Saturday, November 27, 2010

My Secret 3-D Project With OK Go

On Tuesday, July 13th, 2010, I received a most interesting voice mail. “Hey, Eric, this is Damian Kulash, from the rock band OK Go,” it started. Now I should preface this by saying that Damian is a very talented artist, musician and political activist, and is the frontman for OK Go, the band most famous for their innovative and viral music videos. Thanks to the internet, even if people don't know the band's name, they are usually familiar with OK Go's videos. The band's dance number performed on eight moving treadmills, and their interaction with a warehouse spanning Rube Goldberg device have been viewed millions of times on Youtube and other websites. In fact, the band made national news earlier this year when they fired their record label, Capitol/EMI, over the company's attempts to limit the availability of the band's videos online. In true do-it-yourself fashion, OK Go formed their own label, Paracadute (Italian for parachute), to self-distribute their music and videos. They are also very vocal on the subject of net neutrality – Damian has written several op-eds, and has testified before Congress on the importance of keeping the internet available to everyone without corporate road-blocks. I've been a fan for a long time. I should also mention that Damian is a friend of mine.

The message continued, “We are working on a video, possibly our finest to date, and I think we should shoot it in 3-D.” I first met Damian in November 2009, at a monthly technology lecture series called Mindshare. We chatted about our respective creative work, and I suggested that they should do a 3-D video sometime. I guess he was interested in the idea, as he and the band soon came to visit me in my Secret Underground Lair to see my 3-D shorts, talk about their video concepts for their upcoming album, and brainstorm some ideas. While we made no definite plans, I was invited to help on the set of their Rube Goldberg machine video, and filmed some stereoscopic behind-the-scenes footage of the production. Last March, when I was in Austin, Texas to moderate a panel on 3-DIY at the SXSW Film Festival, I serendipitously ran into Damian while crossing a street. That chance meeting led to an introduction to some people from Youtube, and a great lunch discussion about 3-D's potential on the internet. In the months that followed, I found myself crossing paths with Damian and his bandmates, bassist Tim Nordwind, drummer Dan Konopka, and guitar/keyboard player Andy Ross, at a number of other events – video presentations at LACMA and the Hammer Museum, in a lounge at the LA Film Fest, at the Hollywood Bowl, and at the Bay Area Maker Faire, where the LA 3-D Club hosted the “3-D Village” and OK Go gave a live acoustic performance – under water! I even randomly ran into the band in the cafeteria at Youtube's corporate office last May, when I went up there to meet with the programmer behind the Youtube 3-D player. Ok Go had also scheduled a meeting at Youtube on the same day, at the same time. For a while, we joked that we were stalking each other, and all the while kept saying that we wanted to work together on a 3-D project. So it came as no surprise to hear Damian say that they wanted to shoot their next video in 3-D.

What was surprising was what Damian said next, “However, we are shooting it this week. I should've gotten in touch with you earlier, but... Are you busy this week? We are in Portland, Oregon, we would like to bring you to us.” I returned Damian's call and he gave me the details. They were to start shooting on Wednesday, and would work through the following Monday. It was currently Tuesday afternoon. Damian apologized for, as he put it, “stupidly expecting me to be available on such short notice,” and asked if there was any chance I could fly up to meet them in the morning, and at lease see a rehearsal to advise them on whether a 3-D shoot was even possible. I asked him what video they were shooting, and he said “The dog video.”

“I'm coming.” I replied.

I had seen an early concept reel for the video to the song "White Knuckles" – using stuffed animals in place of real dogs – and I was eager to be involved in the real thing. I told Damian that I wouldn't have much time to gather equipment together, and would be limited to what I could bring on the flight, but that I could at least come up for the day to consult. The booked my flight, and I scrambled to pack my cameras and monitors. The next day, I caught an early flight to Portland, and a car drove me to their shooting location in Corvallis. I found myself on a set with fourteen dogs and a goat, all trained to perform with the band in a continuous, four-minute dance number. I watched a rehearsal. The director and choreographer, Trish Sie, who also happens to be Damian's sister, had worked out the performance in a way that perfectly utilized the z-space from a fixed camera position. I told them it should look great in stereo, and that I was eager to stay for the duration of the shoot. I made a few phone calls to find someone to cover for me at the July SCSC meeting (thanks, Ray!), and to get extra clothes sent up to Oregon (thanks, Jodi!)

