NAB 2012: What to look for in 3D
Chris Brown, NAB Executive VP
April 5, 2012

NAB 2012: What to look for in 3D

The upcoming 2012 NAB Show ( in Las Vegas (April 14-19, 2012) is shaping up to be at least the fifth consecutive NAB Show to significantly advance the closely-watched 3D content creation, distribution, and consumption sectors. Before enumerating several hot topics in 3D that the nearly 100,000 NAB Show registrants from more than 150 countries should be on the lookout for this year, a bit of history about 3D as it relates to NAB Show:  

In 2008, at NAB Show, Howie Mandel and Deal Or No Deal demonstrated the first over-the-air broadcast and display of an HD 3D signal on a regular 2D HDTV.

In 2009, in December, four months before NAB Show, James Cameron’s landmark 3D film, Avatar, premiered to record worldwide box office and audience acclaim, confirming his long-held belief that modern 3D would significantly change the movie business.

In 2010, four months after Avatar premiered, 3D had proliferated, and the industry was scrambling to capitalize on the box office appetite that it uncovered. 3D leader and proponent Jeffrey Katzenberg took center stage at NAB Show to implore the industry to adhere to certain best practices. He warned that haphazard, hasty 3D conversions could turn audiences off. The industry largely heeded Katzenberg’s call, creating great demand for the expertise and equipment required to do 3D right (a la Avatar), rather than to just do it.

One year later, in 2011, 3D innovators James Cameron and Vince Pace took the stage to unveil their new enterprise, Cameron|Pace Group, providing a one-stop shop for 3D TV and film production based on the equipment, technical expertise, and general knowledge developed through the production of Avatar and their work with leading media companies, including ESPN. Throughout the 2011 NAB Show conference and exhibit halls, a major recurring theme was the importance of 3D technology to the media ecosystem: On the content capture side, as demonstrated by the Cameron|Pace Group launch, increasing availability, affordability, and portability of stereoscopic camera rigs began to ensure that the format would infiltrate the workflows of filmmakers and content producers working with a range of budgets, from the big to the more modest.

On the post-production side, a key learning was that 3D requires significantly more bandwidth and storage than traditional HD, but advances in digital production workflows, affordability of massive data storage, and distributed computing began to bring what was once a luxury into the realm of the average content creator.

On the content distribution front, dedicated 3D digital channels including 3net and ESPN 3D — which showed gasp-inducing 3D coverage of The Masters golf tournament at the show — foretold a willingness of MSOs and media companies to feed the coming consumer demand to consume their television in three dimensions.

On the demand side, most consumer electronics manufacturers at NAB 2011 were showing glasses-driven 3D capable home theater set-ups, while dipping a toe in to what may prove to be the breakthrough technology for broad consumer adoption – glasses-free 3D.

The buzz around 3D advances is growing.  If you’re planning to be at the show, you should be on the lookout for these big developments:
James Cameron and Vince Pace Will Be Back – The industry’s stalwart trend setters will be back at 2012 NAB Show and have promised to share their unmatched insights in a must-see session entitled “The Secrets of Making 3D Profitable.” Cameron and Pace will reveal the strategy behind 5D productions, including the ESPN Winter X Games where 35 rigs were used to accomplish the largest 5D production in history. Attendees will see how the 5D methodology enables broadcasters to increase revenue by integrating 3D into their existing 2D business model.

Independent voices will be heard in 3D filmmaking. As previously out-of-reach equipment and techniques permeate the marketplace, watch for up and coming creators to push beyond the expected and into new territory.

Glasses-free 3D HDTV models will proliferate, and their performance will improve (including 4K models), with viewing angles widening to approach those of 2D HDTV specs. These developments will likely stoke consumer interest and demand heading in to holiday 2012.  

Pushing the envelope further, NAB Show’s International Research Park (IRP) in the North Hall of the convention center will feature, among dozens of other new and emerging technologies, the first US presentation of a 200-inch, glasses-free 3D projection system. It is a technological tour de force, more than tripling the size of the next largest display of its kind.  

Higher Frame Rate 3D – As the general market goes 3D, the leaders in the sector will push the envelope further. Higher Frame Rate 3D production has caught the interest of the titans of the sector. Once tamed, HFR may enable cinematic experiences that would have been either unachievable or inconceivable just a year or two ago. A session on the subject is set for Sunday, April 15.

3D Over-the-Air broadcast Will Be Discussed – HD3D requires more picture data than a traditional HD signal (logically). Delivering that amount of data via available over-the-air broadcast spectrum is a non-trivial technical challenge. Engineers and technologists continue to explore the matter, which will be one subject of the half-day engineering conference at this year’s NAB Show.  

To sum up, this is just a taste of what we know is coming in the 3D world at 2012 NAB Show. Perhaps the most exciting part of being in this industry is that with so many smart, accomplished, creative and competitive people and companies out there, we can all still be surprised by the unexpected. So, check back after the show for a recap of these major themes, and a rundown of what surprises the industry had in store for us this year.  

See you in Las Vegas!

Chris Brown is NAB’s Executive Vice President, Conventions and Business Operations. He oversees the annual NAB Show.