3D TV. Hype versus Reality

January 20, 2010

By Hype versus Reality I do not, at all, mean that 3D is all hype.  In fact the only thing I stand to question is the immediate value and quality of the 3D versus the immediate “buzz” that specially CES has created for it. 3D is a reality. It is here. Without the need for having those glasses that we wear to the cinema. But then there are a few things we need to keep in mind.

3D TV works almost like an optical illusion by sending two different images to our left and right eye. Which means that the “films” production process would be special too. Like anyother TV technology, converting the entire production chain to be 3D is going to have to go through its cycle. Remember, the HD broadcast discussions started in mid 1980s, and they became a reality mid 2000s.  There would be discussions on broadcast standards, usual fights over formats of storage (like we had with BlueRay) and what not. I am not aware of any standardisation discussions that may have started- I am sure they have though.

There is also an issue of technology adoption by the whole value chain of broadcast. Only about 30% of the TV content on-air is true HD at the moment- even on the HD channels. Technology adoption cycles have become much shorter these days, but the cost of this “switch over” needs to be kept in mind. Any broadcast and production infrastructure is expensive.

Secondly, there is two ways of getting this content. Much like HD. You can “upscale” the existing content to look like 3D, and there is originally produced 3D. You should be able to imagine the difference. There would always be “Avatars” of the world for a cutting edge 3D experience, but we need to keep in mind that unless “Desparate Housewives” becomes 3D, nothing much would have changed. You know what I mean?

Thirdly, the existing technology is best viewed at 0 degrees, i.e. from right infront of the TV. You can view it at other angles, but its not the same. The quality of the current screen is also less than that of a modern 2D HD screen.

Fourthly, where do you see the lowest hanging fruits for 3D? I think gaming and commercial public screens (for advertising in Malls, Trains, etc) would be the first ones to jump to it. Also, do we know how much storage the 3D content requires? Can we put it on the existing BlueRay? Or would we need another format? Or would we be able to stream3D online? I see another video compression format coming up!

I see massive developments in this area, and of course the need for a lot of work. You?

It sounds very basic, but Skype just finally announced that they will bring Skype video calls to various HD TVs.

Whilst this is just one of the many TV widgets that we would see in the near future, it is a magnificent example of how TV is set to become the communication hub for your home.

This is also the beginning of TV becoming “social”. I hear BBC are already beta testing the iPlayer3 which is set to incorporate Twitter as well as “video book marks” (to mark a certain portion of a programme) that you can share with the friends on your list. With iPlayer on Freesat, it is likely to be a major innovation for the UK market.

Video sharing would take a completely new meaning if such advances move ahead. YouTube is getting a lot of “long-form” traction from content producers, and their existing social infrastructure would begin to redefine how people engage with that content. Though one really wishes that Google do a good TV widget or even upgrade their AppleTV interface.

Now the question is, when would the TV audience measurement industry get down to doing Social GRPs?

Click here to watch what I am watching right now.

Click here to see that joke in HIGNFY I was talking about last night.

Didn’t work? Sorry. Check back in a few weeks time.

So it is happening. Finally. Adobe has partnered with TV manufacturers to incorporate Flash directly into TV sets to enable video players, widgets and applications. A step forward towards really converging TV into a smart internet enabled entertainment platform. What is next? Operating platforms and standards for TVs? I have a feeling Windows Media Centre is a thing of the past unless they innovate fast. And for all you know Android might jump up to offer a standardised environment to the likes of Samsung. Touch screen TVs should also not just be restricted to CNN anymore, and will soon be in home. Anyone up for a Giant Android screen or a 50 inch screen iPod touch?

Only if Apple could put this all together in a neat and clean design, and not restrict us to a Quicktime format, we will all be very happy. But such is not life. We will have to live with a less ideal world before our dream screen comes to life. This is just the start of the convergence, and open-source, standardisation, and other such boring debates will have to wait for a bit.

A brief history of TV

April 16, 2009

tv-for-eddy1

Something that I put together recently through different sources. I may have missed out on some major events in the history of TV. Please leave your comments and point me to those events,  and I will update this chart. you might need to download it to view it properly.  If you are not able to view it properly, send me a message and I can email it to you.

In the world of on demand content and the fragmented world of digital platforms, it is fairly important for search to work properly for Videos.  After simply just playing with the idea for quite sometime, some of the big names in the industry are really beginning to crack it.

YouTube has its own way of searching for video files that benefits from not only the tags but also google’s search intelligence.  TiVo just recently annoucned their new search function.  Fairly comprehensive though, it only allows you to search through data that sits “outside” of a video file. Not the most cutting edge way of video search, but given its TiVo the usage of this is likely to widerspread and at least it recognises the need for a must have function for the future of Video.

