can have two types, one for movies and one for PC and TV, but not five. Before 3D is the defacto entertainment standard, it first has to get some – standards that is.”
I think Dr. Peddie needs to get some – analysis that is. Clearly, here is a man who went to business school with Henry Ford who said “the customer can have any color he wants so long as it’s black”.
A few months ago, Dr. Robert Cailliau, the co-developer of the World Wide Web, explained in an interview the benefits of standards in that it is very convenient to be able to plug the same headphones unit into every stereo in the house. I agree with the value of this.
I can completely see standards as far as the delivery of content from the TV station to the television, or from the movie house to the Blu-Ray Disc. However, the relationship between the 3D display and my eyes is fair game. As a customer first, I want to be able to buy the technology and eyewear that suits my needs. I don’t care how the 3D is accomplished as long as it works, it is comfortable, and it is safe.
I would be very concerned if someone was trying to standardize the way S-3D was displayed on the screen because that would stifle technological progress.
Let me take this further. I think it is pure foolishness to suggest that standards will define or determine business success or viability. If I standardized the soda bottle, would that guarantee my sales? No! I need to have something in that bottle that people want to buy. 3D is no different.
Our number one priority has to be capturing the interest and imaginations of traditional 2D entertainment consumers. 3D cinema is doing just fine without standards. 3D Gaming is doing just fine without standards. At home consumer 3D cinema – not as much – but standards isn’t their biggest challenge. Determining the willingness for viewers to wear 3D glasses while watching movies is.
Dr. Peddie finished his melancholy commentary by giving some praise to 3D sporting events, and ends with a single sentence of wisdom about the believability of content inside the screen rather than the forced pop-out experience. Then his “final word” ends… thankfully.
It is upsetting that this wasn’t a credible analysis of our developing S-3D industry, especially from an esteemed analyst like Dr. Jon Peddie. It was instead a forced editorial filled with pointless pot-shots and baseless posturing. I would go so far as to say that Dr. Peddie’s summary was written with a disdain for the 3D technology itself, and shrouded it with the illusion of analysis.
That said, his article did draw attention to a factor we need to be more wary of. During my trip to the 3D Film and Interactive festival in Cocoa Beach, Florida, I saw a commercial for “Dish Network: Turbo HD”. During the commercial, there was an announcer talking about their new Turbo HD sales package, and at the same time, comedian Frank Caliendo comes on dressed to look like a mocking William Shatner thinking it was about “3D”. In pure over-acting Shatner-esk bravado, he talked about how 3D was incredible and that he can be inside and outside the screen, eventually begging to be touched by the other announcer.
I am left asking myself this question: when did 3D jump the shark from being looked at as a serious story based technology enhancement, and instead became a joke in TV cable commercials? While Dr. Peddie’s article was by no stretch of the imagination the final word on 3D, perhaps his tongue in cheek 3D pot-shots are a symptom of a much larger problem of how 3D is being perceived by the general public even before they put their glasses on? Clearly, some proper analysis needs to be done.
In this section, we explore Jon Peddie’s and Neil Schneider’s respective commentaries about the state of the industry, looking for some areas of agreement while highlighting the areas of stress. The pitfalls of 3D technology that Jon Peddie points to cannot be ignored, while at the same time, the industry needs to stay away from any sense of euphoria about a massive and immediate mainstream adoption. The identical questions were asked to both Jon and Neil in an attempt to elicit counter-point responses. Initially, neither party saw the responses of the other in advance of their own inputs. Then, we offered both Jon and Neil the opportunity to refine or add commentary, and this is the final result:
Please offer any opening comments about your respective positions related to 3D displays.
Schneider: MTBS just completed the U-DECIDE Initiative, which was a special study of what consumers think of S-3D. We surveyed traditional 2D gamers who don’t yet own S-3D equipment, and experienced S-3D gamers who own stereoscopic 3D equipment of their own. It was promoted by six companies including AMD, iZ3D, Blitz Games Studios, The Game Creators, Guild Software, and Meant to be Seen. We had 714 respondents in total with a 60/40 split in favor of 2D gamers. I am pleased that our industry no longer needs to move ahead with guesswork, and we can now back our positions up with hard data.
