Forget slick 3-D cameras from the likes of Cameron/Pace - for better or worse, the gear needed to bring the third dimension is coming soon to a 24/7 cable channel near you.
Panasonic Broadcast & Television Systems announced that it will start active service of its AG-3D1 3-D video camera in the fall. Probably the world's first reasonably cheap, professional-grade 3-D video-imaging system, the unit pulls off the one-for-each-eye, dual-channel image trick by essentially combining two unique lenses, processing engines and video outputs into a single Betacam-sized camera housing. Producers will use the $21,000 AG-3D1 to beef up content for the first round of 3-D cable and satellite services created by the likes of ESPN, DirecTV and the Discovery Channel.
"All these new 3-D channels need affordable content to round out their schedules," says Jan Crittenden Livingston, product manager for the AG-3D1. "And this camera brings the 3-D production option within range of most any committed professional video producer."
But as impressive as the camera is technologically, a challenge looms: There is not yet a common post-production 3-D standard that works across cable, satellite, broadcast and the Web. So marketers must cut their path to a 3-D video message on a by-project basis. That makes the early days of 3-D look a lot like the early days of HDTV ... which took nearly two decades to deploy.
Hopefully, that means we are still a long-way from piano-playing kittens in funny hats jumping out of the television screen.