3DTV: The Industry's Challenges, Your Opportunities.
COW Library : Broadcasting : Al Caudullo : 3DTV: The Industry's Challenges, Your Opportunities.
For many, this statement could be heresy -- but for most, it is just reality.
When 3D first returned to the scene in the form of 3D movies such as AVATAR, it was an overwhelming success. While no one has come close to the $2.7 billion that AVATAR has grossed worldwide, 3D in the movies has proven its place. It was only natural to believe that 3D at home would be a hit.
What happened to that promise?
Several things broke down the potential for the success of home 3D.
First, we were hit with high-end expensive 3D TVs. Instead of a unified front, the TV manufacturers devolved into a pack of squabbling children -- each claiming their version of 3DTV was better than the next. The general public was bombarded with too many choices -- active or passive -- and none of the options worked together. Mass confusion compounded by poor information made matters worse.
Secondly, manufacturers didn't anticipate Americans' unwillingness to wear 3D glasses in their own homes. Many consumers were already experiencing eyestrain and discomfort with 3D glasses in the theatres, and didn't want to bring that part of the experience home. It was too easy to lose glasses, sit on glasses, not have enough glasses, or have the dog eat the glasses.
Also, manufacturers didn't anticipate a sagging economy that sapped the middle class' ability to buy the next new gadget at top-end prices.
Shooting 3D content -- is it a luxury that few can afford?
Much has been rumoured about DirecTV cutting its 3D broadcast hours. Some of the media would have you believe that 3DTV broadcasting in the US is a flop. But, that is the furthest thing from the truth. 3DTV is alive and growing around the world. The manufacturers now seem to have accepted that 3D is a feature -- not the main selling point.
The prediction still stands that within 5 years, all newly manufactured TVs will have 3D capabilities. Panasonic, Samsung, LG and Vizio all currently offer 3D content. 3DeeCentral, 3Doo, Sensio and DDD all supply 3D content to those Smart TV's.
There have been some very positive signs, as well. For example, Panasonic gave us the Olympics in 3D. Promotion and information was definitely a problem in the US. In fact, it seemed at times that finding a local 3D channel, and what was on it, was an Olympic test of perseverance.
Panasonic gave us the Olympics in 3D.
All is not hopeless, however. I present to you a long list of instances where 3D is flourishing.
As a producer, the risks are higher, but the end result will be worth the effort.
The devil is in the details, and distribution can be the devil. Once you create your video, the hardest part comes: getting it out for people to see. The art of distribution is like nothing else that a filmmaker does… and there are major differences in distributing for film and for TV and Blu-ray.
One of the best avenues for independents in film is the festival circuit. To do it properly, you need to research what festivals suit your type of film. Everyone would love to submit to Cannes or Tribeca or Sundance, but it might be more realistic to go after a less challenging festival. After all, submitting does not automatically mean that your film will be accepted.
First of all, do they even accept 3D. How will they view it? Who are the judges? Do they know anything about 3D? One of the best methods that I've found for keeping track of what's going on is Withoutabox. You can sign up for a free filmmaker account and they will even help you to submit to multiple festivals with one entry form.
TV is completely different. Networks want a series of shows, not just one. Here is where finding a reputable distributor becomes possibly the most important challenge next to making your project. Distributors know the outlets and what they are looking for. It is their business to have to contacts. After all, they make a commission from what they actually sell. But beware, there are some that will say that they need promotion money in advance in order to make pr materials for your project. Run as fast as you can from anyone who tells you that. Reputable distributors will charge you something for this but on the back end after the project is sold. The fine line here is the word "reputable". Some disreputable distributors will load up your back end fees so that when the balance of the money finally gets to you, it is considerably less the the original percentage that you started out with.
VOD (Video On Demand) platforms are springing up all over and many feel that this platform will eventually replace Blu-rays. But that will probably take time before it happens. VOD's are an excellent way to get your video out to a wide audience. On the downside, you have to wait for your money. Payouts can be quarterly or bi-yearly.
Blu-ray is another way to go. There is good software out there for making Blu-rays, but very little for making 3D Blu-rays on your own. The issue is a complex one. There are Blu-ray 3D's which have Side by Side 3D content. Then there are several versions of 3D Blu-ray with frame packed 3D, which is instantly recognized by your 3DTV when played. The big differences are the quality and Bit Rates. Side by Side takes a hit with reduced resolution. Frame Packed, which is the official 3D Blu-ray standard, gives you better quality. But you need not only a professional encoding software to get the maximum 64Mbps VBR standard, but pro authoring in order to get professional menus.
Personally, I have gone down that long road of trying different distributors. There have been so many who "LOVE" your content and "swear" that they can get you sold right away. The truth is they all need lots of content in their catalogs to show clients, but that doesn't mean that you will get sold. I will only talk to distributors who will license my content on a non exclusive basis. This leaves me open to shop it around and not be stuck with a distributor who isn't getting me sales. There has only been one distributor that I have found that gets results in the 3D marketplace for me. His name is Torsten Hoffman of 3D Content Hub. Through him, I have sold to multiple providers around the world including Hungary, Virgin Media and CCTV in China. I have multiple VOD deals in place through him. I can easily say that Torsten is the 3D filmmaker's best friend.
My point is this: if you want to make 3D content, your market is the world and that market is steadily growing. Some things have changed though. You, as a producer, in most cases, are asked to take more risks. I don't have to tell anyone that the economy worldwide is troubled, but the rewards are there and 3D is growing. The next step in the evolution of visual medium is coming very soon. Auto Stereoscopic, or Glasses Free 3D, is being fast tracked into our living rooms. The great glasses debate will become a chuckle and a memory, but the demand for good 3D content will keep growing.
It's up to you to get on this 3D train now. Our kids will be the ones who laughingly say, "Hey Dad, I remember when you used to watch flat TV!"