Peddie: The problem with this discussion is the terminology. “3D displays” in and by itself suggests the physical display – the monitor if you will. That leaves us with just two choices: lenticular displays (like Philips’) and novel multi LCD displays like iZ3D. Both of them are compromises that try to compensate for the refresh rate needed to keep the final stereoscopic presentation from flickering you into a coma or a blazing headache. If you have a compelling need to view a stereo image (such as CAD or medicine) then they may be acceptable, but for an entertainment experience they are annoying, distracting, expensive, and ultimately a failure.
Both of you have been critical about the vocabulary employed by industry professionals (such as myself) with regard to stereoscopic presentation, with the common theme that “3D” is an inadequate moniker. Jon wants to be sure to distinguish between 3D presentation and 3D effects that are rendered by the graphics engine. Neil insists on referring to S3D, (stereoscopic 3D) rather than the more generic 3D appellation. I shrug my shoulders, recognizing that most users struggle to spell 3D, let alone stereoscopic, so let’s focus on promoting the medium without getting bogged down by the precise taxonomy. Please comment.
Schneider: You fool! Do you want to kill us all?!?? Just kidding… I agree with Jon, which is why we heavily promote the term S-3D to abbreviate stereoscopic 3D. In this case, it’s not about the customers as much as it is about fitting in with current industry terminology. In video games, for example, “3D” is used every day to describe volumetric rendering that is displayed on a 2D surface. It is so engrained in the vocabulary, to mention 3D in the gaming industry or community almost never gets associated with stereoscopic 3D. “S-3D” is a way around that. It’s short, it doesn’t sound boring, it’s easy to see what the abbreviation stands for, and it caught on very quickly. It was much easier to invent a new word, than reeducate an entire industry and community base.
Peddie: I’m happy to go with Neil’s suggestion of S-3D, as it applies to PCs. 3DTV I think is OK in and of itself and 3D in the movies is OK too.
Jon referred to the transition from silent movies to talkies and from monochrome to color, but suggested that it’s unlikely we’ll see a similar transition from monoscopic to stereoscopic viewing. Please offer some analysis about why stereoscopic viewing is similar or different from these other technology transitions.
Schneider: I would argue that unlike these other technology enhancements, stereoscopic 3D is best suited for certain types of content. S-3D has to play an important part of the story to be relevant. Look at color and black and white! Even today, there are occasions when black and white photography or film are more desirable than color, even though it is now more expensive to produce black and white. It’s all about relevance. In my opinion, S-3D will always be relevant to video games, and have selective relevance in movies and broadcasts. The option to display true 3D will always be there through available S-3D displays and theaters, but the content will be more selective.
Peddie: The transitions described were natural and passive, the viewer didn’t have to do anything different from what he/she had been doing. The construction of stereovision on a flat screen is, and always will be, a synthetic experience and not ever something 100% of the population is physically capable of perceiving. It is a gimmick, and even though it may gain some traction in the theaters, it’s a long way off for TV. (SMPTE has four proposed methods and hasn’t even started serious consideration of any of them due to political in-fighting within the committee.) PC or S-3D is available now, with either iZ3D with polarized glasses or 120Hz monitors and shutter glasses. Even with low cost 120Hz monitors coming online (should be in full production by mid-year) the replacement rate for consumers, primarily game enthusiast and specifically those at the high end, won’t hit the magic 20% penetration point till the end of 2010 at the earliest. Add to that the content is far from finished (it’s jerky and sparkly, many games have floating things (like fire and smoke), and often can’t track fast motion), and a recession – and you have serious obstacles to development of a market.
Jon refers to an issue associated with 60Hz refresh rates on LCD displays with regard to stereoscopic gaming. What is this issue and what’s wrong with the numerous technologies that help improve frame rate?
