Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Two dimensions of 3D

November 20, 2009

An old Saturday Night Live segment once included this joke when Frank Sinatra was still alive:

“‘Ol’ Blue Eyes’ is back in town, and sources report nobody’s interested and nobody cares.”

That line came back to me after Sony,  once Japan’s “Big Blue”, announced Thursday its vision of an $11-billion 3D market by early 2013, with three-dimensional PlayStation 3s, TVs, Blu-ray Disc players, cameras, live broadcasting and — the historic staple — movies and theatres.


Photo credit: REUTERS/Rick Wilking

I attended Sony’s briefing that included a 2D video of its 3D world, plans for 3,000 projector installations by end-2010, a single-lens High-Frame-Rate movie camera (when previously it took two cameras to make three dimensions), and an end-to-end solution still involving glasses.

The plan was wider than 3D (it pushed back a 5-percent operating profit target to 2013) , but investors sold it Friday, and few analysts saw the technology quickly ending six years of TV losses.

Sony’s 3D plans have been highlighted at global tech and game shows in the last few months and some potential users, particularly gamers, have been more enthused than increasingly impatient investors, as the beleaguered consumer electronics giant tries to right its business.

Some broadcasters are reportedly looking at 3D adoption, but Japanese networks, still adapting to a switch to HD (high definition) aren’t seen among any first wave. A barometer of 3D enthusiasm may come from the James Cameron film Avatar , which is from 20th Century Fox, not Sony, and opens in December at an estimated cost of over $300 million, and possibly up to $500 million.

Not bad for a technology that began in the 19th Century, became famous — or infamous — with the red and green lenses used at bad horror movies of the 1950s, and now is envisioned as a potential profit centre.  Or not, depending on the view you take.

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