Chief technical officer of Blitz Andrew Oliver spent the first working week of the year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, investigating the latest in 3D technology in a year that is likely to prove pivotal to the 3D industry. With the billion dollar success of James Cameron's Avatar movie creating buzz at the same time, media reports fixed squarely on 3D as the technology to watch in 2010, after 2009 saw a reasonable interest in 3D for TV, film and games.
In this exclusive interview, Oliver offers his thoughts on the technology at the show, the hype and talking points amongst attendees, and why Sony could be central to the growth of 3D entertainment.
There were 110,000 people at CES, so if you think E3 is big this is something else. The first thing and the biggest things you saw entering the event was 3D TV banners from Samsung so you immediately got the gist that this year was about 3D. Samsung had the largest displays, LG, and then Panasonic and Sony. Every single company that I saw has a 3D TV as part of its range now. And they were all aware of how many they're producing, how many they want to get out.
The Sony stand was big with 3D games. They had an enormous stand with a theatre at one end and cinema projectors that are made by Sony, movie cameras made by Sony and they were showing Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs – a Sony ImageWorks film – in 3D, they had a Blu-ray player playing 3D film and then the PlayStation 3's were showing various games. Gran Turismo 5 was in 3D and it looked very nice, Super Stardust 3D also looked impressive. They also had in booths videos of real gameplay – they weren't mocked up – of Wipeout, Motorstorm, LittleBigPlanet and Major League Baseball. They looked absolutely stunning.
It's all been cleared up and sorted out now. Everybody is going with HDMI 1.4. For the PlayStation it's just a way they format a picture inside but it does mean that existing Blu-ray players can't do it because you can't update them. A PS3 just requires a firmware update to enable 3D compatibility.
It was very interesting to see that plasma is still alive and kicking, LED TVs, OLED and LCD TVs – every single format I've seen in 3D, and they're all impressive. That makes me feel good that all technologies are capable of 3D. The other point is everybody is opting for Active 3D with shutter glasses and every manufacturer is producing its own glasses.
There's one input format and one standard of glasses that everyone is agreeing on. A year ago it was a mess and going off in all different directions and this year everyone has agreed on these standards. Pretty much everyone I asked has said that June is the turning point. It's the release for 3D in America, with 30 Blu-ray films out and every manufacturer will be selling at least one 3D TV in its range. ESPN is going 3D, the World Cup will be broadcast in 3D, the Discovery channel has announced a partnership with Sony and DirecTV have got a 24-hour full 3D channel coming.
Yes, it's brilliant. There's pluses and minuses to HDMI 1.4. In the old TVs that we've got, all these different chequerboard and interlaced formats are frankly a mess that became an extra process that slows everything down and reduced the resolution by half. The HDMI 1.4 standard allows you to send two pictures, two frame buffers every 60 frames a second and you can have that scaled and formatted in anyway you want. A Blu-ray movie look absolutely stunning running in 3D on the PlayStation because there's no loss of resolution.
In gaming you can pretty much set up any mode you like. With the typical 1280 x 720 format you can double that, and they've invented new modes. It's takes more video memory but it does mean you can get absolutely silky smooth gaming. Look at Gran Turismo and it looks really nice. It's clear that they've dropped resolution slightly. You can run Gran Turismo 5 in full HD or you can run it in 3D and when it's in 3D I think it's using 1280 x 720 but it's giving you a left and a right image at 60 frames per second. Theoretically it's a slightly lower resolution. But what they're doing is using their motion flow technology to up-scale and smooth out the picture.
3D is an added thing and it hits every division that Sony has got. Sony is really pinning its hopes on the world wanting 3D and everybody is basking in the glory of Avatar.