Conventional wisdom holds that people won’t buy 3DTVs by the millions because they don’t want to wear the goofy glasses and there isn’t enough content available. I’ve already addressed the first item, but let’s look at the second one for a moment.
According to the 3D@Home site, Hollywood plans to release about 40 movies — new and conversions — in 3D next year. Figure an hour and a half to two hours per movie, that’s maybe 70 hours of programming. At three hours a night, that’s maybe enough for three weeks of prime time programming for just one channel. In a world of 500 channels, that’s not much. But what if Hollywood came up with a way to convert their back catalog of movies and TV shows into 3D?
The fact is that a typical 2D photo image has lots of visual cues that can be used to extract depth data. Factors like changes to patterns and textures, perspective angles, relative size, and overlapping objects can all be used to determine how far apart objects are in a scene. Teach a computer to recognize those factors, and it can create stereoscopic images automatically. But that requires a lot of expensive computing power.
Or does it? I just got a press release from ArcSoft about their new MediaConverter 7 . The program has the “ability to turn your 2D photos and videos into 3D.” It supports anaglyph (red/blue glasses) as well as page flip and interleave modes. Oh, and it only costs $39.99.
Now, I have not used this program so I don’t know how good the results are. But that’s not the point. Even if it can only do a lousy job at this point, the processing can only get better and faster. (You can now buy a fully-equipped quad-core PC kit for $250 these days so the computing power is cheap.) If you can do a lousy job on a PC for $40, think of what you could do if you spend $40,000 on the software. That’s still way less than the budget for shooting a 2D movie or even a TV episode.
It seems to me that we’re on track to have mass conversions of back catalog material within the next two years, just as the installed base is reaching critical mass and the cost difference for 3DTV over 2D approaches zero. Start saving now; 2013 looks to be the year when you’ll be buying a 3DTV.