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3D: active glasses will be necessary for foreseeable future, says Samsung

TV manufacturer Samsung intends to progressively make all of the LED, LCD and PDP TV sets it makes 3D-capable going forward, starting with higher-end screens this year, followed by a number of less expensive models from 2011. However, expensive active glasses will be a requirement for some time to come.

Samsung’s Vassilis Seferidis, director of European business development, told the CTAM EuroSummit in Budapest that he expected two million 3D TV sets to be sold in Europe this year out of a total of 13 million sets sold. He said Samsung saw 3D sets as part of an eco-system of devices including Blu-ray players and home cinema systems that would drive the market forwards.

TV manufacturers saw 3D as a way of driving the next replacement cycle, following the boom in HD-capable sets in 2007-08 and its subsequent tailing off.

Seferidis said however that expensive active 3D glasses would be required for some time to come, ahead of future developments in autostereoscopic technology. He said the cost of glasses would in most cases be bundled by manufacturers with the sale of a TV. “At IFA we saw autostereoscopic displays, but the technology is at a very early stage. For the business models for the next five or even 10 years autostereoscopic will not play a big role,” he said.

However, the emergence next year of standards for active glasses would enable manufacturers to market device-independent glasses, he added. “for next year we will have glasses that are standardized [so they can be used] with other manufacturers’ TVs,” said Seferidis. “That will give people the ability to design their own glasses. You could also combine prescription glasses with active glasses technology.”

Seferidis said that he did not expect cheaper passive glasses to gain much traction, because they required more expensive TV panels as a substitute. “Passive glasses are a transitional technology,” he said.

Speaking on the same panel at the CTAM EuroSummit, Benny Salaets, vice-president of product marketing for TV at Belgian cable operator Telenet, said that he expected multi-player games to drive 3D adoption in the wider non-theatrical market. Telenet launched a 3D demo channel earlier this year, followed by 3D video-on-demand in May, but take-up has been minimal to date. Movie trailers had proved more popular, however, with a conversion rate to buying the VOD title of less than 3%, suggesting that many trailers were being viewed out of curiosity by people that did not own a 3D-capable TV set.

“What will really drive 3D for a big part of the business will be games,” said Salaets. “Consumers are looking for that immersive experience. I’m curious about what the games producers will come up with in the next year.”

Despite lack of progress to date, Salaets said he nevertheless expected the adoption curve for 3D to be faster than for HD. “It will take time but less time than HD,” he said.

One factor that might delay progress is the cost of production, according to John Vonk, vice-president of video products at US cableco Comcast, also speaking on the CTAM panel. While conversion from SD to HD had required content producers to invest in new equipment, producing live 3D events meant doubling the amount of equipment and people deployed. “You need a [specialist] 3D sports production team on the football field to shoot it side-by-side [with the HD production team] so it’s double the production cost,” he said.