Panasonic Aims for 3D TV Dominance
“It is easy to make a big screen,” says Panasonic’s Hiroshi Miyai of the company’s original 100-inch 3D plasma. Smaller sets like Panasonic’s prototype 50-inch display are a bigger challenge.
Panasonic touts its leadership in the whole 3D TV chain from content production to TVs and sources; demos 50-inch 3D TV, production equipment, Avatar the movie
Panasonic wants to be synonymous with 3D TV.
The consumer electronics giant intends to lead the 3D movement, from start to finish: production, relationships with Hollywood, standards, rendering technology, and finally TVs and sources.
“Panasonic will continue to be at the leading edge for the industry” for 3D, said Fumio Ohtsubo, president of Panasonic, during a keynote address at CEATEC Japan 2009 near Tokyo.
During the expo, Panasonic shrugged off the 100-inch Full HD 3D plasma TV demonstrated at CEATEC 2008 and CES in January 2009.
Instead, the company touted its development of a more realistic 50-inch 3D display. Like its 2x counterpart, the 50-inch plasma features full HD, with alternating 1080p images for the left and right eyes
Ohtsubo boasted, “It’s the smallest size up until now.”
That’s a claim that few vendors seek, but the 50-inch TV represents a more mainstream implementation of 3D technology – and a challenge to boot.
“It is easy to make a big screen,” says Hiroshi Miyai, director, High Quality AV Development Center for Panasonic. “The larger the screen has become, the higher the 3D depth quality.”
It is more complicated to achieve “real deep black and unsaturated brightness” on a 50-inch screen but Panasonic is delivering just that, Miyai says.
New phosphors and high-speed impulse control from Panasonic enhance its plasma 3D images, according to Miyai. The company’s active shutter glasses also impact the experience, minimizing cross-talk that results in dual images.
Panasonic 3D suite with protoype active glasses, 3D Blu-ray player and disc
What Will 3D Cost?
Meeting with CE journalists from around the world, Miyai declined to discuss the size of TVs that Panasonic ultimately will bring to market, nor the price of those screens.
Fellow presenter Mayuki Kozuka, GM of Panasonic’s Storage Devices Business Strategy Office, says, “We are targeting volume so it wouldn’t be that expensive,” and then quipped that he hoped Miyai’s group could deliver.
When pressed about 3D’s price premium over standard HDTVs, Kozuka indicated that “multiples are not really possible for the consumer market, particularly double multiples.”
Miyai added, “We’ll be slightly in the middle of lines,” meaning Panasonic’s lower-end and higher-end TV lines.
Behind the Scenes, Beyond TVs
Panasonic says its leadership in 3D extends far beyond the quality of its displays.
It starts with standards. Panasonic claims to be behind many of the specifications proposed/adopted for 3D over HDMI and 3D for Blu-ray.
Even while standards were being debated, however, Panasonic established the Panasonic Hollywood Authoring Center in February of this year to support Hollywood studios in developing 3D Blu-ray titles.
Of all of the notable CE manufacturers, “We were the first to make full-fledged efforts in this area,” says Kozuka, who oversees the Hollywood center. “We’ve been working with directors from the very beginning. … 3D requires different types of shooting.”
Panasonic Hollywood Labs 3D demo room
To that end, Panasonic announced in April 2009 the development of a professional 3D Full HD production system, which the company calls “the first of its kind in the industry.”
At the heart of the system is a new twin-lens 3D camera system. Before such a system, 3D content producers hand-built their own 3D product systems by physically connecting multiple 2D production devices. The production suite includes a 3D mobile recorder. Both the concept camera and recorder are on display at CEATEC.
Avatar: Big 3D Production
Perhaps Panasonic’s biggest 3D endeavor to date is its collaboration with Twentieth Century Fox on the forthcoming 3D movie Avatar, directed by James Cameron. The movie is expected to be released Dec. 18, 2009.
That movie alone, “will accelerate the proliferation of 3D” in the home, says Kozuka, echoing the sentiment of several Panasonic executives.
Excerpts of the movie are being shown by Panasonic during CEATEC. A/V journalists on a press tour of the show seemed overwhelmingly to pick Panasonic as the best 3D demo at the show (disclaimer: Panasonic paid for our travels)..
Through the entire cycle of 3D from production to the living-room, Panasonic is bent on being the brand behind the experience.
“A lot of people think Blu-ray is Sony,” Kozuka says. “We believe 3D is Panasonic.”
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