3D Media: More Types Than You'd Think

Whenever 3D programming is mentioned, we automatically think in terms of movies and TV. Many - if not most - major Hollywood productions are being made in Stereo3D almost as a matter of course, while in the US, 3net (a partnership between Sony iMax and Discovery) was the first to start broadcasting 3D TV content 24 hours a day.

But 3D is already available for many other media:

3D gaming - the Nintendo 3DS, launched earlier this year, is already offering glasses-free 3D gaming.

3D photography - simple to use point and shoot cameras are becoming available from major camera manufacturers such as Fuji.

3D Blu-ray - in addition to home theatre use, 3D Blu-ray playback can provide a personalised experience on a suitably-equipped PC. Prices for the players are following their DVD predecessors and starting to plummet.

3D Streaming - live and recorded content available via the Internet. While the file sizes, in particular, for Stereo3D movies are large and require fast broadband connections, some streaming providers have come up with an ingenious solution for countries and areas where fast broadband isn't readily available. The idea is to use a small part of the terrestrial TV spectrum to 'datacast' 3D content by trickling it down to a hard disk in the set top box. The subscriber can then watch the 3D programming whenever they like, played back from the hard disk.

3D video - as suitable cameras and playback become more affordable 3D low-budget and home movies become possible.

3D social web - it is perhaps inevitable that the cutting edge of the web and the cutting edge of movies and broadcast would start to come together. Sites like OurBricks are allowing people to discover and share 3D content in their browsers. While sites like OurBricks are still in their infancy, it shows another growth path for 3D, and another way we can assimilate 3D into our everyday media experience.

3D in education - where educators have traditionally harnessed 2D educational media such as backboards, paper, slides and conventional video to explain three dimensional concepts, 3D media helps students grasp spatially related concepts easily and more intuitively.

3D in medicine - where it has a role in both treatment and teaching (where the benefits are similar to those for general education). With 3D imaging, it becomes possible to understand the position of diseased and non-diseased tissue, and abnormalities such as fractures in the body. 3D imaging can make surgery and invasive procedures such as endoscopies easier to plan and undertake.

And in treatments such as radiotherapy, where it is very important to direct the radiation only on to the malignant cells, specialists are already reporting excellent results. The potential for 3D in medicine is vast - a recent report from Global Industry Analysts predicts that the world market for 3D medical imaging will reach US$3.5 billion by 2015.

3D becomes all-pervasive

Consumer electronics manufacturers see 3D being in all the media they deal with. For example, Sony has announced that its PlayStation 3 games console will be upgraded to be the centre for all kinds of 3D entertainment in the home, not just the 3D games and 3D Blu-ray that are currently handled.

2D to 3D converters and TVs with integral 2D to 3D conversion make all of a family's existing 3D content appear in 3D. While the results aren't as impressive as proper Stereo3D content, quality is improving all the time. And, with 2D easily and acceptably converted to 3D, and 3D becoming the norm throughout their lives, consumer expectations for proper 3D availability will increase.

Roger Thornton is Head of Publicity at Quantel. The company develops innovative, world-leading content creation systems for broadcast, post and DI. Quantel products deliver at SD, HD, 2K, 4K and 3D Stereo.

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