x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Region slow to adopt 3D TV

The Middle East television industry has invested heavily in the advent of 3D TV. But the process is in an early enough stage for the region to avoid being affected if any health concerns are associated with the new system, experts say.

The Masters on 3D television. Potential health risks are likely to be resolved before the technology arrives in Middle Eastern markets.
The Masters on 3D television. Potential health risks are likely to be resolved before the technology arrives in Middle Eastern markets.

The Middle East television industry has invested heavily in the advent of 3D TV. But the process is in an early enough stage for the region to avoid being affected if any health concerns are associated with the new system, experts say. Broadcasters including Abu Dhabi TV, Etisalat's E-Vision and Al Jazeera are planning to offer 3D TV soon. Al Jazeera has already announced special 3D packages for the FIFA World Cup in June.

But on the whole TV companies in the region still have a great deal of ground to make up. "The Middle East has been very slow to adopt 3D," said Chris Forrester, the editorial director of Rapid TV News, a UK-based industry website that covers the Middle East. "It has yet to even embrace high definition, let alone 3D. There are only a couple of test channels on air in high definition." The global TV industry is banking on the rise of 3D, which became a global sensation with the release last year of the blockbuster Hollywood film Avatar.

According to a poll taken in February of filmmakers, engineers, broadcasters and technology vendors conducted by the UK-based equipment maker Hamlet, half of those surveyed said they expected to work in the production of 3D content this year. And the hopes are not limited to the film industry. The US-based Consumer Electronic Association predicts that 4.3 million 3D TVs will be sold this year. These expectations make the warning Samsung posted on its website a potential blow to the fledgling industry. In some ways, the health concerns about 3D are nothing new.

The Journal of Vision recently reported that the unnatural eye movements caused by watching 3D have the potential to cause headaches and nausea. Mr Forrester said broadcasters in the UK, such as Sky, which started broadcasting football matches in 3D this month, were already taking these risks into account. "Broadcasters are very, very aware of the health concerns," he said. "You will not find rapid panning of images.

"You will not find high-speed zooms, which are quite normal in soccer and sport events. You will not find rapid cuts in 3D transmissions. The camera is being left alone to take in the total view, which incidentally is quite spectacular." In the Middle East, most broadcasters are still adopting a "wait and see" approach to the new technology, although some, such as Abu Dhabi TV, have been investing in infrastructure for 3D to be ready when the market is.

Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADMC), which owns Abu Dhabi TV and The National, has made a significant investment in production systems that will be able to handle 3D content one day. "As a matter of the infrastructure, we are ready to turn 3D," said Ahmed al Menhali, the director of broadcast technology at ADMC. While the company has been keeping an eye on the debate over the health concerns, it would want to have a definitive statement about safety from a global health body, not a TV maker, before making a policy decision, Mr al Menhali said.

"We need something certain from an international health centre, an official organisation," he said. "We don't want the competitors to use this to go after each other." @Email:khagey@thenational.ae