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Sony 3D Promos At-Home 3D: At Expense of Theater Experience?

by Anne Thompson
June 10, 2010 2:10 AM
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Thompson on Hollywood

"I refuse to say the sky is falling," declared Sony chairman Amy Pascal, when I asked her about the grim summer box office so far. She was observing the Sony 3D show-and-tell Wednesday on the Sony lot. Clearly, not only is the studio earmarking a number of 3D features for 2010 and beyond--including Resident Evil Afterlife in 2011 and Spider-Man 4 and Men in Black III for 2012 (Will Smith putting on his shades takes on a new meaning), but the entire corporation is moving aggressively into the 3D space both at home (PS3, 3D games, Bravia HD 3D televisions, Blu-Ray 3D devices) and in theaters (see videos below and Sony News).

Sony America CEO Sir Howard Stringer hosted the event on the old MGM studio's Stage 8, as the press corps sat on white vinyl sofas and donned their 3-D glasses. "Creation, distribution and display," are Sony's catch-words as they hawk their content, games, and stereoscopic equipment. "We're blazing a trail in every part of the 3D universe," said Stringer, who also praised Sony's 3D technology center which aims to educate and inform filmmakers on the best use of 3D tools. Stringer stressed that Sony was pushing "high quality," "immersive" 3D. Not that "jarring," "mediocre" after-the-fact stuff. (They did the honors on Alice in Wonderland.) Sony plans to spend $100 million marketing this 3D effort, with 6000 retail displays reaching 200,000 consumers; they will also hit social media. A 3D Playstation games and sports spot featuring Peyton Manning and Justin Timberlake will air during World Cup matches.

And Sony Imageworks has been playing in the digital visual effects playpen for some time, from Bob Zemeckis's Polar Express to Monster House. On the hardware side, Sony cameras and 4K projectors are shooting and displaying 3D images. The SXRD 4K projector is on 2000 screens now in North America; they eventually expect 11,000. As HD TVs continue rolling out, the Bravia 3D TV will be available in Sony Style stores and online for $2000 for a 40-inch and $3000 for a 60 inch set. It includes a transmitter and two pairs of glasses.

While it's no surprise that Sony is selling Bravia 3D televisions (will people want to wear the active shutter glasses?). immersive 3D games for the PlayStation 3 or making more 3D movies, I was blown away by the quality of the sports imagery they're going to show on ESPN 3D, which launches with the World Cup Mexico South Africa soccer match on Friday at 6:30 AM PT, which thanks to ATT, Direct TV and Comcast will have 40 million available subscribers at launch.

While skateboarding, basketball and baseball looked great, I was especially taken with the golf--you felt like you were there on the green, with birds singing, the hushed crowd, Phil Mikkelson rolling his hole in one, right atcha. Sony also announced Discovery Channel CEO Tom Cosgrove as new president and CEO of the new 3D Channel combine from Discovery, Sony and IMAX, the first 24/7 3D channel. Sure enough, they showed us stunning Discovery 3D ocean shots of eels swimming into the frame, schools of fish, floating sea horses, leaping dolphins and close-up shark snouts. The car racing and concert footage was also impressive.

And Sony Pictures Chairman Michael Lynton announced that animated Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs will be the studio's first 3D Blu-Ray, released June 22. Lynton expects 30 or more 3D pics industrywide in 2011 to be shown on some 14,000 screens-- and more like 23,000 screens by 2012. Sony promises that what PS3 did for Blu-Ray, it will now do for 3D, because PS3 users are early adopters and voracious technophiles. Folks who buy the Bravia 3D TV will get vouchers for stereoscopic 3D games.

As guys settled into sofas on adjoining Stage 7 to try out 3D games, it hit me that this is the last thing the movie business needs: immersive 3D games and home entertainment on fancy screens on top of all the other competition for viewer attention. Big 3D event movies were keeping Hollywood rolling in green--and they're all banking on more 3D. The Sony demo made me want to go home to my PS3: it streams music, plays Blu-Rays, downloads TV and movies (via Netflix streaming), and will now play 20 stereoscopic games such as Super Stardust--not to mention 3D Motion Control for the Playstation Move. No question Sony will own the 3D space. But are pokey old movie theaters going to be left behind?

Here's Sony's in-house behind-the-scenes video of the launch, while mine are below:

The show and tell:


The Sony technology center:


Meanwhile the Academy is staging three 3D events. See the release below.

Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will devote three Tuesday evenings – June 22 and 29, and July 6 – to exploring 3D techniques and their rapidly expanding use in filmmaking in “Getting Perspective III: Exploring the Craft of 3D Movie Technology.” The series will feature conversations with filmmakers, 3D demonstrations and movie clips, culminating with a screening of “U2 3D,” the Irish rock band’s 2008 concert movie.

The following are descriptions of each night’s focus:

Virtual 3D (Animation/Motion-Capture/Conversion)
Tuesday, June 22, 8 p.m. at the Linwood Dunn Theater, Hollywood 
This evening will showcase movies in which the 3D experience is created using digital techniques. The program will highlight CG key-frame animation, performance capture and 2D-to-3D conversion. These techniques will be explored in onstage conversations with director Hoyt Yeatman (“G-Force”), visual effects producer Matt DeJohn (“G-Force”) and stereoscopic supervisor Phil McNally (“Monsters vs Aliens”).

Photographed 3D (Live Action/Stop-Motion)
Tuesday, June 29, 8 p.m. at the Linwood Dunn Theater, Hollywood
Live-action narrative, documentary and stop-motion animated techniques will be examined as well as the post-production tools used to finish a modern 3D movie. Science and Technology Council member Rob Hummel, director Eric Brevig (“Journey to the Center of the Earth”), director of photography Pete Kozachik (“Coraline”) and stereoscopic engineer Pierre (Pete) Routhier (“X Games 3D: The Movie”) will discuss the challenges of working in 3D and the future of live-action stereoscopic filmmaking.

“U2 3D” (2008)
Tuesday, July 6, 8 p.m. at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater, Beverly Hills
The final night of the series will feature a screening of the concert movie “U2 3D.” The digital live-action 3D motion picture captures the band in Latin America during its “Vertigo” tour in 2006. The documentary’s director, Catherine Owens, will be joined by director of 3D photography Peter Anderson and editor Olivier Wicki to discuss the movie.

Presented by the Academy’s Science and Technology Council, “Getting Perspective III” will be hosted by Academy member Rob Engle, senior stereographer and 3D visual effects supervisor at Sony Imageworks. He has served as stereographer on and supervised the 3D releases of numerous movies, including “The Polar Express” (2004), “Beowulf” (2007), “G-Force” (2009) and the Academy Award®-nominated animated feature “Monster House” (2006).
Tickets for each night of “Getting Perspective III: Exploring the Craft of 3D Movie Technology” are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. Tickets are available for purchase by mail, at the Academy box office (8949 Wilshire Boulevard, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), or online at www.oscars.org. Doors open one hour prior to each event. All seating is unreserved.

The Linwood Dunn Theater is located at 1313 Vine Street in Hollywood. The Samuel Goldwyn Theater is located at the 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. For more information call (310) 247-3600 or visit Oscars.Org.


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