CES 3D-TV, explosion or reality?
by Chris Forrester

There have been a number of fascinating studies released to coincide with the giant CES show in Las Vegas, most of which say that more 3D content is needed, and perhaps a lowering of the retail prices for 3D displays. Panasonic looks set to confirm that it is entering the market with lower-cost and highly-specified LCDs, which it says feature Plasma-like response times and functionality.

Indeed, Panasonic is already a flag-waving champion for all things 3D, helped along by 2010 sales figures in Europe, Asia and North America that outperformed its own best estimates. It has further enhanced the specification of its Viera plasma range, boosting performance and unveiling new sizes at CES. These models will percolate into Europe this Spring (in 85″, 103″ and the granddaddy of screens at 152″).

With that sort of experience, there’s no doubt where Panasonic is putting its investment cash, which also includes an ever-larger range of snazzy 3D professional and consumer cameras, extremely clever 3D eyewear as well as Surround Sound amplification systems and BD players. Prior to Christmas, John Lewis, a major UK department store, announced it was selling a 3D-TV every 7 minutes and that 3D now represented 15 per cent of their total TV business on sets of 40″ and over. A similar report from top-notch retailer Harrods, which also reported a “frenzy” of 3D buying during December.

All this is well and good, and the likes of Sony, Samsung, Toshiba and LG will all be showcasing their similar 3D efforts in Vegas. But where’s the content?

First up to the plate is ESPN, which will expand its 3D channel into an all-24 hour operation from Valentine’s Day. ESPN is being a little crafty with this announcement, given that much of the channel will be providing ‘another chance to see’ previous 3D broadcast material. In other words, repeats!

DisplaySearch, in its latest report, admits that it is content – or the lack of it – that’s slowing down sales of 3D units. Bizarrely, DisplaySearch also says that 3D set sales are not being matched by eyewear sales, which seems odd. Nevertheless, DisplaySearch say that 3D set-sales took two per cent of all flat-panels shipped in 2010, and this will steadily rise to 41 per cent by 2014.

That more original content is needed is now an accepted given. One London post-production house, already extremely busy with film transfers of 2D to 3D, says that its telephones are ringing daily with enquiries from advertisers and content owners about 3D production. ‘One Swallow doesn’t make a Summer’ is the old saying, but we can only hope that this interest in 3D does result in extra viewing fun – and continued retail interest in the technology.