The 2-D video was being shot on a Sony EX-3 camera, which was mounted inside a wooden box that the dogs could jump up onto. I had to position my cameras inside the same box and match the shot as closely as possible. The Canon TX-1 cameras on my homemade side-by-side rig were small enough to position directly under the Sony lens, and I was able to match the focal length, so the difference between the two shots was marginal. I ran the video feed from the two cameras to my portable 3-D monitor – a pair of LCD panels positioned at 90 degrees to each other, with a half-mirror beamsplitter between them, to allow polarized 3-D viewing. Using this monitor, I could check the alignment and sync before each take. With my gear in place, we began shooting the performance.

The goal was to get the entire routine in one take, with no edits – not an easy task when you consider that trained animals are usually only expected to do one “trick” on set before the camera cuts. But Lauren Henry, Roland Sonnenberg and their team of trainers from Talented Animals were convinced that they could pull off the unheard of task of getting the dogs to do the full routine in time to the music. Over the next five days, we shot 124 takes, and managed to get through the whole routine only about thirty times. Sometimes the dogs missed a cue, sometimes the band missed their marks, and for a while, the dogs were having so much fun that they started going faster than the music. In the end, we were all in pretty strong agreement that there was something very magical about take number 72, and that became the one we used for the final video. We wrapped production in Oregon on Monday, and I promised to keep the 3-D video a secret for the next few months.

Post production on the 3-D video was done back in Los Angeles in my Secret Underground Lair. I utilized the Stereo Movie Maker application to do alignment and parallax adjustments, and did color correction, titling, and final output from Adobe After Effects. The band decided that they wanted to show the 3-D video during their fall tour, so the mastering included the creation of both a side-by-side version for polarized projection, 3DTV, and internet viewing, and also a color-optimized red/cyan anaglyph version that could be projected on the road with a single LCD projector and white screen. The 2-D version was released on Youtube on September 20th, 2010, and in just one month, had already received over 7 million views. The 3-D version is currently being shown at OK Go's live shows around the country, and if internet reviews are any indication, it is being very well received.

I've always been a strong believer in making the most out of whatever resources are available to me, and finding ways to work within whatever limitations those resources impose. I'm thrilled to have had this opportunity to work with a band that so embodies the do-it-yourself ethos. And I think that the video itself proves that it's not so much what camera or rig you use that's important - it's what you do with it.


UPDATED - Read PART II of this post here

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Wild Wild West

I often describe the current landscape of stereographic cinema production to be like the wild west - both a new frontier of boundless possibilities, and a place of conflict, rivalries and lawlessness. Much like North America of the early 1800s, the world of 3-D was first explored and settled by early pioneers. Wheatstone, Brewster, and Holmes made discoveries that launched the 3-D photographic art form, and Lumiere, Friese-Greene, and Land invented new methods to apply stereography to motion pictures. As in the old west, there have been booms and busts - the 3-D successes of the early 1950s and mid 1980s, each followed by a long period of practically no stereo content at all -  sort of a 3-D ghost town. And today,we are seeing the mad scramble of the 3-D "gold rush" as every major movie studio, and a lot of minor production companies are staking their claims and seeking to make a fortune in the wake of the success of James Cameron's Avatar.

I recently attended two events that directly addressed this new frontier from completely opposite ends of the spectrum. The first was the 3-D Entertainment Summit, held in Los Angeles, and the second was the World Maker Faire in New York City.

The 3-D Summit was all about the business of 3-D. Presenters gave talks about theatrical box office numbers, acquired versus converted 3-D movies, advertising in stereo, and the future of 3-D in the home market. Keynotes from Dreamworks' Jeffrey Katzenberg and Sony President Chris Cookson stressed that for 3-D to continue to be a premium experience, it must be done right, and support a strong artistic vision. Katzenberg railed against rushed and poorly done 2-D to 3-D conversions, and Cookson noted the importance of education and knowledge in the new technology and language of digital 3-D. (Someone should have pointed this out to guest speaker M. Knight Shyamalan, who repeatedly demonstrated his ignorance of stereography during his session on The Last Airbender)

The thing that struck me about the 3-D Summit was that for all the talk of education and artistic storytelling, the majority of attendees, for the most part, were really only concerned with the bottom line. This was, after all, a business conference, and at over $1,000 a head to attend, an expensive one at that (thankfully I was given my pass by a producer friend who couldn't attend). For the most part people wanted to know what 3-D would cost them, and how much they would profit from it.

