Film Short: Getting 3D Closer to Home
Recently a white paper, 3D in the Home: Who, What, When and Where was published based on research conducted by the Entertainment Technology Center @ USC in cooperation with the CEA (Consumer Electronics Association. The ETC @ USC, founded in 1993 with the assistance of George Lucas, is a non-profit organization within USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. It brings together the top entertainment technology and consumer electronic companies to evaluate what consumers are looking for, which is then brought to the attention of companies that make those types of products. The ETC endeavors to show how technology impacts the next generation consumers, improving their experiences and finding new revenue streams for entertainment-related products. Aside from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, current sponsors include: The Walt Disney Company, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Fox, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros Entertainment, Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Deluxe Entertainment Services Group, Inc., Lucasfilm Ltd, TATA Consultancy Services, and Thomson, LG Electronics, Dolby, Singapore IDA, Volkswagen of America and Thales.
In 2009, the first white paper on the subject, 3DTV: Where Are We Now And Where Are Consumers? was created. This study found that overall awareness of 3D was low, but growing and that personal experience with the technology influenced impressions of it. During the previous 12 months developments occurred substantiating these findings, including the release of Avatar, which was launched concurrently in both 2D and 3D. At the time the report was written, it was estimated that 81% of the total box office for the film was in its’ 3D version. In total there were 35 releases in 3D during 2009 with an estimated 28+ million unique viewers making up their audiences.
Beyond the box office, sports is playing an important role in the promotion of 3D. In 2009 ESPN broadcast the USC –Ohio State Football Game, while Fox Sports filmed the BCS final and Televisa shot soccer games in 3D. In 2010 we’re seeing 3D The Masters, Final Four 3D and 25 FIFA matches beginning on June 11, which will be shown in 3D. Consumer experience and awareness of the technology increased in 2009. The 2008 study showed that 17% of US adults had seen a 3D movie in a theater, while in 2009 that number grew to approximately 27%. One of the key themes in last year’s report was “seeing is believing” and once again that appears to be 3D’s mantra, since the data continues to show that as individuals experience the technology first-hand their impressions of it improve.
Phil Lelyveld is the program manager of ETC@USC’s 3D project and has recently completed research on consumer adoption of 3DTV along with David Wertheimer, the CEO and executive director of the organization. During NAB 2010, I spoke with him about the white paper, which was published in March. He confirmed the need for consumers to experience 3D first hand in order to continue generating the growing demand for it. One of the chief obstacles to accomplishing this, however, seems to be the glasses required for viewing. Although some vendors at NAB were selling glasses, the cost for the shutter styled ones, which are the best, are currently cost prohibitive with pricing in the $133 to $150 range. Aside from the expense, many resist the idea of wearing the glasses at first although Phil alleged this “actually goes away once people start watching. It’s something that fades away.”
Other considerations when entering the home entertainment market are overcoming prior misconceptions about the technology, taking into account the differences in viewing habits between baby boomers and millenials and the overall challenge of creating pleasant buying and viewing experiences for consumers.
The retail aspect of moving 3D into the homes means providing the right information and figuring out what consumers need to know in terms of messaging. This means educating employees in retail outlets to become informative and able to provide customers with details.
Although not specifically affiliated with any of their sponsors the ETC is committed to continuing on and doing “complimentary research” with the entire membership. This includes assessing which mediums consumers respond to and making the best case for the technology. Lelyveld believes that the best way to do this is by providing “good content to all audiences”, which will hopefully keep the demand building. He mentioned that aside from sports other avenues such as movies, natural history and live concert events, such as the one featuring Phish on April 30th, are also being planned. “Everybody’s putting their best foot forward with content and technology,” he said then added, “It’s time for the consumer to decide.”
Next year’s white paper will be dealing with another possible drawback to the promotion of 3D, which is the health and public policy side of it. Lelyveld explained that some people are getting headaches and nausea from viewing the technology and that the numbers are enough where it is a concern. The next step will be to minimize the amount of people suffering discomfort and to do that you must determine what causes it. This issue also came up during the discussion with DreamWorks Animation CEO, Jeffrey Katzenberg, who talked about his own sensitivity to 3D with moderator David Wertheimer. For more information about the ETC, their research or their projects, go to www.etcenter.org.