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Where is 3D heading?

Paddy Baker 24 May 2011

3D remains a moving target in terms of both product technology and market acceptance.   Manufacturers continue to innovate with hardware and software, clients continue to ask questions and installers are faced with the challenge of delivering the best installations they can, with seemingly few fixed points to work from.   What is the current situation with the various formats available on the market? Which glasses are best – active, passive or none at all? How should installers design a home cinema or media room to ensure the best viewing experience and what can clients watch in 3D anyway?   This year’s CEDIA Home Technology Event promises an important market update for installers on 3D, answering these questions and providing an insight into where we are now and where the technology will take us in the future.   JVC and Panasonic – two of the stellar brands in 3D – will be leading the way in bringing the concept to life for visitors at the show, supported by a broad range of top industry names, including Arcam, AWE Europe, Bowers & Wilkins, Denon, KEF and URC.   This year’s event will include a 3D Zone, featuring two specially built theatres. These theatres will showcase the latest JVC and Panasonic equipment to demonstrate how awe-inspiring technology combined with immersive 3D content can help custom installers cerate a stunning home cinema, gaming, sports and movie viewing experience.   The 3D Zone will showcase JVC’s award-winning 3D D-ILA projectors which provide the ultimate in cinema-like picture quality backed by the latest THX 3D certification. All three models, the DLA-X3, DLA-X7 and DLA-X9 feature native contrast ratios unmatched in the industry: the top model delivers 100,000:1. Surround sound audio within the space will be provided by Bowers & Wilkins.   Panasonic headlines the second 3D space with its new range of lifesize Full HD 3D screens, the VX200 and UX1 series. Here, the company will be showing the world’s largest plasma display, the 152in TH-152UX1 – this screen’s first appearance at a UK event. Panasonic is partnering in this 3D zone with distributor AWE Europe, which will be providing power amplification products from Arcam, 3D Blu-ray players from Denon and speakers from KEF for premium audio and video reproduction. Comfort seating in the space is supplied by Signature and the 3D technology will be operated by the latest controller from URC.    According to Stuart Tickle from AWE Europe, the UK distributor into CI for Panasonic screens, the take-up of 3D is very encouraging.   “For the past 12 months we have seen a massive increase in sales of 3D screens into the UK CI channel with good sales on all screens from 37in upwards, a trend that is set to continue.  There is a combination of positive factors behind this growth.    @page_break@ “Primarily, home owners seeking a professionally installed system are in a category of people who always buy premium products, and the fact is that the best 2D screens you can buy are also 3D capable. There are still some expensive non-3D products around, but anyone who is taking advice from CI professionals should certainly be recommended a product that is 3D capable. A main room screen is usually at least a five-year purchase so it makes sense to futureproof as much as possible on such a critical item as a screen.”       “Secondly, the same home owners are also those who can quite happily sign up to the top Sky HD package, which by default means they have access to regular high profile 3D programming.  This is in addition to an ever-increasing range of 3D Blu-ray discs and gaming.  Gaming is what is making a significant impact as it has generated sales within smaller screen sizes for family rooms, bachelor pads and children’s rooms”.   “The question of projector versus flat screen is a simple one and has not changed significantly in recent years. Essentially, you can get a bigger picture for less money from a projector, but flat screens are more versatile in terms of positioning and lighting conditions. There are good reasons for both and it is an installer’s job to decipher what is ultimately best for each particular application. Our buoyant sales of the 85in and 103in VX200 screens from Panasonic certainly indicate that there are many customer applications that need the flexibility which a big flat screen brings”.   “3D is not yet at the top of the list of requirements for many customers; the priority continues to be high performance with conventional 2D material,” argues Sam Johnson, product manager for Loewe UK. “Nevertheless, there is demand in the market, which is why Loewe has recently added high-performance 3D technology to our Individual range of televisions with other Loewe ranges set to follow later this year.”   “Loewe has selected active shutter technology as it currently offers the best 3D performance and has a positive effect for the 2D mode, which will still dominate viewing,” he continues. “As more 3D material becomes available, demand will rise and it is expected that by 2015 more than half of UK households will have 3D. The challenge for custom installers is to use 3D to boost sales at a time when the demand is not great and the amount of 3D material is not yet convincing enough for those “sitting on the fence”.”   At the CEDIA Home Technology Event, Loewe will be displaying a Connected 3D television with the capability to playback stored media as well as giving access to the Loewe Media Portal with a range of specific “apps” for convenient access to selected web pages, using the TV friendly CE-HTML standard and more.  @page_break@ “3D had a muted start last year in the custom install sector due to confusion over the different types of technology and processing for 3D and also because of the limited amount of source material,” says Alan Roser, managing director of SIM2 UK. “There was also concern as to whether this would be a passing fad. The amount of 3D material is now growing quickly and it is clear that 3D is here to stay. Also, the different types of processing can co-exist, which eliminates the ‘format war’ that has slowed adoption of previous technologies.   “3D is ideally suited to special event viewing such as sport and films, and also for gaming: this is the ideal material for projection. Active shutter 3D displays of all types are available at similar pricing to their premium 2D counterparts. Therefore, implementing 3D for the client empowers the installer to differentiate themselves whilst also providing an opportunity to up-sell”.   At CEDIA, SIM2 will be debuting its brand new Lumis 3D-S projector. This is not only the brightest consumer 3D projector, due to its 3-chip DLP light engine, but also the only one to use triple flash technology. Triple flash is used in commercial cinemas to improve motion and reduce eye fatigue. The Lumis 3D-S is being teamed with the Black Diamond G3 projection screen from Screen Innovations, which has been designed specifically for 3D projection. The company will also be distributing a guide to understanding 3D technology and launching a new training programme, which focuses on 3D projection.   All this activity on the show floor will be supported by exhibitors offering free training at the event alongside a must-attend CEDIA course. Entitled Delivering 3D, the course is presented by Neil Davidson from Genesis Technologies and will take place on the afternoon of Thursday 30 June.   “As consumer demand builds for 3D, residential custom installers are ideally placed to tap into this opportunity and provide their customers with the right technical solutions for their homes,” says Cheryl Carroll, the show’s event manager. “In this context, it’s hugely important for installers to keep up to speed with what’s happening in the market. Our 3D Zone and the exhibitors taking space at the show will make it possible for them to see first hand how the technology in this area is developing rapidly to improve the 3D experience for their customers”.   The Home Technology Event takes place at ExCeL London from Tuesday 28 until Thursday 30 June. Delegates can start to attend CEDIA Training courses a day earlier, from Monday 27 June.  For a full list of all exhibitors taking part at the show, further information and to register for the event, visit the show website.

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