Schneider: The issue that Jon is referring to is tied to LCD shutter glasses. The glasses work by alternating the transparency of the left and right eyes so quickly in cooperation with the display, that the brain only detects a single S-3D image. The problem is that when the refresh rate is too low, the viewer experiences flicker and strobe headaches. In this case, while a 60Hz display would be comfortable in 2D viewing, 30Hz per eye would be miserable. This is why the 120Hz or better LCD displays are earning so much attention. S-3D mode now equals a comfortable 60Hz per eye experience. They display almost no flicker, and will only get better – especially as the displays get brighter to compensate for the light loss from LCD shutter glasses technology. I would add that this marks the point that single panel LCD monitors can benefit from S-3D shutter glasses. LCD shutter glasses used to only be compatible with CRT monitors, and this was a big handicap for our industry. The error in Jon’s logic was there are additional 3D solutions in the market like dual panel 3D monitors. A good example is the iZ3D 22-inch 3D monitor. It is a polarized solution that devotes a full 60Hz panel to each eye. Flicker free, full resolution, and very little loss of luminance. While shutter glasses’ biggest challenge is a darker image (I would estimate as much as 60% light loss on LCD panels), the dual panel polarized solution has mild ghosting or cross-talk between the eyes. The good news is iZ3D is going through a public beta of experimental glasses to further improve display quality, and we are only hearing good things.
Peddie: If a first-person shooter (FPS) is to be used as the test case – and it should since it is the most demanding on almost every parameter, then you have but to spend 15 minutes trying to play such a game to realize the limitations. The basic hardware works – the games themselves which have for the most part been retro fitted through clever work done in the display board’s driver, lack fidelity and sincerity – they simply are not believable. The initial experience is thrilling. To be specific, I am an avid FPS game player and have the latest and best equipment and games. I have tried the top ten games including sim and RPGs. And within a half hour tops I am tired of the compromises. It’s difficult to impossible to aim (the game developer, if involved, and/or the SW driver simply don’t know how or where to place the sights of the weapon). So you, the player, get trained on how to aim, which is not natural – do you bias to the left, to the right, how much, depends upon the scene and the game. Nvidia, who is leading this market (and a special thanks to them for doing so) offers an analog dial box to allow you to adjust the depth – and the net result is you adjust the view depth to the absolute minimum in order to try and get some sense of aiming. In some games you may not use the advanced shading techniques – techniques the game developer and the graphics card developer and Microsoft through DirectX 10 and 10.5 went to great time and costs to develop to make games more appealing and realistic. In other games shadows and reflections are turned off – by the driver. So the net result is using stereo in PC games pushes you a generation or two backwards in scene presentation. Can this be overcome? Yes. Will it be soon or easy? No. This is very, VERY tricky stuff. Getting all the optical effects right (and I’ve written on this already so I won’t go over it again) is difficult. Getting the newly visible surfaces and edges properly calculated so you don’t end up with cardboard cutout characters and objects is tricky. And locating objects correctly relative to their local objects that are constructed with particles (like smoke or water spray) seems damn near impossible.
Schneider: I would like the opportunity to respond to Jon here. First, there are two stereoscopic 3D solutions at play: the Nvidia driver solution and the iZ3D driver solution.
o MTBS is in talks with Nvidia to get media samples for proper game testing, so we will be able to report back when we have equipment in our hands. However, we know for certain that Nvidia offers an in-game dynamic cross-hair where possible, and they have a special add-on cross-hair created by their driver that helps compensate for the game. In both cases, the aiming tool adjusts according to the depth of the object it is pointing to.
o The iZ3D driver solution has two options as well. First, by selecting “left” or “right” shift in their driver options, the dominant eye gets the benefit of an accurate cross-hair, which means you can play all your S-3D games with spot on accuracy with both eyes open. There is no bias or guess-work on where to aim. If you prefer the classic method, you can use iZ3D’s add-on cross-hair, but I have never had a need to use it. My reputation precedes me for going crazy on depth and pop-out effects, and cross-hair aim should not be a limiting factor here.
o As for the advanced shading techniques, Jon is most likely referring to shader level, HDR, bloom and blur effects. I have discussed this with Nvidia, and it is true that while their offering is continually improving, not all titles benefit from these features equally – at least not yet. They do have the advantage of supporting DirectX 10 implementation, and this will be better demonstrated as their drivers progress.
