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Discovery warns against conversions

Discovery Communications has taken a strong stance against 2D to 3D conversion for programming intended for its 3D channel launching in the US next January, writes Adrian Pennington.

Discovery Communications has taken a strong stance against 2D to 3D conversion for programming intended for its 3D channel launching in the US next January, writes Adrian Pennington.

The company’s EVP & Head of International Business Operations, John Honeycutt, has likened the effect of most dimensionalisation to reading a book in a moving car.

A UK licence for Discovery 3D has been secured and a similar one in India is being pursued, Honeycutt told TVB Europe.

“We have played around with conversion and the technology is shaky,” said Honeycutt. “Conversion is a concern because some consumers may have an adverse physical reaction when viewing it. The effect is like that of reading a book in a moving car.”

Until April this year Honeycutt was CTO of the business responsible for Discovery’s global strategic media technology planning and instrumental in bringing together Sony Pictures Entertainment and IMAX to launch a joint venture 3D channel with Discovery. Now based in London, Honeycutt is responsible for guiding the operational structure of Discovery’s international operations in more than 180 markets including the rollout of its 3D channel.

Discovery has commissioned a range of 3D content for launch which will be shot in native 3D. Sony and Imax will also supply content to the channel.

“My philosophy is this: you have one opportunity to impress consumers and you better not waste that chance,” he said. “When we launched HD Theater (in 2002) the channel was materially a 100% HD network. For us to put out anything substandard goes against the DNA of the brand.

“We’re going to spend an appropriate amount on 3D content without being foolish about it. We are commissioning now to a high standard shooting native 3D. We are not going to put out low quality content. That said, if there is a single shot that just cannot be achieved natively and you can spend the time and effort to generate a good conversion in post then we’ll consider it.

“We have been pushing manufacturers for a 2D to 3D conversion tool which features the ability, like a telecine, to be able to control light and control the image itself but we are not going to take our library or any individual show and pass it through any realtime 3D processing.

“It’s all about the consumer,” he emphasised. “If they turn on the TV and see poor quality they will turn off. On the other side if they experience amazing quality they will want to watch.”

The US launch date of Discovery’s 3D channel was confirmed by Honeycutt as January 2011. It will screen a mix of natural history, space, exploration, engineering, science and technology programmes.

Earlier this month Discovery Communications Europe secured a UK broadcast licence for the Discovery 3D channel. It will most likely secure a birth on Sky’s platform making it the first third party 3D channel to join with Sky 3D which is launching October 1 to the home.

Discovery is pursuing a similar license on India, one of the world’s fastest-growing markets for pay-TV.

“As a business we want to put our content in as many places as possible,” Honeycutt says. “I am looking at appropriate platforms and timing. We have always been a technologically innovative company but we also need to time a 3D launch with when the market is right.”

He added: “It will be a very, very long time before we create every piece of content in 3D. Certain things just don’t work in 3D for us. Many of our shows which are filmed in remote and hostile places are hard enough for a cameraman to film in HD let alone in 3D.