Free channel will broadcast the 2012 Olympics and a variety of other 3-D content

While the U.S. electronics and film industries -- particularly James Cameron's almost $3B USD Avatar box office haul, driven heavily by more expensive 3-D showings -- have had much to do with 3-D film's growing traction, much of the push for 3-D has come from outside the U.S.  German film-makers are pushing the art into the documentary space.  And Chinese film-makers were the first to create 3-D adult entertainment, something many were expecting to come all along.

Now the Chinese are joining the U.S. and a handful of other nations, jumping onboard the 3-D television train.

The new channel will be perhaps the world's only first 3-D channel.  Most channels, such as ESPN 3D or Direc TV's (DTV) multiple 3-D channels, are exclusive to cable subscribers.  

By contrast the new Chinese service will be delivered by the China Central Television (CCTV) state public television service, free of charge.  Anyone with a compatible 3D TV set and a high definition digital TV set-top box will be able to grab the new channel.

China CCTV
Chinese CCTV officials celebrate the launch of their new 3D TV Network
[Image Source: Xiamen CN]

During the initial trial deployment, the broadcaster will broadcast 4.5 hours of 3D content a day, repeated twice; in case viewers miss something they wanted to see.

Planned content will include animation, sports, documentaries, TV dramas, entertainment and live broadcasts of big events such as the 2012 CCTV New Year's Gala and the London 2012 Olympic Games. 

With 500 million TV sets in mainland China, CCTV currently rakes in RMB 1.12B ($178M USD) in advertising revenue.  Some are estimating that the new 3-D programming could bring in big revenue for both the electronics industry and for CCTV, if even a fraction of Chinese viewers make the switch to 3-D.

China's Twitter-like micro-blogging service Sina Weibo saw much activity following the announcement.  Some people were enthusiastic about the chance to become some of the world's first residents to receive free 3-D programming.  Others weren't too thrilled about the idea, given the current burdens of stereoscopic glasses.

The critics, though, did mostly offer enthusiasm about upcoming autostereoscopic displays, which will ditch the glasses.  Autostereoscopic televisions are still in their nascent stages, but devices like Nintendo Comp., Ltd.'s (TYO:79743DS mobile gaming console have showed the format's promise.

Toshiba Corp. (TYO:6502launched in December a stunning 55-inch autostereoscopic 3-D LCD TV, exclusively in Japan.  Those Skynet fearing folks might want to pass on this set -- it delivers perfect 3-D pictures to multiple users by using a "face tracking" system to spot the users eyes and properly orient "lenslets" to properly focus the 3D image.  Those budget minded types might want to pass on the set too -- it retails for around $11,600 USD.
Toshiba 3-D TV
Toshiba's glasses-free 55-inch 3-D LCD TV is WATCHING you -- it uses face and eye tracking to deliver the perfect 3-D picture without glasses. [Image Source: Toshiba]

The 3-D industry is evolving rapidly.  Aside from the coming wave of autostereoscopic solutions, some of the current generation solutions have ditched the batteries in their glasses, using a passive stereoscopic design.  Traditionally while wearing the glasses themselves generates some complaints, much of the 3-D gripes boil down to having to perpetually recharge the earlier active 3-D glasses.

Sources: BBC News, What's On Xiamen

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