o The current iZ3D software solution is based on DirectX 9 technology and fully supports all these effects. Play Bioshock with all settings on full and you will see! Fire, haze, lighting…it’s spectacular. Same for Prince of Persia, Call of Duty 5, Spore and more.
o Finally, leadership is defined by our deeds and willingness to take risks. Jon remarked about Nvidia’s industry leadership, and I think additional credit should go where it’s due. MTBS has by far the largest S-3D community in existence with nearly 30,000 unique visitors a month, and this was made possible by unrestricted education grants from iZ3D and TDVision Corp. They made financial commitments to the industry before they had products on the market two years ago.
o AMD, Blitz Games Studios, Guild Software, and The Game Creators helped make the UDECIDE Initiative possible, and without their assistance, we wouldn’t have the hard data needed to move our industry forward according to customers’ wishes.
o AMD (ATI) has committed support via iZ3D, the console developers are actively looking at getting involved, and for the past two years, additional companies like DDD, Mitsubishi, Samsung, Texas Instruments, and several more have been building customer traction through their own efforts. I haven’t even mentioned the game developers who have implemented native S-3D support before the mass product distribution base has been established.
To me, these are valuable examples of leadership that deserve credit, and this discussion would not have been possible without them.
In the world of PC gaming, it’s true that modern games are largely rendered fully in stereo already – providing an instant catalog of content. While it’s true that some of the rendering is less than superb, and the CODECs may not yet be fully adequate, it seems hard to argue that gaming will not be a major test-bed for stereoscopic display technologies. Please comment.
Schneider: This question isn’t quite true. Games are written in volumetric 3D, which means they are rendered with depth coordinates. However, most game engines do not output a left and right image. Instead, something called a stereoscopic 3D driver captures this volumetric 3D information through the DirectX or OpenGL. API calls and extrapolates a left and right image that an S-3D display solution will understand. Nvidia and iZ3D both produce stereoscopic 3D drivers that do this. As for gaming being a test bed for S-3D technologies, it’s much more than that. Gaming IS the industry. According to our UDECIDE Initiative results, almost 88% of 2D respondents see S-3D being suitable for video games, and this climbs to almost 96% for experienced S-3D gamers. Other forms of content like Blu-ray movies, sporting events, and broadcasts are much more selective.
Peddie: FPSs at high (2580×1600) resolution at full (60Hz) frame rate with full rendering effects turned on can’t be done – period. So if you can’t satisfy the worst case, then anything you offer is a compromise.
Schneider: Just want to throw in a statistic here. Did you know that most console games are rendered at 30fps? While the spec calls for a maximum 60fps, game developers consider 30fps a very acceptable performance rating. I would venture that the hopes and dreams of 60+fps are largely a product of GPU marketing than an actual requirement for most gamers. Enjoying games in S-3D with playable frame rates is very much possible and available today.
Jon suggests that for cinema, gaming, and TV, the “practicality gap” between monoscopic displays and stereoscopic displays is still too great. Is this gap related to stereo capture, 3D rendering, 3D decoding, 3D displays, media, glasses, or some combination?
Schneider: There is some truth to what Jon is saying, but not for all markets. Gaming is here today. You can buy a game off a shelf, buy a modern S-3D solution online or in retail, and game in true 3D today! Instant gratification. The other markets that include at-home cinema, sporting events, broadcasts, etc. face all the challenges Jon brought up.
Peddie: I couldn’t have said it better. Synthesized stereovision has n-factorial compromises and the population of potential viewers have n-combinatorial physiological and experiential biases making the net result a set that never converges.
Let me put this differently. I now have two stereoscopic displays in my home, both for entertainment purposes. Although the set-up and price points are still arguably a bit beyond mainstream penetration, I personally only have one concern about “practicality” – which relates purely to content. There’s just not much use for a 3D-ready TV, when there’s so little available to watch in 3D. Am I missing some critical black hole that leaves 3D otherwise impractical?
