3D theatre screens touch 5,000 mark worldwide

MUMBAI: In every industry from movie production to consumer electronics, the subject of 3D has been a main topic of discussion. Topics like Digital Cinema, Digital Cable and HDTV have begun to settle down and forward thinkers are now wondering what 3D means to their businesses.

While many people still wonder out loud if 3D is just a fad the way it was in the past, a growing number of people are well beyond this controversy – and they are putting their money where their mouth is. Investments are being made all across the board.

One piece of evidence – there are now over 5,000 digital 3D screens worldwide. And, the companies that are installing 3D equipment in theaters – RealD, XpanD, Dolby and Master Image – all report hundreds of orders in their pipeline.

Additionally, there are over 30 digital 3D movie titles in the works for 2010. There haven’t been this many 3D titles since the so-called "golden age of 3D" in the early 1950s. But, back then viewers had to suffer from primitive technology and pictures that gave people headaches. Furthermore, directors used cheap "stick in your eye" 3D tricks to show off the fact that the movie was in 3D.

However, 3D is now based on digital 3D technology, which uses new digital cinema projection systems. The most significant change is that theaters and studios figured out that digital 3D means more money. As such, digital 3D titles now include mainstream movies like UP from Pixar/Disney that proved good enough to open the Cannes film festival.

Now the rest of the digital entertainment value chain is taking notice. There are at least 16 standards, coordinating organizations and national research labs working on bringing 3D to the home. Many consumers may not know it, but many new digital televisions are already "3D ready".

Nonetheless, there are a few issues to deal with before digital 3D becomes a big market. Technical and product challenges exist everywhere still as the industries grapple with the subtle issues that digital 3D exposes. The fact that these challenges exist is good news for companies that want to get on the ground floor on some new opportunities.