Tamping Down 3D Content Costs

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It’s a classic conundrum: There’s
little 3D content available on TV, so consumers
aren’t rushing to buy 3D televisions
— but networks don’t have any incentive to
spend money producing or delivering threedimensional
content, because there are so
few compatible sets out there.

Advanced Digital Services, a Los Angelesbased
digital production services firm, is
claiming it can help fill the 3DTV content
pipeline. The company last week launched a
2D-to-3D conversion process that CEO Tom
Engdahl said is fast, high quality and relatively
inexpensive by Hollywood standards.

The ADS solution uses some automated 2Dto-
3D conversion equipment, but relies on
three expert stereographers on staff to handle
the artistic side of producing 3DTV. “This
isn’t just running it through a converter box,”
Engdahl said.

The upshot is that ADS can convert conventional
material into 3D for in the neighborhood
of $3,000 to $5,000 per minute, and can
complete a one-hour TV show (42 minutes of
video) within four to 10 days. By comparison,
high-end Hollywood postproduction houses
charge up to $110,000 per minute — and require
several months — to manually
convert a fi lm frame-by-frame,
using rotoscoping to outline objects
for 3D effects.

“What we’ve done is to take all
these techniques to come up with
the optimal solution,” Engdahl said.
“It’s a very interesting and tricky
process to do it correctly.”

For certain effects, ADS does
use 2D-to-3D automated conversion
equipment from vendors, including
JVC, Sony and Teranex.
But Engdahl stressed that the automated
conversion technology is
just one tool in ADS’s toolbox, not
the central mechanism.

Dynamic Digital Depth, a 2D-to-
3D technology vendor based in L.A.,
is offering to convert TV content for
as little as $10,000 per hour, and CBS
has experimented with the solution
(see “CBS Mulls 3D Cable Network,”
July 11, 2011).

“We believe that there’s a middle
ground” between highly automated
and highly manual conversion
techniques, Engdahl said. He said
the 3D material ADS produces has
been validated by studios as meeting
their quality standards.

Engdahl joined ADS in April 2011
after serving as senior vice president
of Comcast Media Center’s
Radiance division. CMC acquired
Radiance Technologies in 2008,
where Engdahl was CEO.

ADS already has several studio
customers on the 3D front, according
to Engdahl, but he wouldn’t
identify them.

“You want to be able to put some
new 3D content on TV, so people
aren’t watching the same thing over
and over again,” he said.