Most people have never heard of him, but Eisuke Tsuyuzaki is one of a handful of executives that viewers can thank for revolutionizing their home movie-viewing experience.
The Japanese native spent more than a decade with Sony Corp. helping develop the high-definition Blu-ray format.
But while Blu-ray discs are only just hitting the shelves at neighborhood video shops, they are already old news for the 42-year-old executive who's now at Panasonic Corp.
He's already hard at work at his Universal City lab on the next latest, greatest technology: Blu-ray 3-D for the home.
"There is a tsunami event coming," boasted Tsuyuzaki, who speaks with a slight Scottish accent from a youth spent in Scotland. "It will be bigger than television going from black and white to color."
While other Japanese consumer electronics companies do most of their R & D; close to home in Japan, Panasonic has taken the approach of locating its top research facility in the heart of the entertainment capitol of the world.
As managing director of Panasonic's Hollywood Laboratory in Universal City, Tsuyuzaki and his team have developed the world's first high-definition 3-D Plasma Theater System, which will be unveiled early next year at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas.
While 3-D concerts such as "Hanna Montana Live," Warner Bros. film "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and Disney's upcoming animated feature "Bolt" are designed to be shown in movie theaters, Panasonic has taken the lead in bringing 3-D into the living rooms of consumers with a system that uses a giant 103-inch screen.
Yes. You'll still have to wear the glasses, but they're expected to be comfortable designer glasses, as opposed to the stiff cardboard type of yesteryear.
It won't come cheap, either. The price tag for the new Panasonic 3-D system has yet to be announced but industry analysts are predicting the initial cost to exceed $3,500, including the massive screen.
Panasonic has yet to announce any deals with retailers but industry sources believe that the 3-D home theater systems will likely show up first at specialty retailers such as Ken Cranes, Magnolia Hi-Fi and Ultimate Electronics.
Tsuyuzaki spent more than a decade in various positions with Sony, where he worked on marketing DVD, broadband and video game technologies.
"Much of what I did at Sony involved business strategies rather than R & D;," said Tsuyuzaki. "That's why I jumped ship and came to Panasonic three years ago, so that I could combine business strategies with technological development to make the best-of-breed products."
Tsuyuzaki heads up one of the most technically advanced research and development facilities in Southern California. The lab recently won an Emmy Award for work in "compression technology" that makes high-definition digital imagery and sound possible.
"Right from the start we were working on making Blu-ray a 3-D format for use in home entertainment," said Tsuyuzaki. "We knew that getting consumers to migrate from standard-definition DVD to high-definition Blu-ray would require more than better picture and sound quality."
As other manufacturers come aboard and the retail price drops, the new 3-D systems will likely meet with widespread adoption. But that's going to take at least seven more years, industry analysts said.
"In the long term (the format) will become embraced by consumers, but for now I believe that 3-D will gain the most traction in movie theaters," said Tom Adams, a leading home entertainment analyst in Monterey.
Meanwhile, Adams said that the driving force behind Blu-ray is big-box retailers such as Best Buy that are dedicating more shelf space to the format, and major Hollywood studios that are now putting more titles out on Blu-ray discs. But consumer adoption of the format has been slow.
So far this year, 8.8 million Blu-ray discs have been sold, up from 5.6 million in all of 2007 but dwarfed by sales of standard DVD disc sales, which have exceeded 40 million, according to U.K.-based Global Media Intelligence.
With about 60 percent of all DVD sales typically occurring during the fourth quarter of the calendar year, home entertainment chiefs at most of the major Hollywood studios are counting on brisk sales of Blu-ray discs.
"You're going to see a landslide of great content now in the fourth quarter," said Robert Chapek, president of Walt Disney Co.'s Buena Vista Home Entertainment. "It's now about penetration, proving that Blu-ray is the complete DVD replacement."
Tsuyuzaki said he and his team at Panasonic Hollywood Lab have been working closely with several studios, but he considers Burbank-based Disney to be the most aggressive when it comes to cutting-edge Blu-ray development.
"You're going to see some amazing things coming from Disney in the near future," said Tsuyuzaki, who would not go into more detail because of nondisclosure agreements with the studio.
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