A week later, I found myself in New York for the World Maker Faire, put on by the same people who do the Bay Area Maker Faire every year. For the past several years, The LA 3-D Club has been represented at the Bay Area Maker Faire by an ever growing number of members who make the trip up to San Mateo to show their projects at the world's largest Do-It-Yourself science and art festival. This was the first time the event was held in New York, and I was excited to have the opportunity to go to the east coast and participate, particularly when I found out that the Faire was being held at the NY Hall of Science on the grounds of Flushing Meadows - the site of the 1939 World's Fair where the public was first introduced to both polarized 3-D projection and the View Master. I contacted Greg Dinkins, of the New York Stereoscopic Society, and asked him if he would like to join me in the "3-D village". Greg agreed, and enlisted many other talented NYSS members to exhibit their 3-D photos and movies, homemade camera rigs, and other stereoscopic inventions. The thousands of attendees who stopped at our booth seemed genuinely interested in learning about how 3-D works, and specifically about how we each create our art. There was no talk of profit margins or ticket markups - this was 3-D solely for the creative vision.

I always find it very interesting moving back and forth between the worlds of the motion picture industry and the independent artists, and getting their varied perspectives on the state of 3-D. I just hope that in this new frontier, there's room for both the cattle barons and the cowboys.

Monday, October 4, 2010

On September 25 and 26, 2010, I exhibited my 3-DIY cameras and displays at the World Maker Faire in New York. It was a fantastic event, and I had a great time. Special thanks to Greg Dinkins and the New York Stereoscopic Society, for joining me in the "3-D Village" to share their amazing 3-D videos and inventions.

One of the coolest things I saw there was this volumetric display called Lumarca. It's able to represent 3-D shapes by projecting objects onto a matrix made of yarn. Check out the 3-D video:

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Inauguration

I was recently sworn in as the new President of the LA 3-D Club(SCSC). The following is the text of my comments from August 19th, at the club banquet, on accepting the SCSC Presidency:

I want to thank all of you for entrusting me with the leadership of the LA 3-D Club for the next year. I’m very honored to be in this position. When I walked into my first SCSC meeting in 2002, I found myself standing in the back of a dark room, full of people that I didn’t know, watching a bunch of stereo slides being projected, and listening to the repeated announcing of numbers. 6-6-6-18! I had no idea what was going on. Then Sean Isroelit, the club’s Vice President at the time, came over to me, handed me a pair of polarized glasses, and told me I was welcome to come in and sit down with the rest of the group. And I’ve been here ever since. I’ve been a member of the LA 3-D Club through the presidencies of Philip Steinman, Sean Isroelit, Jeff Amaral, and Barry Rothstein, and have watched the evolution of the club under their leadership, as we have moved from analog to digital projection, from meeting in a church basement to being part of an Arts Center, and from mainly showing 3-D slideshows to producing full-blown film festivals.

We are now one of, if not the most active stereoscopic organization in the world, and we are continuing to grow, both in scope and membership. And the world of 3-D is also expanding by leaps and bounds. Hollywood has embraced 3-D and consumer electronics companies have bet on 3-D, which makes the LA 3-D Club all the more relevant today. At one end of the spectrum we find expensive cameras, high-end rigs, theatrical projection systems and multi-million dollar content created by professional stereographers. At the other end we find new 3DTVs, point-and-shoot stereo cameras, youtube 3-D over the internet, and a general public that doesn‘t understand the difference between anaglyph and polarized glasses, let alone why they need to wear them. I’ve always found it interesting that whenever people would come up to me and ask “why does your camera have two lenses?”, and I would explain that I‘m shooting in 3-D, the next question was always “Why do you do 3-D?“. What excites me today, is that now, when I explain my cameras to people, the question has become “HOW do you do 3-D!“ And I gladly tell them how I make 3-D, and how they can make 3-D.