How does the search currently work in Video? Well the simplest way is to search for “tags” associated with a video file, or search for terms within the video file names. Now that is not very effective, as the tags and the name cant possibly fully describe whats inside a video file or in the content, can it? To offset this, some of the set-top box manufacturers including TiVo search through “closed captions” (subtitles for instance) or the Electronic Program Guide data alongside a video file to search for the contents of the video file. It would allow you to even search for scenes with famous quotes from the movies (The BigMac scene from Pulp Fiction for instance). Whilst very useful, its still a very 2008 way of searching for video, and a very cumbersome one that too.

Then there is Blinkx (www.blinkx.com). They have a pretty impressive video portal that actually searches through the contents of a video file, and delivers you the search results. For example you can look for a particular word and see how many video files are returned. A much better schema for search then “tags”. They seem to have been looking for opportunity in the area of direct to consumer, but in my opinion their biggest opportunity is in franchising their technology direct to businesses like TiVo.  Not sure if they are already doing it, but they are the next generation of search in video, and can really help move the game forward.

The more the amount of content available to watch digitally, the more the need for search. The good news is, that the solutions are here today. Only if the industry can push those forward.

You have probably seen the recent news of NBC agreeing to let Google TV Ads sell some of its inventory through Google TV Ads platform. Seemingly harmless, what really is Google TV Ads and what are the potential implications of such deals? I am assuming that NBC is just a start for Google for such ventures.

To begin with, Google TV Ads is a wonderful application. It is the “TV Optimizer” of the modern day and builds on the Google search advertising schematic. The real basis for this breakthrough for Google is not the NBC deal but in fact their earlier partnership with EchoStar (or Dish Network), and Astound Cables in the US. Their new set top boxes of these two cable/DTH operators have the ability to track viewership second by second. Hence at an aggregate level, you can have the statistics on how many times a commercial was viewed, and whether it was viewed through to the end. Google uses this data to find relevance between certain types of viewers and ads and content, and has created a platform, exactly based on their search model, that makes use of this data to “serve” ads to the viewers.

This is a massive departure from our demographic targetting techniques, into a more “mindset” and relevance led placement of TV ads. Much like the difference between placing a newspaper advert, or placing an ad via Google search. It is going to require an equally big change of mindset within the TV buyers community.

What is so unique about it is that this model of TV advertising breaks away from ratings, and yet is highly measurable. Logically, this system should even work for on-demand content. By virtue of this, it creates an alternate trading currency in the market. The fact that the measurements are highly accurate and relevant, Google is potentially able to trade inventory at higher margins and minimum waste (buys cheap, sells cheapish), or pass on the advantage to the advertisers. What are you media agency giants of the world doing sleeping on your laurels, wake up!?

Once this model picks up popularity, there is no stopping all sorts of advertisers to sign up to such deals, though NBC have optimistically said that this venture would attract “an entirely new group of clients”.

What are the disadvantages of it…? It is just US based at the minute, and that too only on Dish Network/Astound homes. Unless the same set-top box technology is exported to other cable/DTH operators, and markets, it is going to remain a limited venture.

Game is not over….

September 4, 2008

You are not the only one worried about accomodating your Game Console, your satellite receiver, your PVR, your Freeview box (Digital Video Broadcast Receiver, for people outside the UK), and your DVD player on your TV trolley. The good news is that this battle of space is becoming equally important for the big players who are selling you those boxes.

But lets be honest, who do we think is truly best positioned to deliver an all-in-one box? Do we think Sky+ would one day come with a built-in DVD player, or a DVD player would throw in a free Freeview box built in? If you think about it, It is the game consoles that have pretty much every piece of hardware that may be required to deliver an all-in-one experience, and more. The marriage of gaming with the rest of the audio-visual entertainment has been pending, but seems to be shaping up quite fast lately.

Sony just announced a small little addition to their PS3 consoles. Something called PlayTV priced at just £69. This small little gadget instantly turns your PS3 into a freeview receiver, and gives it a PVR capability. This is in addition to their movies and TV programmes download service that they announced sometime back.

How are you going to be reminded to switch between your endless hours spent on Grand Theft Auto, and the news on the US elections? While you record a football match, and get ready to enjoy your new blue-ray release of The Dark Knight? Oh and you also need to remember to download the old episodes of Porridge? How are you going to manage all of this? Easily I say.

By the way, a recent study in the UK reveals that PVRs/DVRs can help improve a relationship! The general percetpion as we all know is that the game consoles can actually spoil relationships. Not if they both come in one box, you reckon?