3D at CES – more on various 3D technologies shown at CES

In response to a comment suggestion, yes, I really do need to finish off some updates from CES. As you may know, I had the flu for 3 weeks (got it on the 2nd day at CES) which set me behind on everything and now I am back to traveling every other week.

Anyway, let’s get started.

4K and 3D

As you have read here or perhaps seen elsewhere, 3D was not a focus point for CES this year. Instead “4K” TV was the big attraction that garnered much attention. Of course, there is no standard 4K content delivery method yet. Some companies will bundle a USB drive with 4K movies on it when you buy their 4K TV. Others offer “HD to 4K” conversion systems (which work better than I expected).

4K is important from a 3D perspective. When we watch 3D on a standard HDTV, the left and right images are squished (literally) into a single 1920×1080 HD video stream. The result is you lose half the resolution of the original 3D image. As 4K technology emerges, and an eventual 4K broadcast stream technology arrives, it will be possible to present very high resolution 3D images, rather than todays “half HDTV” resolution.

A couple of companies demonstrated 3D on 4K TVs, and one of those demonstrated a glasses-free 3D 4K TV and it was beautiful. It was a technology demo only, at this point – no one has yet licensed the technology. But it showed the true potential of future glasses free 3D – and it will be something we all like, once it becomes available.

LG had their usual stunning “wall” of TVs – calling it the largest 3D video wall in the world. Their demo video had spectacular use of 3D, including floating objects almost over our heads and projecting an LG phone so that it appeared to float 20 to 30 feet in front of the screen. Incredibly well done!

Sysvel’s New 3D Encoding Technology

As mentioned above, 3D HDTV is half HDTV resolution. However, Sysvel Technology demonstrated a new and remarkably simple standard that encodes dual 1280×720 streams within the 1920×1080 HD stream. A simple way to explain how it works is to take, say, the left stream and encode it as the upper left 1280×720 rectangle within the larger 1920×1080 stream. The right stream is the sliced into 3 parts – with one slice fit into the free space at right, a second part in the free space at the bottom, and third slice at the lower right. This then becomes dual 1280×720 full size streams and truthfully, it looks great on a 3D HDTV.

The beauty of this is it is simple and enables high quality 3D to be encoded into an existing 1080p stream, which means it can be broadcast, streamed or put on BluRay DVD.

3D Cameras

I already wrote about 3D cameras, although probably on some of the 3D online forums and at Personal-View.com.

The bad news from the consumer 3D camera perspective is that 3D is somewhat fading. But first the good news.

Sony upgraded their excellent 3D video camera, the TD20 to become the TD30. This camera records dual 1920×1080 streams within a consumer sized camcorder package. They also lowered the price 🙂

Samsung introduced a “3D Lens” for one of their new cameras. This is a unique lens in that it looks like an ordinary 2D lens and is, in fact, an outstanding 2D lens. But internally, the image is split left and right within the lens, recording both 3D still photos and 3D video. Now allegedly the interaxial spacing is quite small in this configuration – I heard someone say something like 8 or maybe 10mm. And that limits the 3D depth effect to close ranges. Some say to less than ten feet but in the live camera view I saw, I’d say I saw depth out quite a bit further than that.

The Sony Bloggie 3D has been discontinued. Toshiba, which last year introduced the Z100 3D consumer camcorder, showed no 3D cameras. There was some “market noise” that it had been discontinued but I did not confirm that.

Panasonic continues to sell their 3D lens attachment for the TM920 (Hope I have the model # correct) and this camera does produce outstanding quality 3D video, although it is encoded in the standard half HDTV resolution in side-by-side format.

The little Panasonic point and shoot 3D camera, the Lumix DMC-3D1, which takes great photos and video, for its size, was not on display. A sales rep who was very knowledgeable about 3D assured me that it has not been discontinued but hinted sales are not currently great. A few feature tweaks might improve the sales but he was not sure that was going to happen.

There were rumors that Fujifilm would introduce an update to the W3 3D camera. However, that did not happen and the product manager was very open about sales and the 3D market. I commend him for his openness. They continue to sell the W3 from inventory; my understanding is that camera companies have so many models that they manufacture in big batches and sell from inventory. They have the ability to resume manufacturing the W3 at any time, depending on demand, however, demand for the W3 had softened considerably.  My takeaway is that the W3 remains for sale but coming out with a new, more feature rich W3+ is not in the current plans. We’d all like to see more pixels, better low light performance, and perhaps larger sensors too.

Additionally, Fujifilm introduced many new (and excellent and innovative) conventional DSLR-like cameras (you should check them out). Some of them have 3D features built in. For example, those of us who shoot 3D often use the “cha cha” method of shooting a left image and then a separate right image, and then process the two photos into 3D on the computer. The new Fujifilm cameras include the 3D processing built in, as I understood it, and literally they took the feature out of the W3.

Finally, an Asian-based company introduced an external 3D imager that takes 3D photos and sends those over WiFi to your iPhone or Android phone. It’s super inexpensive, easy to use, and shoots true stereoscopic 3D with your phone. I’ve got moe info on this on another computer – more on that later.

More to come….!

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2 thoughts on “3D at CES – more on various 3D technologies shown at CES”

  1. Thanks for all of the good info Ed. I am terribly disappointed in Fujifilm for not producing the improved W3. One of their tech guys told me last year that they had it in development with 16 MP photos and 1080p videos. Since they promote the W3 as an adjunct to 3D TV’s or their expensive 3D viewer it will be awhile before more people start to use it.

    And now the price for the W3 is so low that I doubt if they can profitably produce a new version of it if they also have to keep its price low. But I guess that’s OK with me for now because I get some very good travel images of Jamaica out of the W3 just as it is. Check out all of the great 3D stuff that I now have up on my travel website for Jamaica – 3d-jamaica.com (with many more coming soon from my trip there this January 2013).

    1. Jim,
      I agree with the disappointment about not evolving the W3. I do not want to name the specific Fujifilm manager but he is an important manager with the company and I posted what he said about the W3.

      The good news, at least, is that the W3 lives on for now. But it is time for an upgrade when we consider all the innovations in other low end cameras that are out there now.

      From the business perspective, I can understand their reluctance to do an upgrade right now.

      One thought I have is that when you look at the 3D offerings, these companies were primarily targeting lower end consumers. and that was the wrong market segment. The Sony Bloggie 3D, the Lumix DMC-3D1, and the Fujifilm W3 all went after that market. Meanwhile, Sony and JVC came out with pro-sumer level cameras costing up to $2000 each! And those now live on!

      The cheap Bloggie 3D was discontinued.
      The Fujifilm W3 is likely the most successful of the bunch but its evolution is stopped for now
      The Lumix 3D1 has not been a big seller (its lack of a 3D LCD panel is a big part of that)

      The market for the Sony TD10 was big enough that they evolved it to the TD20 and now the TD30, and dropped the price from its original $2000 down to about $1000.
      The JVC prosumer 3D video camera is also still moving along.

      I think they all aimed at the wrong target market – the right market is the mid to higher range and prosumer market.

      Lots of advanced amateurs are spending $1000s on Nikons and Canons and bags of expensive lenses. That’s where the money is and where the serious enthusiasts are for doing 3D.

      The more I shoot 3D and the more I post online, the more people I am hearing from who are very interested in 3D. The market is there – but its an advanced photo interest market, not low end consumers.


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