Challengers to take on RealD’s 3D dominance

By Patrick von Sychowski | October 12, 2007 2:15 am PDT

Beowulf As the digital 3D release of ‘Beowulf‘ gathers steam, challengers see it as the right time to challenge the hegemony of RealD when it comes to providing in-cinema stereoscopic solutions. A Marcus Theatres in Wisconsin is one of the first ones to install the Dolby 3D system, though interestingly the first film shown will not be ‘Beowulf’ according to this article:

Point Cinemas, at 7825 Big Sky Drive on the Far West Side, will become the first cinema in the Marcus Theatres Corp. to have advanced digital 3D technology.

The Dolby 3D Digital Cinema system will be used in one of the cinema’s 16 theaters. The first picture to be shown with the technology will be the 1993 Tim Burton film, “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” on Oct. 19.

A company spokesman said more of its theaters will likely get the technology, which creates more realistic images and uses improved three-dimensional glasses.

Meanwhile in Korea at the Pusan film festival there are questions raised about the problems surrounding the screening of digital 3D films in Korea, according to the Hollywood Reporter article ‘Not everybody is ready or eager for 3-D future‘, which also gives details of another challenger:

Recognizing that the industry needs to focus on the issue, the Busan International Film Commission made digital 3-D its hot topic this week at the Asian Film Market. Seoul-based company Master Image showed off its projection system, already in use in several Korean theaters, designed to compete with American purveyors like Real D. And in a country where there is both national and local support for the growing film industry, Kim Sung-woo, manager of leading theater chain CJ CGV, says, “The government needs to provide support for digital cinema and 3-D systems.”

But beyond the usual tech and business questions, 3-D also might encounter cultural obstacles in Asia that could affect its wide-spread acceptance.

“In Japan, 3-D movies are not all the rage,” journalist and 3-D filmmaker Takayuki Oguchi says. Citing traditional Japanese art and modern anime, he points out that Japanese culture favors “very flat images.”

I for one saw the tests with digital 3D subtitles and it will be interesting to see which way Warner Bros, which is distributing ‘Beowulf’ outside North America, decides to go. It’s a problem all digital 3D equipment providers face and no one wil have a monopoly on the best solution. Unlike regular digital cinema subtitles, these cannot be created on the fly in the projector but must be embedded in the image file.

Patrick von Sychowski
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