TV, including porn, rushing for 3D space

Porn and sports are leading a thrust to move into the next generation of TV as the industry gears up to take advantage of the 3D bandwagon in the wake of Hollywood blockbuster "Avatar".

There are doubts about whether 2010 will be a breakthrough year for the third dimension given the higher TV production costs involved and the new technology required to film in 3D.

And for the time being at least, viewers will also have to wear special glasses to get the full immersive effect of the new technology.

"3D is something that you can get wrong very easily and there's a lot of technology involved," Gary Donnan, senior vice president research and innovation at Technicolor France, told a conference Wednesday at the MIPTV audiovisual trade show taking place in Cannes.

Leading the charge is Britain's biggest pay-television provider, British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB), the satellite operator owned by media magnate Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

It launched its 3D service early this month with a Manchester United-Chelsea soccer match broadcast in selected venues in Britain and later this year is to unveil the new Sky 3D channel offering movies, sport, documentaries and entertainment at no extra cost to subscribers of BSkyB's top channels and HD.

But other companies, including France's Orange Group, are also in the fray.

"Arts such as ballet are stunningly beautiful in 3D as it gives a real sense of being there," said Brian Lenz, BSkyB's director of product design and TV product development.

"3D is emotion, it is about immersion," said Ghislaine Le Rhun, 3D project manager at the Orange Group, currently on the hunt for content for its new 3D channel, launching in May with the prestigious Roland Garros tennis grand slam tournament.

And France's Canal+ has also revealed it plans to launch a dedicated 3D channel by end year.

High-tech savvy Asia too is looking at the space.

Yeo Chun Cheng of Singapore's Media Development Agency, which has been very active in 3D, said Singapore will shortly launch a 3D TV trial on free-to-air as well as cable and satellite channels.

But to get the full impact, TV fans will need 3D sets, which are just coming on to the market as HD sets start to catch on in many countries.

In Britain, for example, only 2.5 million households out of 10 million have HD sets, Chris Forrester of Rapid TV News said here.

"People are only now starting to buy HD sets so are unlikely to want to switch over to the 3D-enabled sets for some time," Thomas Hohenacker, CEO of Munich-based TV and technology company Telecast Media Group, told AFP.

The need for glasses too might play a negative role. While the cardboard disposable glasses used in 3D cinemas are inexpensive, more sophisticated models can cost up to 150 euros a pair.

But wearing glasses did not seem to harass the large number of TV execs who visited the adult entertainment space at the show to see a 3D demonstration produced by France's Marc Dorcel.

"It's a real sensation of depth," his son Gregory Dorcel told AFP of the clip in which a sexy blonde's champagne glass reaches out towards the viewer as her hand suggestively slides up and down the glass.

By the end of June, the French company will have 100 odd 3D programs available.

The Playboy TV portfolio of channels, whose largest subscriber base is in the adult entertainment sector with over 10,000 hours of erotic entertainment, plans to launch in 3D at the end of the year, Kieran Knight told AFP.

"You will have to get it right in 3D or it will be a disaster", said Claire Freeman who heads up production at Portland International's Television X.

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