By Torsten Hoffmann, Global Media Consult
Okay, the title might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it did get your attention, didn’t it? The truth is that while many decry “the lack of 3D content” for 3D channels and VOD platforms, there are already various sources available.
My presentation on the state of global 3D at the recent Dimension 3 conference in Paris, was intended to help service providers with their acquisition efforts, and many attendees were surprised with my findings (download at www.3DContentBlog.com). In this article, I explore the main sources for 3D content, and summarise my findings.
3D channels on air
Currently there are about 20 3D channels on air. Most of them operate with very high re-run rates or function as a ‘barker channel’, so there is not a lot of content to be found here. However, we are starting to see more and more ‘serious’ 3D channels with broader schedules. 3net recently announced 40 hours of fresh content for the month of June. Sky 3D in the U.K. has already broadcast more than 100 hours of premium sports events. Starting this autumn, we expect at least a dozen more launches in various territories.
Video on Demand
An even more interesting area of activity at the moment is video-on-demand where 3D titles are already performing strongly. Almost all cable and IPTV operators already offer 3D on demand, or have announced plans to launch such services soon. As all 3DTV sets that are currently on sale, such as the Samsung Explore 3D and the LG Smart TV, are also ‘connected’ TVs, these manufacturers also require 3D content. And of course all of the over-the-top services such as Netflix and YouTube are already toying with the third dimension.
It is often forgotten that stereoscopy is actually a hundred year-old film-making technique. According to Al Caudullo at 3DGuy.tv, there have been about 90 3D movies released between 1950 and 2000. Is anyone actively making use of these older libraries? In the last few years there have been an estimated 100 3D releases, and the upcoming pipeline is filled. In fact, when you look at the releases planned for the next 12 months, you will find sequels and remakes of films such as Conan, Kung Fu Panda, Cars, Transformers, Lion King, Happy Feet, Ice Age, Madagascar, Star Trek, Fantastic Four, Spider Man, Titanic, Men in Black, Final Destination, and many more native or converted 3D titles.
Yes, recent 3D box office results have not been strong, and it has been suggested that 3D is losing its novelty, however it seems to me that the reason for this is that 3D is becoming the new standard faster than anyone expected. Audiences around the world already expect a major release to be in 3D.
The next source for new 3D content is film festivals. There are virtually hundreds of events all across the globe, and many have special openings for 3D films. At Dimension 3, a staggering 103 3D titles, mostly shorts, competed. Indeed 46% of the registered content had never been screened before.
As always, the adult entertainment industry is the main driver for innovation in the media industry. According to BroadbandTVNews, the producer Marc Dorcel has become one of the leading players in European 3DTV, spending €1.5 million on a total of around 100 productions to date. The competing Penthouse has a 3D channel and large volume of 3D content available as well.
In my opinion one overlooked area is 4D theatres. 4D combines a 3D film with a fourth, physical effects channel which could comprise vibration, light effects, water vapour, wind etc. Because these physical effects are expensive to set up, 4D films tend to be limited to special venues such as theme or amusement parks.
There are already specialist 3D distributors who have aggregated large portfolios of stereoscopic 3D titles, mostly produced in 2009 and 2010. Global Media Consult is one such specialist with a line-up of over 20 full-length movies, 20 documentaries, and 10 animated films.
Interestingly, most titles that we encounter globally are produced by independent filmmakers. This makes potential acquisitions of rights relatively straightforward as they own all global rights. In the past months we have sold anything from one-minute clips for mobile devices to large exclusive rights packages. Our clients include Blu-ray distributors, movie theatres, broadcasters, hardware manufacturers, VOD platforms, and OTT service providers. Even though there is no standard in terms of technical specifications yet, the market seems to favour side-by-side 1080p MP4 as the format of choice.
These are early days yet for 3D, and the range of outlets for 3D content is set to mushroom as various content producers and providers recognise the value that a 3D experience can bring. While most people will have had their first 3D experience in the cinema, it is only when 3D broadcasting becomes the norm for most, that the technology can be said to be widely accepted.
There is still a long way to go until we reach 100 3DTV channels – a recent study forecast that this would not happen until 2015 – but the genie is definitely out of the bottle!
Torsten Hoffmann is a distributor of one of the largest stereoscopic 3D portfolios in the world. He blogs at www.3DContentBlog.com and is currently Managing Partner at Global Media Consult (GMC), a German-based group of consulting experts for media and TV companies from around the globe, where he represents 35 international pay TV or Free-to-Air channels and 3D content owners, helping them in their global distribution efforts. Additionally he is Director at WildEarth.TV, a channel that broadcasts live in 3D. Torsten has a MBA degree from Oxford University, and can be contacted through LinkedIn.