A Propeller-Head Visits Vegas, Part 2

My partner Mike Perkins and I traveled this week to Las Vegas to take in NAB, one of the big trade shows for the broadcast video market. We try to travel together once or twice a year because, in addition to whatever immediate objective we have in taking the trip, we’ve found that traveling together gives us an opportunity to discuss the company’s strategy at length.

For me, this represented a second trip to Vegas in as many weeks, since I was there last week for ISC West. What a difference! Unlike last week, the video on display at NAB looked great — with one exception: 3D video remains a holy grail of the industry, so there were a lot of 3D-related demos at NAB. As you walk down the aisles, you’re not wearing the special glasses required to view 3D video. And to the naked eye, a 3D display looks fuzzy at best and positively cubist most of the time.

I’m personally skeptical about the idea of 3D video in my living room. On the one hand, I can see the attraction in the movie theater, especially for the very best content like Avatar. And from the demos I’ve seen, I think sports in 3D could be compelling, especially if it can be done without reducing spatial resolution by a factor of two. Also, while I’m not personally a gamer, I can imagine that the perception of depth would add a lot to first-person shooters.

On the other hand, I’m not certain I want to wear 3D glasses all the time. I’m sure I’m not alone in often working on my laptop while I have a baseball game on in the background, and in that case, I’m not fully paying attention to the TV. So I don’t want the glasses.

I also don’t think 3D is particularly interesting for other types of content, such as most news footage, most TV shows and many non-action movies.

Perk came up with a set of interesting thought experiments:

  • Assume that interesting 3D content was widely available. For instance, assume you could readily get movies, sports and other TV shows in 3D, maybe from your cable company or maybe via digital download. Would this cause you to spend the money to upgrade your television to a 3D-capable model?
  • Alternately, assume that you won a 3D-capable television, so you’ve now got the capability of watching in 3D, with no incremental cost. Also, assume that at least some content is available. Would you watch in 3D if all you had to do was put on the glasses? How often would you watch in 3D?

For me personally, the answers to these questions are “probably not” and “rarely.” But I’m the guy who thought Facebook would never hit the big time — as Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” What do you think?

Perk wrote about 3D video on this blog after visiting NAB last year. And here’s our primer on the basics of 3D image acquisition.

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