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3D will drive Blu-ray format

Consumer appetite for 3D is flowing from the megaplexes to home media with the launch of 3D televisions and home theatre systems this year.

A by-product of the current love affair with 3D entertainment will be the growth of the Blu-ray format, according to Danny Kaye, executive vice president, Global Research and Technology Strategy at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Kaye says that only Blu-ray discs have the capacity to hold 1080p content in each channel necessary for high-definition (HD) 3D playback.

Danny Kaye
Danny Kaye, executive vice president, Global Research and Technology Strategy20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (International)(Credit: CBSi)

Blu-ray only started to gain traction in 2008, after it won the high-definition format war over its lower capacity rival HD DVD. While DVD sales have now started a gradual decline, Kaye says Blu-ray disc sales grew 125 per cent in 2009 and another 51 per cent in the first half of 2010, accounting for close to 10 per cent of all disc sales in Australia. He also noted that Australians spend the most per capita on movie entertainment, buying 13 titles per year over the second-placed Americans who buy just over 11.

Three-dimensional movies account for 22 per cent of all ticket sales worldwide and this strong consumer appetite for 3D is expected to flow from the megaplexes to home media with the launch of 3D televisions and home theatre systems this year. Despite the required investment in both 3D-enabled TVs and players, Kaye quoted figures that predict 3D will penetrate 45 per cent of Australian homes by 2015.

He contends that Blu-ray will have a fairly long life span; however, the rise of digital media will most likely see disc sales peak in 10 years. Current technologies and networks do not have the bandwidth to deliver 3D digital copies, but the executive expects those obstacles to be overcome in the next few years.

To stop piracy, studios are investing heavily in the development of content with embedded levels of digital rights management (DRM). 20th Century Fox, along with most major studios and consumer electronics vendors (Apple and Disney the notable exceptions), is part of the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem consortium, which is soon to bring to market something they've dubbed UltraViolet. The idea is that you'll buy movies — either physical discs or downloadable content — embedded with UltraViolet DRM, but this flavour of digital security will give you access to the content online to transfer it to any compatible device without interoperability issues. Kaye says to expect major launch announcements about UltraViolet nearer to CES 2011 next January.

Access to UltraViolet movies could come from digital kiosks, but Kaye also suggested that Blu-ray disc players will become de facto home servers, with digital rights on content discs allowing movies to be played not only on big screen TVs, but also streamed to portable devices such as mobile phones and tablets or transferred to high-speed memory cards and USB drives.

20th Century Fox is the distributor of the blockbuster movie Avatar, which almost single-handedly kick started the latest craze for 3D. While he indicated that sales of the Blu-ray 2D version of Avatar had broken records, Kaye would not be drawn on when we can expect the 3D version to be released.