Now, recently, a prominent stereography professional went on the record proclaiming that there is no place for 3-D “hobbyists”, as he put it, in the new 3-D landscape. I say he’s 100% wrong. Our membership includes people who have made stereo their career and make a living at it, people who enjoy shooting 3-D as an amateur, and people who know nothing about 3-D, but are enthusiastic about learning more. And I think that is why the club is so important today - we bridge the gaps by bringing all kinds of 3-D enthusiasts together so that they can share knowledge and experiences. It’s a great responsibility that I find myself elected into.

For the last couple of months, I’ve jokingly said that my first official act as President would be to abolish the presidency, and declare myself Emperor of All Things 3-D. After all, if Phil McNally can name himself Captain 3-D, and Ray Zone can be crowned the King of 3-D Comic Books, then I can certainly anoint myself 3-D Emperor. I figured that as long as I rule as a benevolent dictator, everyone would be happy. But then I started thinking about the SCSC and it’s members, and it occurred to me that the club only exists because you all want to be a part of it. I realized that the LA 3-D Club is less like an empire, and more like a Jumbo Jet. My job is to be the pilot, steering the plane, the board are the flight crew, making sure things run properly, and providing services for the passengers, you the members, who have bought your tickets and are on board for the trip. I’m going to do my best to make this a smooth flight, and I want to continue to increase the incentives and benefits of being a club member, but I do need your help to do it. I encourage everyone to visit the new club website at LA3DClub.com, join the yahoo email list and the SCSC Facebook group, and participate in the LA 3-D Club community and activities. As the club continues to evolve, I plan to introduce more 3-D events, screenings, workshops and opportunities for the members, and I want to appeal to all of you to step up and take active roles in making these things happen for the club, your club. This is your President speaking, you are all free to move about the cabin.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Youtube 3-D

In the past I've mentioned the Youtube 3-D player, which was quietly implemented in 2009. I recently had the pleasure of meeting the programmer at Youtube who has been working on the 3-D functionality, and he showed me that the player is now embeddable in websites. This is an amazing breakthrough for the 3-DIY community, as we now have the capability to create video enabled 3-D websites. In addition, Youtube supports the "frame-compatible" side-by-side squeezed 1080p format supported in most of the new 3-D televisions coming on the market. This means that Youtube is now capable of providing a distribution platform for independent 3-D content to reach consumers in their homes. I'm very excited!

To this end, I have created a Youtube Group dedicated to providing a forum for the growth and exhibition of Do-It-Yourself 3-D content. I encourage anyone interested in creating their own 3-DIY movies to sign up with Youtube, and join the group which can be found at www.3-DIY.tv

Here is an example of the Youtube 3-D player embedded in a blog page - you can select a viewing method from the menu that pops up when you float your mouse over the 3-D icon.



It's still a beta release, so it will continue to evolve, and it has its quirks - for instance, the 3-D menu cuts off when displayed on a small playback window, and you must click "fullscreen" to see all of the options - but my new friend, "Youtube Pete" is working to make it more user friendly, and I'm sure he'll do a great job.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

3-D Village at Maker Faire

Once again I'm at the Bay Area Maker Faire, and this time, I'm curating an entire room - the "3-D Village"

And check it out, Wired.com did a feature on  3-DIY at Maker Faire.

If you are planning to attend, stop by and check out the exhibits which include:

The LA 3-D Club (SCSC) - 50+ year old organization dedicated to stereographic imagery in  all its forms.

DIY 3D with me, Eric Kurland, Vice President of the LA 3-D Club -  Homebrew stereoscopic cameras and displays, including live 3-D video,  moving phantograms, homemade view master reels, and DIY 3-D photography workshops.

Stefano Corazza's [ I am a Bird ] - A time-of-flight camera tracks the motion of the spectator (real-time single camera motion capture) and that input drives the motion of a 3D Bird viewed with polarized glasses. The audience can in real-time animate the Bird by flapping their arms and hands, they can soar, turn, go at higher altitude and chase other birds in the sky.

