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CES: Panasonic sees future in 3-D

January 7, 2009 | 11:57 pm
3D

LAS VEGAS -- Panasonic said it expects to have 3-D televisions ready for the market as early as next year. To get there, the Japanese electronics giant also announced Wednesday at the Consumer Electronics Show that it would work assiduously this year to get TV manufacturers, Blu-ray disc makers, broadcasters and Hollywood studios to agree on common technical standards for getting 3-D movies, TV shows and sporting events into homes.

About 1,500 theaters in the U.S. are equipped to show 3-D images, but 3-D viewing in homes is considered to be the technology's next frontier. Hollywood studios in particular look to the home video market as a major source of revenue, as well as a critical avenue for recouping production costs on movies that fail to break even at the box office.

The next two years will be awash with an estimated 40 movies that will be available in 3-D, including "Monsters vs. Aliens" and "Avatar."

"For us, 3-D is the future," said Jon Landau, the producer of "Titanic" and the upcoming movie "Avatar," who spoke at the Panasonic briefing Wednesday. "It's like dreaming with your eyes open," he said, quoting both movies' director, James Cameron.

Landau said 3-D presents an opportunity for studios to re-release older movies. "We want to have 'Titanic' out in 3-D," he said.

It could be years before 3-D TVs become mainstream, if ever. Among the many barriers is that many 3-D devices require viewers to don glasses. Another potential issue is nausea. Several viewers of Panasonic's 10-minute demonstration at CES reported they felt nauseated by the experience.

That's not stopping Panasonic, which is starting a 3-D Blu-ray authoring center in February at its lab in Hollywood to develop ways to deliver 3-D on Blu-ray discs.

"3-D is not something you watch," said Panasonic chairman and chief executive, Yoshi Yamada. "It's a place you're taken to."

-- Alex Pham

Photo: Viewers at a live 3-D broadcast of an NFL Football game. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

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