Imagine riding a roller coaster. That’s how viewing The Polar Express on a 3D cinema screen felt as the train sped through gorges and swayed over mountains enroute to the North Pole. And hear the screams and feel the fear as several hundred rats surge over the edge of a stage and towards you in Disney theme park’s showing of Honey, I Shrunk the Audience.
Will 3DTV be a heart pounding experience like 3D cinema?
We’ll find out sooner than you might think. Despite the fact that the UK tv landscape won’t be fully digitised until 2012, 3D tv trials are already taking place in the UK, Japan and Brazil (amongst others) with a view to a UK launch from Spring 2010.
From a marketing stand-point, as with most technological advances the challenge is to ensure that the audience experience is distinctive, compelling, affordable and easily accessible. Then communicate this to drive audience purchase and usage. To do this the technology, content and cost issues and the audience drivers and barriers need to be understood and used to create effective brand or marketing communications.
What are the potential barriers and drivers?
1. Wearing nerdy glasses : Stereoscopy is the most widely accepted method for recording and delivering 3D video. This requires capturing stereo images in the right place to show convincing scene depth on a screen. The images then need to be coded for broadcast and viewing. In the UK, Sky is experimenting using alternate lines of pixels for transmission. These need to be viewed on purpose built 3D televisions. Initially, and at the lowest cost end of the spectum, polarised glasses will be needed to view the images.
2. Ease of acquisition : How available or expensive will the equipment be? In the UK, Sky’s aim is to use the existing HD infrastructure which means that there will be an immediate 1.6m+ homes (Oct 2009) that already have compatible set-top boxes. New 3D compatible tvs will be also be required and several manufacturers have started producing such sets. Ultimately, sets with autostereoscopic displays will obviate the need for glasses. Inevitably these will be higher cost.
3. Risk of technology redundancy : Will the technology go out of date? The answer is more likely to be when not will. First stage tv sets are likely to require users to wear glasses before autostereoscopic screens become available. In addition, 3D blu-ray and 3D tv broadcasts are likely to use different technologies. This means that standardisation or multiple technologies will needed within tv receivers to allow both blu-ray dvds and tv broadcasts to be viewed on the same tv. While this may not be an issue for early adopters it will be a concern to attract the masses.
4. Safety : Watching 3D movies can make your stomach churn so some may have health concerns. No doubt this will have implications for audience trials and some warnings, guidelines and checks and balances may be needed to allay fears and manage potential issues.
5. Ease of use : The more complicated the system is to operate or view the greater the barrier to usage will be. The challenge will be to make the equipment easy-to-use and fool-proof and enable usage without significant modifications to normal viewing behaviour, for example to ensure that the tv screen can be watched from all angles.
6. Experiential benefits : The acid test will be the quality of the experience versus the cost. Initial noises sound positive. In the UK, chief broadcast engineer at BSkyB, Chris Johns suggests that 3D could herald a step change in the same way that colour did versus black and white. Offering features that don’t deliver visible benefits and tangible better value will be a recipe for failure. Surely the equipment manufacturers, film, tv and game production companies and broadcasters will have learned this lesson. The demise of Betamax and the original BSB digital broadcasting company is testimony that ‘quality’ alone does not necessarily ‘sell’.
An equally big challenge lies with the content producers. Film or programme quality will be all. Watching a newsreader in 3D is unlikely to be as compelling as ducking out of the way when a football comes hurtling towards you.
The challenge will also be to identify which other genres and experiences will work well in 3D and draw audiences. The movie makers are already on the case and a series of 3D films will be reaching cinema screens very shortly. Inevitably there will also be limitations – perhaps to the number of times that some want to ride a roller coaster!
Start thinking about your 3D advertisements now. There will be extra profile and impact for the first movers!
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