3-D Meets TV Audiences in Super Bowl

by Michael Karagosian
©2009 MKPE Consulting LLC All rights reserved worldwide
originally published in the 15 February 2009 issue of Digital Cinema Report

You have to admire Jeffrey Katzenberg's dedication. He made a big bet on 3-D, and he continues to stand behind his commitment in creative ways. His recent dance with Intel, PepsiCo, and NBC, broadcasting 3-D advertisements to televisions around the US during the Super Bowl game (that's US-style football if you're outside the US) was history in the making. For those not familiar, the annual Super Bowl game is the most watched television program in the US. Of course, the headliner ad was a 3-D trailer of Dreamworks' Monsters vs Aliens, the long-awaited 3-D blockbuster set for release March 27.

The advertisements, along with the next evening's episode of NBC's sitcom "Chuck," were broadcast using ColorCode 3-D technology (http://www.colorcode3d.com). Readers may recall an earlier article about Trioviz, which utilizes a similar (and dare I say possibly more advanced) process. ColorCode 3-D delivers a 3-D image that can be viewed as 2-D without glasses. Jeffrey famously described the 2-D compatibility in Time magazine: "If you don't wear 3-D glasses and you have three beers, it'll look like everything else you're looking at."

Notably, the 3-D images presented by such processes are not equivalent to those projected digitally in theatres. Processes such as ColorCode 3-D and Trioviz produce slightly compromised but still effective 3-D images that can be displayed on any television.

If you missed the Super Bowl game, you can watch the 3-D version of the "Monsters vs Aliens" trailer at: http://www.colorcode3d.com/gallery/ , and the Pepsico Sobe ad at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kg-p5Xsct4Y&fmt=22. You'll need ColorCode 3-D glasses to view these, which can be ordered online at http://www.colorcode3d.dk/group.asp?group=13 for under $10 per pack of 8 glasses.

The ColorCode 3-D glasses used for the Super Bowl and Chuck broadcasts were freely and cleverly distributed by means of cardboard kiosks in grocery stores. Audiences-in-waiting scarfed them up. Leaving things to the last minute, I ran out the morning of the game to pick up my set, only to find that my local grocery store had run out. Luckily, another store a short drive away still had a few in stock. The passive glasses were printed four to a sheet, requiring viewers to cut them out and fold for wearing. The glasses sported the marks of Intel, Monsters vs Aliens, Sobe, and NBC. But, notably, nowhere could the ColorCode 3-D brand be seen. Instead, Intel's InTru3D brand was printed on the glasses.

What's this new brand from Intel? At present, Intel doesn't have a play in the 3-D market. Its CPUs, notably, are not in either Playstation or Xbox game systems, and certainly are not needed to view Blu-ray discs. But Intel plans to introduce a new graphics chip later this year, code-named Larrabee, that will introduce 3-D capabilities. Will these chips exclusively include special code for preparing ColorCode 3-D images? Not necessarily. Competitor Trioviz says that it also has been in discussion with Intel. Trioviz already has a software development kit (SDK) that allows game developers the ability to present 3-D images on any display without special hardware (other than glasses). Most likely, both companies will offer code sets that run on the Larrabee chip. Intel, in turn, will put its new InTru3D brand to work in its strategy to steal market share from graphics chip competitors nVidia and AMD's ATI. nVidia and ATI already have 3-D game strategies of their own on the market.

Just as 3-D is the value-add for digital cinema, 3-D is the latest in cool features for graphics chips. And on it goes. 3-D in theatres. A 3-D first on television. 3-D for games. If it's a fad, it certainly has one heck of a run.