The bizness of 3D

Filed under: by: Aaron Price on Thursday, December 11, 2008 @ 11:36 PM

In a future post I'll cover how I managed to wander into the stereoscopy field. For now I want to talk about one of the reasons why I decided to make it a major focus of my academic research: business.

In my opinion, stereoscopic projection is the next HD. In 10-20 years most TVs will support it. The reason? Hannah Montana and Joe Theisman.

I am not a father (yet), so I haven't been indoctrinated into the phenomenon that is Miley Cyrus. However, her father Billy Ray hit it big when I was in high school so I remember him well. In particular, I remember seeing a triple bill concert where he was the last "headliner" act. Everyone walked out after the second act. But apparently he had enough talent to co-spawn Miley.

Her last movie, Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds was a stereoscopic/3D movie. It made $70 million (worldwide theatre revenue) on a $7 million budget. That's enough to make even the most blockheaded Hollywood exec sit up and take notice. It was shown in theatres using polarized glasses (the DVD uses red/blue anaglyphs).

Disney's right hand was aparrently aware of what the left hand was doing. Their Pixar division learned from this and decided that all future movies will be released in 3D. Dreamworks soon followed suit. This makes natural sense. Once a 3D animated movie has been produced, it takes very little additional effort to re-render the same movie from a slightly different camera angle. I have no knowledge of this, but my guess is that it would cost about 1% of the overall budget of the movie. With two versions of the movie that differ only by a slight camera angle, you have an easy 3D film. This is why concert movies are also popular in 3D (U2 did it recently too). The concert occurs on a single stage, so it is easy to setup multiple camera angles.

What else occurs on a single, fixed stage surrounded by cameras? Sports. There is a reason digital/satellite/HD technologies all embraced sports first. The avid sports fan is, well, a fanatic. They will pay big bucks as early adopters to get their fix bigger and badder than before. Samsung, Hyundai, Philips and other television manufacturers are quickly rolling out competing stereoscopic technologies. How much do you want to bet that they will be cutting deals with the major sports as their major content generators?

That makes me think to a defining moment of my sports life. When I was ten I watched Joe Theisman suffer a compound fracture of his leg on national TV. It was a sick moment. Now imagine it in stereo.