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MTBS Interviews Nicholas Routhier, President & CEO of Sensio

Today we are joined by Nicholas Routhier, President & CEO of Sensio! He joins us to talk about their popular S-3D codec, some exciting deals they have developed, and a touch of gaming too!

1. Tell us about Sensio - what does your company do exactly?

SENSIO is a company who develops and markets stereoscopic 3D content distribution technologies for the home theatre market. SENSIO®3D is our flagship technology and is basically a codec which allows the distribution and formatting of 3D content to fit any 3D display. It is used for distribution of 3D content for DVD, BluRay, broadcast and very soon for live 3D events in 3D theatres.

SENSIO is also the largest distributor of 3D content; in collaboration with major Hollywood studios and large format 3D film producers, SENSIO has built one of the world’s largest libraries of 3D movies for the home entertainment market.

2. How and why did you start Sensio? What was happening at the time that justified starting your company?

I am a 3D fan! It’s been one of my passions since I was a kid. I would play with an old 3D viewmaster all the time, I was amazed! Later, in the late ‘80s, I saw my first 3D movie and I just loved the experience and the fact that you really feel like you are there.

When I decided to start a company in the 3D industry, back in 1999, the market was non-existent. HD was the new thing and no one talked about 3D. I was working as a banker and just felt like the challenges were not there anymore and that I was ready for something else! I started SENSIO with my partner, who was working in banking with me.

3. How big was your team when you started, and how many people are working with you now?

At the beginning, we were two people, my partner and I, and we were working part time. Now, our team at SENSIO is growing and we’re currently thirteen full time employees.

4. Let’s talk about your first core business, the Sensio 3D processor. What does it do exactly?

The SENSIO®3D technology is a compression technique used to combine two streams (right and left eye images) into a single one. The result is a single frame containing the two original ones and having the same resolution as one of the two original frames. This codec technique is visually lossless and can be used with the current 2D distribution infrastructure (DVD, broadcast, Blu-Ray, VOD, PPV, etc.) because it requires no additional bandwidth. It is offered for consumer electronic products under the S3D IP core or in a chip.

5. Why is this chip so important? Why do you think S-3D solutions need it?

If 3D is to become a mainstream experience and be available in the homes, it needs to meet some requirements - basically high quality and low implementation costs for distributors and consumers.

To get consumers’ acceptance, it is essential that the experience be immersive, positive and have an added value. A high 3D quality is crucial to provide this type of experience to consumers and to avoid any association of 3D with discomfort.

To make this business acceptable, the implementation costs need to be low. The distribution infrastructure just adapts itself to high definition and it means big money for all the players involved (studios, broadcasters, manufacturers, etc.). This is the reason why the compatibility with the current 2D distribution infrastructure is a major advantage; no one is interested in adding extra bandwidth again!

SENSIO’s chip is most relevant because it meets these key requirements; it offers high 2D and 3D quality playback with no synchronization issues of any kind, no additional bandwidth is required, and it keeps the implementation costs for distributors and consumers low. With our technology, 3D at home can become quickly available for a majority of viewers because it answers the market’s needs.

6. Do you have active relationships with manufacturers who are implementing your solution? Can you name some names?

We already signed a deal for the integration of our technology into the SpectronIQ LCD HD 3DTV, which will be available in stores soon. We are also working with other manufacturers but cannot divulge any names at this point due to non-disclosure agreements.

7. I understand you have a library of 3D movies in the Sensio format. How many titles do you have? Can you name some movies we would be familiar with?

Our film library includes up to 40 titles, some coming from major studios. For example, from Walt Disney Studios, we have “Spy Kids 3D - Game Over” and “The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3D”. From Universal Studios, we have the classic “Jaws 3D” and others. SENSIO has one of the world’s largest 3D movies library and is the only one to have content for home theater available in our format.

8. Yours isn’t the only solution hitting the market. Is there a format war looming? Can you elaborate?

Right now, there are many 3D distribution technologies that are trying to get on the market. If we cannot talk about a format war yet, it surely can quickly come to this point. With studios starting to release their 3D movies for home video, with manufacturers who want to integrate a 3D technology into their displays and with different 3D technology companies who are competing to become the 3D standard, all the factors are in place for a format war.

9. Why do you think it’s important to avoid a format war? How is this advantageous and what is the alternative?

Since high definition format war between HD DVD and Blu-ray just ended, I don’t think the consumer electronic industry wants another one, with all the related costs it is involving. Also, we have to avoid a format war on the consumer market. This would only slow down the market penetration and create consumer’s confusion. For example, if there is a 2D version of a movie along with a SENSIO®3D version, another version in a different 3D format, etc; this would be confusing for consumers and expensive for studios and manufacturers.

To avoid this, the industry has to choose a 3D format as soon as possible and has to work in concert. Standing still at this point is hardly an option. Currently, SENSIO is the only company that has already movies from major studios available on the market in its format. We also have our SENSIO®3D technology integrated in a 3DTV that will be available this fall. This brings me to the fact that if any other technology than SENSIO is chosen, two formats will be automatically available on the consumer market, exactly what all the players involved in the industry want to avoid!

10. What is "The DVD Forum"? What is their importance and how do they fit in all this? Any new developments?

The DVD Forum is an association which brings together hardware manufacturers, software firms, content providers and other users of DVDs. This organization is currently exploring the possibility to add 3D technology to DVD and asked for information. We responded to this request and are involved in this process.

If the DVD Forum wants to integrate 3D to DVDs, it will have a great impact on the 3D industry, since all movies are released in DVD! It will mean that 3D will be seen not only in high definition but also in standard definition, the one that everyone has at home. This would surely give a boost to the 3D home theater market and speed its adoption.