Schneider: I was very frustrated with our industry during 2008’s holiday season. S-3D displays could have been sold under the auspices of 3D gaming instead of 3D cinema. Buy a 3D HDTV, connect it to your PC, download free stereoscopic 3D drivers, and game on a huge screen! Instead, our industry wasted their time ignoring this sales benefit, and let these units sit on store shelves during the most critical sales period of the year. It is criminal when you figure the world is going through some serious economic challenges. Besides, gamers are the early adopters of technology like this. I don’t know what they were thinking.
Peddie: No, not at all – content and the correct rendering of it is everything. You may be able to find some DVDs or BDs that will offer a stereo experience (I personally haven’t found any, but then I haven’t been looking either.) As for games, I’ve opined on that enough already.
Jon complains about there being too many choices of glasses, suggesting there are five different glasses-based solutions. Neil asks, who cares if there are multiple glasses, so long as they work. First of all, even given the wide variety of stereo solutions available today, is it really true that any one display solution might require as many as five different types of glasses? And secondly, even if multiple glasses are required, considering the number of remote control devices scattered around most living rooms, is it really an issue to add some glasses to the mix of items you search for?
Schneider: I am unaware of any single S-3D solution requiring more than one type of glasses, though I do expect to see a qualitative difference between glasses options. For example, Nvidia has their brand of glasses, and I have been advised that other companies are going to be offering even more premium quality glasses solutions. Similar to the way you can buy an inexpensive optical mouse or a premium quality gaming laser mouse. I’m unconvinced that this is a serious issue.
Peddie: I tend to agree with Neil’s answer as long as the glasses don’t impact the construction of the content. If the content developers have to have a separate file for each pair of decoders (i.e., glasses) that will quickly get too expensive and the net result will be a repeat of the DVD wars (also a big waste of money and energy) and potentially a worse compromise.
Does the practicality gap disappear when we reach a point of acceptable auto-stereoscopic display solutions?
Schneider: The practicality gap around glasses is pure myth – at least according to customers. According to the U-DECIDE Initiative, only 12% of 2D customers object to 3D glasses for video games. This climbs to just 16% for Blu-ray movies, and only significantly increases to almost 30% for S-3D broadcast television. Experienced S-3D customers are more forgiving with just a 3% objection level for video games, 4% for Blu-ray, and 12% for broadcast television. It’s interesting that the proportions are so close between the groups. From customers, I have no evidence to support the belief that autostereoscopic display solutions are going to make or break our industry. Gaming and Blu-ray are glasses safe, and for now, these are the markets that matter most.
Peddie: Yes, and then the pundits, press, and posters will discover it and declare it the new sliced bread, or sex, or plastic, or whatever.
Neil suggests that standards are a largely a non-issue – suggesting that the standardizing the soda bottle is not a guarantor of sales. I personally think that Pepsi and Coke would enjoy far fewer sales if they did not have consistent bottling styles and techniques and that similarly there must be standards in place to assure the widespread mainstream adoption of 3D into the home, but I wonder if such standardization is an essential precursor or more of a secondary result of new technology implementations. Please comment.
Schneider: While our industry has been waiting for standards to form, two critical Christmas sales periods have gone by without a single concerted effort to sell 3D HDTVs based on their S-3D benefits – even though they are sitting on store shelves. The winners have only been iZ3D with their retail roll-out, and Nvidia with their recent shutter glasses roll-out at CES. When customers are banging down our door for 3D cinema technologies in the home, standards will form and form fast. For now, the only evidence we have is for gaming, and standards are not a barrier of entry just yet.
Peddie: If you want 3DTV you are going to have to have a transmission standard. My favorite one is the meta file model that allows 3D data to be carried with standard (non-3D) TV so the user who has a 3DTV can get it, just as the user with a color TV can, whilst the user without 3DTV doesn’t lose anything, just as the user with a black and white TV still gets a damn fine picture. Theater standards are religious wars now with three very strong camps vying for exhibitor (screens) sign up. The studios are saying they don’t really care, it’s a decode problem at the exhibitors. The exhibitors see 3D as a way to force them into spending the big bucks to go digital and trick by the studios to create fresh demand in the minds of the consumers to expect and ask for it. Standards will mitigate a lot of the costs and friction between the studios and exhibitors.
Neil asserts that our primary concern at this moment is to interest users in 2D entertainment to the promise of 3D entertainment. Is there a risk of generating interest in 3D if the technology and infrastructure still is not fully adequate to support it?