Hologlyphics, Walter Funk - Real-time autostereoscopic video art integrated with live music & spatial sound. Musical keyboards, acoustic instruments and human interfaces controlling multiview autostereoscopic animations and multi-channel sound. Infinite perspectives of the imagery are seen as the audience moves, without any sweet spots in the viewing range.

3D Phantogram Imagery by Barry Rothstein, President of the LA 3-D Club.He will be demonstrating how they're produced and selling books and cards of them.

Heads-up display, Kate Compton, Technical Artist at Maxis - Wouldn't it be cool if there was an easy-to-assemble kit that would allow you to make your own fully interactive 3D Heads-up display with only a
smart-phone, a couple of lenses and a bit of plastic? It would be cool, and it is! Come try out this easy-to-make VR helmet, and the new apps available for it.

MAKER FAIRE runs
Saturday - 10am to 8pm - Sunday 10am to 6pm

San Mateo County Event Center, California

1346 Saratoga Dr., San Mateo, CA 94403

Maker Faire is the World's Biggest DIY Festival, Robots, Fire, Antique Computers, 3D Technology, Light Sculptures, Art Cars, Camera Obscura, Musical Instruments, R2-D2 Builder's Club and more



The 3D Village will be located inside the Fiesta Hall of the Event Center.

Be prepared for interactive stereoscopic art, 3D workshops, live autostereoscopic video art, phantogram display & demonstration, heads-up displays and 3D dome projections.

http://www.makerfaire.com

Monday, May 3, 2010

Apparently, I'm Buzzworthy!

While attending NAB last month, I was interviewed for Larry Jordan's "Digital Production Buzz", the leading online source for streaming discussions on digital production, post-production and distribution, and the official NAB podcast. You can hear it at the link below:


http://www.digitalproductionbuzz.com/Archives/NAB2010-Day4-1100.mp3

Sunday, April 11, 2010

3-D at NAB: The Digital Cinema Summit

I've spent the weekend at the Digital Cinema Summit at the NAB conference in Las Vegas. This year's summit was focused on all things 3-D, from cameras and acquisition, to digital 3-D theater statistics, to home 3-D broadcasting, to 2-D to 3-D conversion. Rob Engle, 3-D Visual Effects Supervisor at Sony Pictures Imageworks, invited me to speak on a panel about 3-D storytelling, and I was honored to share the stage with a distinguished group of 3-D experts - Rob; Bernard Mendiburu, author of the book 3-D Movie Making; 3-D Producer Phil Streather, and Chuck Comisky, whose many credits include Visual Effects Stereographer on Avatar.

The panel went very well, and I've received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback.

Details to follow soon....

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Whatever Happened to Ro-Man?

Just a note to say that the 3-D movie "Whatever Happened to Ro-Man?" has now been posted to YouTube in HD.



This short 3-D video, written and directed by Ray Zone features a revealing interview with Ro-Man, star of the 1950s "Golden Turkey" 3D movie Robot Monster who was located recently living in North Hollywood, California (in a house that looks suspiciously like mine.)

Behind the scenes pictures and info about this stereoscopic production
can also be found at Ray's website. Click the image below to go there.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

3-D Movie Night - Ray Zone presents “The 3D Train from Nowhere”


The LA3DClub has teamed up with the Downtown Independent Theater to present screenings of independent 3-D movies in Los Angeles.

Our next scheduled show of independent 3-D will be Tuesday, March 30th, at 8:30pm. We will present an illustrated 3D lecture by Ray Zone along with two nWave Pictures films about the history of 3D titled “Encounter in the Third Dimension” and “Misadventures in 3D.

Zone’s lecture addresses the 3D filming of the historic Lumiere brother’s ‘actuality’ titled “L’Arrivee du Train” and both the 2D (1895) and 3D version (1935) will be screened. As one of cinema’s founding myths, the screening of the Lumiere film in 1895 at the CafĂ© Grand in Paris evoked panic in the audience. Zone reveals some hitherto unknown historic facts that shed new light on this founding myth of cinema and he also explains the 3D camera system the Lumiere’s constructed to make this seminal work of cinema.