11. When do you anticipate a standard or algorithm choice to be selected in the DVD market?

In twelve months! If no clear choice is made, I believe that the chosen 3D technology will be the one already mainly used.

12. Outside of the consumer S-3D television space, you are doing work with AccessIT. Can you elaborate on who they are and what you are working on?

Access Integrated Technologies, Inc. (AccessIT) is providing fully integrated software and services to enable the motion picture entertainment industry to make the transition from film to digital cinema. As a result of our agreement with International Datacasting Corporation, a broadband multimedia content distribution via satellite provider, we are supplying to AccessIT our Live 3D cinema decoding technology which allows the broadcast of live 3D events in digital theatres. A first deployment is planned in 50 theatres located in major US cities and AccessIT wants to continue deploying in 150 theaters by the end of 2008.

13. Define for me 3D "public events". Can you give examples of the types of experiences viewers would get?

Live 3D events can be concerts, sporting events, conferences, etc. For example, viewers will be able to watch the Super Bowl live in 3D from their local theater! The experience is just like you were in the stadium and even better! The action is much closer than if you were in the actual audience because you have it right under your nose. These live events will provide a unique and immersive experience and people who have tried it just loved it!

14. How popular are theater events? Do they currently sell well? Can you share a prediction on how well they will do in S-3D?

2D events presented in theaters are already happening and are very popular. The Metropolitan Opera broadcasts live from New York to theaters across the country and the representations are usually sold out. Imagine if you can attend a live show or sporting event in 3D, the experience has a unique added value. I am sure that 3D live events will have a huge success!

“Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour” or “U23D” are examples of 3D events (not live but still) who gained real success! They have demonstrated that people are enjoying this kind of experience and that they are ready to adopt it!

15. Will you be able to show new types of events that were not possible before? Can you give examples?

3D by itself does not allow for new or different events to be presented but it sure makes them more exciting. We have boxing and hockey 3D footage at the office and I’m sure that people will be blown away by the experience. We definitely see sports as the biggest live 3D opportunity.

16. I understand you offer a 2D/3D algorithm. How does it work and what does it work best with?

We are offering the 2D to 3D real time conversion technology licensed by JVC with our SENSIO®3D technology. We cannot reveal how the algorithm is working but the result is really good. It is working best with landscapes and vivid colors.

17. Who do you see taking advantage 2D/3D conversion and why?

It’s a major advantage for us to be able to offer this technology, because it partly resolves the lack of 3D content currently available on the market. Until studios release their movies for home theater in 3D, this conversion technology provides infinite content to viewers.

18. Our members have expressed a concern that 2D/3D conversion is risky because if viewers get a bad first impression, it turns them off the technology altogether when S-3D is actually best viewed with native stereoscopic 3D content. How do you respond to that?

If the 3D quality is higher with native 3D content than converted, it can still give people an idea about the kind of experience they can get watching 3D at home. I think the conversion must be seen as an answer to the lack of content available. Since people are already enjoying a good 3D quality in digital theaters, I think they will understand the distinction between converted and native 3D content!

19. Can you share some visual examples of your algorithm in action?

Here is an example of an image converted with SENSIO algorithm vs the original one.

Original Image

Converted to Sensio Format

This is an example of 2D to 3D conversion in SAFE 3D format (method developed by SENSIO to create comfortable 3D effect using the traditional anaglyph images). Red and blue glasses are required to see the 3D effect:

Sensio 2D to 3D Conversion

20. Are you a gamer? What games do you play, and do you play them in S-3D?

Yes, I am a gamer. I love strategy games (e.g.: Civilizations), sports games (e.g.: FIFA or NHL) and war games (e.g.: Medal of Honor, Prince of Persia or Ghost Recon). I play those games in 2D, because they are not available in 3D on game consoles! For sure they are on PC in 3D with the right equipment, but I can’t wait to be able to play them, on my S-3D game console, on a brand new Sensio3D 3DTV!

21. I understand you are working to offer a new service for video game developers. What problem are you trying to solve, and what service are you offering to solve it?

It is often difficult for game or film creators to work in stereoscopy and predict exactly what the 3D effect will be and actualize what they have in mind. There is a lot of guessing involved in this process. To resolve this problem and get more efficiency, we developed a product called Tru-Space, a stereoscopic calculator tool designed to automatically create and manage stereoscopic parameters yielding optimal 3D effects without any guesswork.

With the Tru-Space, not only you are certain to get a quality and comfortable 3D avoiding headaches, nausea or any discomfort, but it enables you to predict the exact 3D effect you want to do.

22. Can you elaborate on what your algorithm does and what makes it special?

Our algorithm is based on a mathematic model and has been tested repeatedly on different productions. It guarantees comfort for viewers and it keeps everything proportional: the X, Y and Z. This way no object is losing its real proportion because of the stereoscopic effect; this is what makes it really special!

23. What final remarks would you like to share with the MTBS membership?

Stereoscopic 3D has been around for many years and we at SENSIO have been deeply involved for almost 10 years now. We’ve never seen such a level of excitement in the industry and it looks like every 3D enthusiast’s dream of a vibrant 3D home entertainment industry will become a reality in the coming years. To all the MTBS members and fellow 3D fans, your enthusiasm and commitment to stereo 3D is greatly needed and our efforts will soon be rewarded!

Thanks Nicholas and best of luck to you! Post your thoughts on this interview HERE - maybe Nicholas will be back to answer some questions!