Panasonic talks up future of 3D movies

Panasonic's Steve Lucas
Panasonic's Steve Lucas

When James Cameron needed a helping hand with the production of Avatar he called in Panasonic's 3D playback gear.

Panasonic believes that heavy 3D involvement with Hollywood has given the consumer electronics giant a significant advantage when it comes to producing consumer-friendly 3D kit.

It is the only brand making 3D plasma screens and 3D Blu-ray decks with dual HDMI outputs while its prosumer 3D camcorder could spawn a more affordable model that would put 3D creation in the hands of video-making enthusiasts.

Panasonic UK's product specialist Steve Lucas believes that Panasonic's home entertainment equipment delivers the 3D goods but thinks that movie directors still have much to learn in order to deliver truly effective 3D.

We posed him nine candid questions about 3D.

TR: There's been plenty of discussion about 3D viewing discomfort over the past few months. In the Panasonic 3D demo disc currently playing in stores, there's a scene in which rocks are flying towards you through space. When objects like these give the impression of being about to 'leave the screen', viewing can seem somewhat uncomfortable. Is this a limitation of all Home 3D?

SL: There's a limit when the image gets to the edge of the screen - that distance between you and the object can be adjusted in the 3D encoding process. I think that moviemakers and content providers are going to move away from that type of scene. What James Cameron proved with Avatar is that it's a lot more interesting to take people into the scene, rather than trying to send things out of the scene towards the person. Avatar really draws you into the whole world of Pandora, instead of merely throwing things at you. So content providers will change the way they film 3D and are making 3D effects.

TR: Every major consumer electronics company now claims to have had a hand in Avatar. Specifically what involvement did Panasonic have with Avatar?

SL: We work very closely with James Cameron's team and with Fox, but - specifically for the production of Avatar - Panasonic provided the playback equipment, so that Cameron could see the rushes in 3D. We also supplied a high-definition consumer camcorder for him to use on set.

TR: Panasonic's 3D prosumer camcorder has a price tag of over 15,000 euros. When do you think we'll see a consumer version?

SL: There are no plans to launch that type of product onto the consumer market at the moment. There's certainly going to be a big demand for it in the professional field, and we're hoping to launch that product towards the end of this year. It's getting a lot of interest right now! To break into the consumer market with a 3D camcorder is, I think, going to take a bit more development time to reduce the optics down in size and that type of thing. I don't think we'll see that this year anyway.

TR: Can you ever a time when regular folks will be able to (or even want to) edit home movies in 3D? Editing in 3D will presumably be completely-different (and more challenging) to editing in 2D.

SL: Yeah, editing is another thing altogether. It's all very well having a 'point and shoot' camera that captures everything in 3D, but how you edit it together is - I think - another skill set. It will start with the specialist - the semi-pro - who will give that a go before it filters down to regular camcorder users.

TR: Consumers are inevitably nervous about new formats. Just how safe a bet is buying into 3D Blu-ray? Are you confident that all 3D discs and machines from different vendors will be compatible?