“Encounter in the Third Dimension” (1998)and “Misadventures in 3D” (2003) feature Stuart Pankin in groundbreaking stereoscopic visuals addressing the history of 3D and how stereoscopic perception works. Elvira-Mistress of the Dark is also featured in “Encounter in the Third Dimension.” Both films have presented in IMAX Theaters worldwide to great acclaim since their original release dates.

The nWave 3D movies feature highly sophisticated applications of computer generated (CG) and live-action stereoscopic filming, composited together in a sinuous visual blend that is intriguing, often humorous and features highly spectacular “ride film” sequences.

Come check out LA's only Indie-Friendly 3-D cinema. We hope to see you there!

LA3D Movie Division 3-D Movie Night - Ray Zone presents “The 3D Train from Nowhere”

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010, 8:30-11:30pm
Downtown Independent Theater
251 S. Main St., Los Angeles, CA 90012

Admission to the event is:
$5 for current LA3DClub members
$10 for non-members (admission is waived with USC Student ID)

Note: Paid parking is available at many parking lots in the adjacent area. The theater is also only several blocks from the MTA Red Line.

http://www.LA3-DClub.com
http://www.DowntownIndependent.com

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

SXSW

For the last week, I have been attending the SXSW Film and Interactive Conference in Austin, Texas. Yesterday, I moderated a panel on 3-DIY, with fellow stereographic filmmakers Noel Paul, Gray Miller, and Ryan Suits. The panel went very well, and included some great information for indie filmmakers looking to get started in 3-D. My presentation included this version of my 3-DIY powerpoint:



I'll have more links, info, audio and video from the panel soon. In the meantime click through to enjoy this 3-D video clip from Saturday's panel on "Viral Video"

Thursday, March 4, 2010

L.A.'s Only Indie 3-D Cinema

The LA3DClub (of which I am Vice President) has entered into a partnership with the Downtown Independent Theater to provide a venue for independent 3-D movies to screen in Los Angeles. Thanks to Perry Hoberman at USC, who arranged for the donation of a theatrical silver screen, we now have a permanently installed screen in the theater. The club also recently acquired two ProjectionDesign F3 large venue projectors, which provide dual-digital polarized projection from the Downtown Indie's projection booth and project a sharp, bright, keystone-free image over 22 feet wide.

This has been my pet project for a while. Last July, when I shot my short 3-D project, Elevation, my co-producer, Roger Mayer, mentioned that he was programming the Downtown Film Festival of Los Angeles, and that it was "too bad we couldn't show 3-D at the fest." I assured him that the LA 3-D Club could show 3-D, and we put together a 2-hour program of independent 3-D shorts. Roger booked us into the Downtown Independent Theater, where we brought in a 12-foot silver screen, and a pair of projectors for the night. The show went great, and the theater invited us back to do a Halloween 3-D show. I mentioned to Jim Kirst, the Artistic Director of the Downtown Indie, that it would be great to eventually have a permanent silver screen, and projectors in their booth - but we figured the expense made that impossible. Lo and behold, I got a call a week later from Perry Hoberman, a friend and professor at USC. Apparently USC had a 40' silver screen that was being stored behind a set on a soundstage. The screen had been inaccessible, but the set had just been torn down, and for about a week, he had access to the screen. His question - "If we donate this to the club, could you find a use for it?" YES! We loaded up a truck and moved the screen to the theater. Shortly after that, the club was offerred a pair of large venue projectors, sans lenses, at a fraction of their original cost. We dipped into the club treasury, and made the purchase. On a whim, I checked Ebay for the VERY expensive long-throw lenses we would need to project from the theater's booth, and amazingly there was one available in New York - I "buyed it now." On Ebay, exactly one week later, a matching lens showed up in Kansas City, and I got that, too. Oddly, there hasn't been another matching lens on Ebay since, and apparently there hadn't been one for months before, either. Serendipity. On December 12th, 2009, the white screen came down, the silver screen went up, the lenses were married to their projectors in the booth, and the Downtown Independent Theater became the only place in Los Angeles to see regular screenings of independent 3-D content.

