3DTV: Chris Ward Responds

The following is a response to my series of pieces on 3D TV (I hate to call them blogs.  It’s an ugly word.) Chris is a distinguished stereographer and entrepreneur and the founder of Lightspeed Design.  They produce industrial videos and the Depth Q stereoscopic projector.  I’ll comment on his remarks in a later posting. 

Dear Lenny, 

I read your “Truth about 3D TV” blog entry with great interest. 

“anybody entering the field has to ask themselves how they are going to make money from their efforts.” 

“If we look at the entire value chain of stereoscopic television, we see that no one is going to dominate.” 

These are really two very key points going forward for any of us in the 3D display business. There is very little genuine IP as almost every principle being used is old with substantial amounts of prior art, making traditional footholds based on patents unlikely. 

– Broad use of 3D TV (like HD) in the home is on a long run track, 10+ years out.

– High speed TV sets are by far the most likely commercialization for glass based 3D.

– Stereo engines clearly need to be embedded to create broad and certain connectivity.

– No one will have a dominate position in storage or broadcast formats.

– Everything has to travel through the standard 2D pipes or bandwidth. 

I think something that desperately needs to be injected into the 3D world’s constant discussions, is a wake up call that we need solid long term business models and not just technology standards. 

For example the new SMPTE document amounts to an 80+ page wish list. Who is going to do all this work, if even companies like Philips don’t have the ability to stick it out? 

In my opinion the 3D industry needs to start “laying-in” very long term business plans that are profitable at every level and assume mass market success at least 5 years or more in the future. 

Further it is my opinion (not shared by many in 3D) that the industry needs to create differentiated strata of 3D quality, so we can have a profitable Industrial/Prosumer market, while the consumer market at least breaks even and benefits by the R&D paid for by the Prosumer level. 

My primary logic is this: 

The monitors will go high-speed (LCD and OLED) just as the Samsung RP TVs did. But the demand for actual 3D product purchases – a 3D movie, video games, and glasses (enough for the family), will be curtailed by the fact that consumers have an elastic demand curve for 3D, because at the end of the day it’s a “just a lark”.  A set of five good quality electronics glasses currently cost $500 – $1000 dollars and this defines the demand curve. I think demand will not increase until we hit $10.00 per viewer. 

Therefore, it has been my conclusion that we need classes of “3D resolution”, at various price points, to jump the gap. 

First, in today’s TV business it is nearly a given that the base level 2D resolution must be 1920×1080 to attract consumers. 

But I think 3D resolution can be scaled and embedded at various levels within that 1920 resolution: 800×600, 1024×768, 1280×720, and 1920×1080. Each 3D resolution would have a correspondingly higher charge, given its fundamental and definable increase in visual quality. 

For example, consumer 2D devices might be given away -free- with only 800×600 3D resolution. The scaling technology you mentioned will fill the whole visual space, creating a high quality experience. Not to mention that people naturally perceive 3D as at least 1.5 times higher in resolution. On the other hand, a professional or wealthy consumer will pay a very substantial premium for a true 1280 or 1920 3D display. 

In today’s, 2D display market the manufacturers are desperately in need of high profit margin SKUs and not just sales volume. 3D gives them a proven way to differentiate their products, and create higher margins. 

You proved this at StereoGraphics, as have we at Lightspeed/DepthQ. 

My thoughts on this subject are not fully complete, but I am reaching out to you on this subject, particularly in the wake of the Phillips fall out. 

Digital technology has made it possible for the first time for 3D to be a real industry. I hope we don’t miss the obvious. 

Best Regards

Chris Ward


Lightspeed Design, Inc. – DepthQ

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