Firm Pushing Its 3-D as New Broadcast Standard
By DARRELL SATZMAN
Dynamic Digital Depth Inc. has a new vision of 3-D that could evolve into a standard television format and it comes without those goofy glasses.
But like sellers of high-definition television, the Santa Monica-based company must overcome the high pricetag of its technology and a skeptical consumer before its product becomes widely adopted.
In January, DDD will push to get its technology out to the public, moving out of the trade show realm and into malls, theme parks, airports, record stores and anywhere else there are captive eyeballs. In recent weeks, DDD has been showing off its new style 3-D at the Wherehouse Music Store in the Beverly Connection on La Cienega and the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.
"About two years ago there was a realization that what had traditionally been a nice industry could be something much greater," said Bruce Ettinger, DDD's vice president of business development. "It's really the first new TV format since color."
But DDD, which operates a technology center in Perth, Australia, and is traded on the Canadian Venture Exchange, has failed to make much of a splash since it was founded in 1994. The company, whose clients include Boeing Corp. and Intel Corp., has raised about $18 million Elliott Associates and Motorola Inc. are the largest institutional investors. But profitability is still two years away.
Not everyone is convinced about its appeal.
"I think it has more potential for location-based entertainment arcade games, display than it does for the mass living room," said Richard Doherty, director of research for Envisioneering Group, a Hayward, Calif., company that designs graphically-oriented trade show displays.
DDD's stock was trading at $2.00 (Canadian) last week after reaching a 52-week high of $4.75 on Jan. 2, a far cry from it's all time high of $14.90 in February 2000.
DDD's technology adds depth to a moving image to give it a noticeable 3-D effect much easier on the eye and the stomach than traditional 3-D processes.
"It is the next big thing. Audiences are fascinated by it," said Warren Littlefield, former head of NBC Entertainment and a DDD board member. "They want to see the world the way we see it every day. And that's in three dimensions."
But it's not easy converting this technology into an affordable consumer product. Consider high definition TV, which, despite billions in investment and years of planning, has failed to catch on.
But unlike HDTV, which requires a major investment in new hardware by broadcasters, DDD's 3-D system is compatible with standard broadcast equipment. It does require, however, 10 percent more bandwidth to transmit than regular digital television. Consumers also must purchase a separate television monitor with a special screen.
Right now, a 3-D system complete with 50-inch plasma monitor, software and DDD's playback system runs $25,000. A smaller screen version is available for $8,200. And the cost to convert material to 3-D is not cheap: $2,000 to $3,500 per minute.
"It's an impressive technology," Doherty said, "but it's unlikely they can reach millions unless they have a wide content pipeline."
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