Inside Panasonic’s Hollywood Lab

Push for more 3D content will result in greater viewing options for consumers.

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The animated movie Rio is expected to gross more than $40 million in its first week of release at cinemas nationwide. Sixty-five percent of that revenue is expected to come from sales of 3D tickets

Panasonic was spreading the 3D love last week at an invitation-only press event at the Panasonic Hollywood Labs (PHL) in Universal City, Calif. Members of the press, including me, got a rare glimpse of the magic that goes behind the making of 3D films, even being the first to view a clip of Storm Chasers in 3D.

Designed as a testing ground for filmmakers and producers, PHL has helped the movie industry learn about and implement technologies such as high-def and Blu-ray. Now, it’s time for it to “serve as an incubator for the creation of new 3D content by Hollywood,” says Shiro Kitajima, CEO, Panasonic Corporation, North America.

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At the event, Panasonic displayed a bullish attitude on the acceptance and adoption of 3D by both content providers and consumers. “We see all of the pieces coming together,” says Kitajima.

As for the “hardware piece” of the equation, Panasonic expects 70 percent of its 2011 TVs lineup to be 3D capable. Content providers DirecTV and 20th Century Fox Entertainment are equally optimistic. “Hollywood has embraced 3D,” said Mike Dunn, president of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment at the Panasonic press event. “We expect 65 3D films to be available by the end of the year; more than double that in 2012.”

DirecTV senior vice president Steven Roberts laid out the satellite provider’s aggressive plans for 3D this year, as well. To its current lineup of five 3D channels, DirecTV expects to introduce a variety of different content, including opera, comedy, soccer, concerts, and poker tournaments, to name a few. “We are building a litany of different genres so people can see what types of 3D programming they really like,” Roberts explains.

Helping to push along the development of 3D content will be Panasonic’s new Full HD 3D camcorder. Intended for professional filmmakers, the AG-3DA1 is the first professional 3D camcorder to record to SD media card, which according to Panasonic will help simplify the editing process. Also, because the camera is lightweight (under 7 pounds), film crews will be able to capture images that they couldn’t with heavier, more cumbersome cameras. “It can take a trip to the Everglades to capture images of alligators,” said a PHL spokesperson. In fact, the AG-3DA1 is scheduled to ride along in the Space Shuttle Atlantis for NASA’s final mission to space, scheduled for a June 28th launch. NASA astronauts will use the camcorder to document the International Space Station in 3D.

Of course, not everyone can afford the $21,000 list price of the AG-3DA1. To help budding filmmakers break in to the 3D business, Panasonic offers three consumer HD camcorders, the HDC-TM900, HDC-HS900 and HDC-SD800. Priced at $1,099.99, $1,399.95 and $849.99, respectively, when paired with an optional lens ($350), all three can shoot in 3D.

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The AG-3DA1 is the first professional 3D camcorder to record to SD media card.

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