The Blu-ray Disc Association has approved a specification for 3D movies for home theaters. Agreeing to a standard is a critical step in order to avoid a battle over competing standards like we saw with Blu-ray versus HD DVD. It appears that manufacturers are committing to bring the new technology to the marketplace in 2010.
The new specification has been officially named “Blu-ray 3D.” It will require that you purchase a new Blu-ray player in order to use the technology and will require viewers to wear special glasses in order to view movies in 3D. The specification does allow different approaches for displaying and viewing 3D movies through players that adhere to the standard. That means that it should work with plasma, LCD, laser and projection systems. We expect most manufacturers, including Panasonic and Samsung, to use the 3D LCD shutter technology that they demonstrated at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Sony is partnering with RealD, which means that they will likely be using the multi-layer polarized LCD display technology shown at the 2009 CES, which uses RealD’s special polarized glasses, similar to or the same as the glasses currently used for 3D movies in movie theaters. The drawback with the Sony approach will require that you purchase a new Sony HDTV.
At this point, it is not clear if home theater components other than a new Blu-ray 3D player and special glasses will need to be purchased in conjunction with the use of shutter technology. Shutter technology requires an IR emitter, which will likely be built into the new players. Also unknown at this point is whether or not the new players will work with all current HDTVs. If a new HDTV purchase is required, a lot of consumers who just invested in an 50 or 60 inch plasma or LCD HDTV will be very upset.
An interesting feature is that the specification allows the new Blu-ray 3D movies to be played in 2D mode on current standard Blu-ray players, so it will be possible to purchase 3D versions of movies, even if you do not plan to buy a 3D player until some time in the future. The specification allows players to deliver full 1080p resolution for each stereoscopic image (left eye and right eye), which means the high definition quality should not degrade with 3D viewing.
An interesting caveat is that Sony’s current PS3 game consoles will be upgradeable to the new technology, but you will need to purchase a new player if your home theater uses any other Blu-ray player. Hmmmm. That appears to be a good thing if you have a PS3 game console, and does open the flood gates for a new range of 3D games for the PS3, which should also drive sales for Sony’s game console. It appears that Sony has been thinking about this one.
There are other groups, such as the 3D@Home Consortium and Korea’s 3D Fusion Industry Consortium, who have also been working with manufacturers to hammer out a viewing standard for home theaters. It looks like the Blu-ray Disc Association got the jump on them and their standard will likely become the industry standard, at least as far as Blu-ray is concerned. The Blu-ray 3D standard does not address viewing on standard DVD players.
The Blu-ray Disc Association consists of 180 industry members from Hollywood studios and consumer electronics manufacturers, so at this point it looks like the announcement will lead to a range of 3D home theater products before the end of 2010. Several new Blu-ray 3D players are expected to be announced at the Consumer Electronics show in January of 2010, which we will be attending. Look forward to more details after we see more information about the new players.