By Max Clarke

2010 has proved the year of 3D, as eight out of the top 20 highest revenue making films at the box office had a 3D version compared to only 3 films in 2009. The market for 3D in television and video games has also made significant progress and is also proving to be extremely profitable. According to a new report from PwC, “3D Here and Now… a goose that lays a golden egg” this trend will continue and by 2015 over 15 per cent of all films will be produced in 3D.

Vincent Teulade, director, PwC, and author of the report said:

“Twelve months ago the industry was grappling with some fairly major issues. However, some of these major issues have been resolved including standardisation with the definition of a 3D Blu-Ray standard and the progress on HDMI1.4. Also Avatar’s record breaking success has raised awareness of 3D and created an appetite by consumers for 3D movies.”

Watching the programmes:

The growth of the 3D industry still has some challenges to overcome. Despite 3D films generating considerable revenues for the film theatre operators, the cost of converting from traditional prints to digital is still a major expense. However, the conversion of the theatres is the direction the industry is moving towards.

A high revenue generating 3D film also impacts the sales of DVDs and, in the case of high grossing 3D films, sales of DVDs have also increased. High DVD sales continue to be critical to the economics of film production as they have the ability to generate over half the total revenues of a film.

The market for 3D televisions is less developed than that of the film industry and the affordability of the TV sets is a major factor impacting the growth of the sector. However, the prices are beginning to fall and that, together with the availability of attractive 3D content, is helping to grow the market. But the wearing of 3D glasses to watch programmes is still a major issue. The major sporting events such as the Olympics and football World Cups also have an impact on the sales of TV as viewers, unable to attend the events in person, willingly pay for the 3D experience.

Many market sources also feel that there is a natural fit between video games and 3D as the players demand immersive game play. But at the moment, 3D reduces both the resolution and the frame rate so there’s reluctance, both from the industry and consumers, to increase the production of 3D video games.

New frontiers

The mass market potential of 3D entertainment still remains unclear. But there is potential across all delivery channels:

* 3D films: we anticipate that by 2015, 15 per cent of new films will have a 3D version. The major Hollywood studios are predicting that 25 per cent of their films will have a 3D version but the smaller studios will struggle with 3D. The production of 3D films in Europe, China, India and Japan will also increase. There is also expected to be 100 per cent adoption of digital distribution among the multiplex and large urban theatres in the medium term.

* 3D television: the current offerings of 3D TV will continue to increase as prices for the TV sets continues to fall and we expect TV promotional campaigns around major sporting events such as the London 2012 Olympics to be in 3D.

* 3D video games: Some consoles can already be upgraded and used to play 3D games. But the real increase in the availability of 3D games will be seen when the next-generation of consoles is available.

* 3D PC: 3D Internet content will develop but its adoption is expected to remain limited to the early-adopter segment. There are 3D-ready laptops already available but the price premium they command limits their market attractiveness.

* 3D mobile phones: there are still problems with the interoperability among the different standards ie a 3D picture captured on one model cannot be displayed on a 3D model from a different manufacturer. But the first 3D auto-stereoscopic mobile phones are already available in Japan and will be introduced in Europe and the US shortly. The introduction of 3D portable phone game consoles (such as Nintendo 3DS), scheduled for release in February 2011, will boost 3D mobile penetration.

Added Teulade:

“The opportunities and possibilities for 3D continue to generate great excitement within the industry, with many companies predicting increased revenues from 3D. But, in their attempts to make money and adopt 3D universally, the industry must ensure that they continue to deliver high quality content. If the quality drops so does the consumers’ enthusiasm for 3D and their willingness to pay a premium for the experience.”