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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