Recently, Rick Dean, a senior vice president here at THX Ltd. and resident 3D guru had the opportunity to share his thoughts on the 3D industry at the annual Spring Digital Hollywood Conference in Los Angeles. Here are his insights on where the industry stands and why it’s poised for explosive growth.

Why is THX so interested in 3D technology?

Dean: The THX mission is to look at how entertainment is presented to the public and ensure that the experience is as enjoyable as possible. This legacy began in cinema and carries over to our involvement in certifying technologies for the living room. After some strong early success in the cinema, consumer electronics companies rushed to provide similar experiences in the home, but in this rush, no accepted standards emerged, and therefore 3D performance in the home was unpredictable. This unpredictability in performance, if not addressed, would stall the market for everyone. We saw this as a place where THX could bring our certification testing experience to the market, and by setting a level of performance for 3D as we already have for 2D, we could help build consumer confidence which will in turn grow the 3D market. Simply put, 3D is an exciting way to tell a story. Used well, it is a great enhancement to the moviemaker’s ability to immerse the audience in the story being told. Used poorly, and it can detract from the art.

At Digital Hollywood, the stalled adoption of 3D has been blamed on the lack of available content. Would you agree?

Dean: Content is still definitely an issue, but this is quickly being addressed. 3D movies are a good first step, but for 3D to gain significant traction in the home, we need more content types, including live TV, sports, games, and user generated content. It’s exciting to see here at Digital Hollywood that the industry recognizes 3D as an effective medium and is tailoring unique content experiences that take advantage of the technology.

Hardware though is also an issue. Experiences are improving but are still widely inconsistent.
Of course, if it is THX certified, you can count on a high-quality experience. On the playback side, our certification program for 3D displays looks at more than 400 different points of reference and about 1,000 different qualifications that the product has to match.

On the panel today you mentioned that THX supports some of the recent research into the physiological effects of 3D. What is the industry seeing with regards to health issues as they relate to 3D?

Dean: What we’re finding is that there is so much to learn about the physiological effects. Some recent research points to 3D being useful in helping diagnose existing eye health problems, meaning that the same people who experiences problems with 3D – nausea, dizziness etc. – are those who have pre-existing eye conditions. To support ongoing research, THX is working with the 3D@Home Consortium and the American Optometric Association on new studies to improve understanding of 3D viewing as a safe and appropriate technology for the home.

This panel was set up to discuss explosive growth in 3D but clearly we’re still in the early stages. What’s needed to get mass consumer adoption of this technology?

Dean: Last year, more than 1 million households purchased a 3DTV. If you look back at history, take a look at how long it took for HDTV to reach this level of penetration. Now, is this explosive growth?