Schneider: You can’t have one without the other. Game developers will not implement native S-3D support if there isn’t a demonstrated customer base or interested community waiting for it, and no credible and adopted standard could be established without all the players at the table. I would rather have a million angry people begging for 3D standards and complaining about lack of standards, than spending precious resources on building something few if any customers have asked for. Demand first, standards later.
Peddie: Absolutely – you and Neil are probably too young to remember the 1950s when 3D was the rage of the movies – for a year! Then it was tried again, but with a sex spin to it in the 1960s – another flop. The boomers with the bucks remember that stuff and will be hesitant to invest because of it. So if you want to get them signed up, and keep the Gen Y and X consumers loyal you better get it right, because there are too many competing sources chasing too few entertainment dollars.
Are public perceptions of 3D creating significant barriers to the adoption of 3D technologies into the home?
Schneider: Not the public, the media. In our U-DECIDE Initiative results, a staggering 65% of 2D respondents find S-3D “intriguing” and 27% more say S-3D is “must have” technology. Less than 4% think S-3D is “tacky”, and just over 5% think it “sounds uncomfortable” – very low compared to what is often assumed of consumers.
Peddie: Possibly, but there really hasn’t been any significant demonstrations so it’s too early to say.
How can public perceptions be changed, or are we mired in a world that perceived 3D purely as a gimmick?
Schneider: I like the perceptions of consumers. If it was up to me, I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s the media that is pushing this “gimmick” mentality – and they are not customers in the traditional sense.
Peddie: Just do what you promised – make it work, without compromise or excuses, and make it affordable.
What do you see as the biggest impediment to getting 3D into the home? And what will it take to overcome this impediment?
Schneider: Our own industry. We have wasted too much time and money on trying to establish a standard without building the demand first. If you want a standard, fine – get a good standards war going and move on. We have assumed that S-3D in the professional movie theater space will translate the same way in the home, and have been acting on that basis – this is very wrong. We need to market according to the demands and abilities we have today, and our industry has an incredible amount to offer! Enough of this weakness around hoping for auto-stereoscopic 3D displays in the distant future. There is no data to support this position, at least not for the markets that matter most to customers. That reminds me, we need to get more connected with our customers directly. Every conference I speak at, there is too much attention on the industry talking to each other, but little to no effort on speaking with customers directly. The U-DECIDE Initiative report, which is 100% based on customer input will be out shortly. No excuses!
Any final comments you’d like to offer on the topic?
Schneider: Let me share with you an experience I had in Vegas on the way home from CES. We were going from casino to casino to cover CES, attend meetings, and take in the sights. Unlike last year, every casino had people stopping us to give free shows. “Are you staying a few hours” and “before you go, I have a question”, etc. etc. Pushing, pushing, pushing, pushing! When it was time to leave for home, I asked our baggage handler this question: “We noticed this trend where every casino we go to, sales people work hard to give us free shows. Is this new?” This was his answer:
“The casinos are trying to come up with ways to keep people in the casinos. Our industry works in quarters, and this has been the worst quarter ever. If this trend continues, in two years Las Vegas will be a ghost town. This is an industry expectation. I’m not making this up.”
It was difficult to believe, and yet we just learned that Circuit City was closing all their stores. The moral of the story is this: enough talk! Enough talk about the future of 3D – we are here in the present, enough talk about whether or not glasses are acceptable – customers say they are, and enough talk about standards that customers are not demanding. We either have viable products or we don’t. I say we do, and it’s time to do. We need to reach out to the consumers directly, we need to have professional retail roll-outs with the content customers are asking for, and we need the manufacturers to join together in a customer focused way. Finally, it is MTBS’ position that customers should be expressing this demand for us – more so than industry. Our market has a lot going for it, even during these challenging economic times. Let’s avoid inventing barriers where there are none.
There you have it! Special thanks to Mark Fihn for making this article available to mtbs3D.com. Was there a clear victor? Is Jon Peddie wise in his ways, or is Neil Schneider telling it like it is? Share your thoughts in our discussion forums!