The LA3D Movie Division is offering monthly 3-D screenings to the public through this new venue. In January, we held an "open screen" night, inviting independent stereoscopic filmmakers to bring their work to the theater and have it shown on the big screen. That was followed in February by a screening of the indie horror feature SCAR 3-D, and featured a Q&A with Director Jed Weintrob and Producer Norman Twain. We also did a "William Castle" style promotion for SCAR, and had a (sexy) nurse standing by in the lobby with smelling salts during the screening to come to the aid of any unfortunates who were unable to handle the graphic subject matter. The next screening will be on March 30th, 2010. The program will be announced soon.

Come check out LA's only Indie-Friendly 3-D cinema. We hope to see you there!

Monday, January 11, 2010

CES is all about the 3-D!

Just got back to LA from the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and the buzz this year was definitely 3-D. I've attended the CES for about ten years now, and every year there is usually some company showing a 3-D monitor, or claiming to have invented a new head-mounted display, but this year, there was 3-D at almost every major manufacturer's booth. Sony, JVC, Panasonic, Toshiba, Samsung, Mitsubishi, Sharp, LG, practically every TV maker had their version of 3DTV. Some use active shutterglasses, some use circular polarized, some are embracing multiple technologies, and all are pushing it heavily. Projector manufacturers are releasing 3-D ready projectors for home theater, classroom, and business use. Players from the theatrical end of 3-D were present, as RealD and XpanD are both moving into the consumer glasses market.

In fact only one industry seemed to fall flat off the 3-D bandwagon - the camera companies. Panasonic was the only major player to show a 3-D video camera, and they are pricing it at $21,000! Fuji, of course, has their 1st gen 3-D still camera, but nobody else is joining that game - Canon's comment is "we're still investigating consumer needs." Even Sony, with their massive 3-D pavilion and live 3-D broadcasts in partnership with 3ality, had no answer regarding a consumer 3-D camera.

3-D Bluray was all over the place, despite my strong belief that optical media is a dead-in-the-water format due to VOD and digital downloads. (A friend of mine calls 3-D the "defibrillator of Bluray") And DVD is dead - not a single 3-D DVD solution to be found anywhere. In fact, almost no support for existing home 3-D solutions. This all fuels my fear of a consumer backlash against 3-D at being told by the big corporations that they need to buy completely new hardware, both HDTVs and players to enjoy the coming 3-D age, especially after being forced to buy new HDTVs or digital tuners only a year ago.

The hope is that 3-D broadcasting will drive the market, and DirecTV has already announced both a Discovery 3-D Channel and ESPN 3-D. ESPN will launch their channel with worldwide 3-D coverage of the FIFA Soccer World Cup Championships in June - the largest single undertaking of live 3-D in history. The problem is that there will be a shortage of content in the immediate future to keep these 3-D channels "live". Hopefully, indie content producers like myself will be able to fill some of that void.

Which leads me to my observation that the Big Boys are missing a very important point. I attended a number of panels, and the "3D@Home Consortium" breakfast, where industry experts spoke of the future of home 3-D, both with rosy glasses (pun intended) and with a complete ignorance of the fact that independent content exists. Apparently, in the corporate vision of the future, only the major studios have the ability to produce viable 3-D movies and television programs, and they are missing the boat here. I stood up at the consortium breakfast, and asked why nobody was addressing what I see as the three 800-pound Gorillas in the room:

- first, that consumers will not be as eager to buy into a new technology if they can't create their own 3-D movies to view on that technology,

- Second, that there needs to be a distribution pathway for independent stereographic 3-D content to enter the game,

- and third, Youtube already delivers 3-D to the home via the beta player that has been active since last summer. Eventually, that player will finish it's beta stage, and any website will become a 3-D delivery platform via a simple embed. Most of the 3-D TVs on the show floor included direct Youtube streaming via WiFi as well. Now, Google owns Youtube, and Google has an OS that will be on millions of cellphones this year, also Youtube enabled. So, follow me here, Google is poised to become the LARGEST SINGLE AGGREGATOR AND DISTRIBUTOR of 3-D content in the world - both studio, indie and consumer produced content - and no one is talking about it.

I asked why Google was not invited to the table.

I left the consortium speechless.