3D Video on Demand – Is there a demand?

Finding a market for independently produced 3D content is challenging; entry level requirements for delivering to 3D broadcast quality standards requires that you invest in high-end stereoscopic equipment along with hiring an equally high-end team to use it properly and unlike 2D there is a limited market for this product. 3D blu ray authoring and distribution isn’t financially viable for small time producers, and the bigger players seem only interested in typical big budget productions. In the meantime, talented and capable indie producers who might have been able to produce sufficient quality for broadcast in 2D on DSLRs look at 3D and steer clear of a whole word of pain and expense for what is seen as a limited niche market. So is there a market for 3D that isn’t produced with top end beam-splitter rigs using the latest 48fps, 4K cameras?

Interestingly yes,  there is a wider market for Stereo 3D video than just Sky3D or 3net – there’s a whole host of small 3D VOD businesses offering a potential market for small scale indie producers.

Many of the 3D TV manufacturers offer their own 3D VOD Smart TV Apps with Sony offering short form natural history videos, film trailers and music videos amongst other pieces in its “3D Experience” app. LG’s VOD app “3D World” offers a small selection of videos predominantly (as of writing) city tours and some odd edutainment videos aimed at kids.  Samsung similarly have a smart TV 3D ap with similar content. However access to these manufacturers platforms is limited, it’s highly unlikely that Sony’s marketing department will want to negotiate with you for your latest budget 3D masterpiece. Apart from the manufacturers own offering there are a variety of other 3D VOD providers currently live, or under development most of whom are easily accessible and willing to consider independently produced stereoscopic content.

One of the most notable of the third parties delivering 3D content is Yabazam, owned by DDD whose tri-def technology is included in a wide range of consumer 3D products. Their content, although limited, offers a wider range than simple demo videos that manufacturers own VOD services might offer. This includes repurposed 3D simulator ride sequences, a couple of comedy series, short documentaries and several award winning short films. Their content is available via their Yabazam 3D app available on Samsung and LG 3D TVs, as well as Windows PCs.

SpatialView is another of the players in the 3D VOD market. Although apparently currently undergoing some difficulties, SpatialView has a wide library of 3D content available view their 3DeeCentral app which is available for iOS & Android devices along with LG Smart TVs. SpatialView also develops auto-stereoscopic display technologies such as the 3DeeScreen which attaches to a standard laptop screen to convert it to a glasses-free display. Their library of content is diverse including some Enhanced Dimensions’ 3D short films and music videos plus content ranging from a full length Peter Gabriel Concert, through the “Night of The Living Dead” 3D feature film (conversion) to a wide range of animated and live action shorts. In general this library should be seen as a mix between the typical free content the manufacturers offer along with the type of paid for content that Yabazam and other VOD providers offer.

3Doo is a relative newcomer to the market available on LG & Panasonic 3D TVs as well as targeting the growing 3D computer market. Their range of content is not dissimilar to other providers with predominantly short form music, film trailers, animation and live action videos including a couple of titles from Enhanced Dimensions.

Finally there’s 3D Crave, currently available for some Samsung products along with an LG app awaiting approval and an app for Roku 2 Streaming Video Player. As with the above their offering is a mix of live action, animation, documentary and fiction most likely short form content, again including a couple of our short 3D films.

What these VOD providers have in common is similar financial models, usually a non-exclusive, shared revenue offering, on a pay per view basis. While this offering might work for producers who already have a library of 3D content it’s not necessarily a reliable financial model, and probably not a model that would offer a viable foundation for a business.

In reality the cost to the VOD provider is development and maintenance of the technology platform, often to support and deliver content for their existing hardware/software business; they don’t then have the budgets nor skills required to develop 3D content for their delivery platforms. So these VOD platform owners are generally keen to hear from content producers who are willing to operate effectively on a pay-per-play basis.

For the consumer 3D VOD means that more content is immediately available although there are serious shortcomings with the offerings. Being generally short form content that is on offer, it’s unlikely this will satisfy any serious consumer demand beyond niche 3D enthusiasts or someone wishing to demo their latest 3D kit. Add to this a potential pay-per-view model of spending $2 to $10 to view short form (i.e. under 30 minutes) content and alarm bells start to ring. Why would a consumer pay the same to view one 3D video as they would for a month’s access to NetFlix? Yabazam does offer a $9.99 all-you-can-view type subscription in the US, however the limited range of content on offer might not provide viewers with sufficient content to retain them over the longer term; time will tell.

Unfortunately for producers, as the licensing for this 3D VOD is a shared revenue model, there’s no real new money for investment in the market to develop quality content. Although it’s great that this market exists, it’s just not a reliable foundation for a 3d production business.

So the reality is likely to be that at an indie level, film makers and producers will continue to develop 3D content for the enthusiast market, using basic prosumer 3D technology that might go on to recoup some of its cost via profit shares with 3D VOD providers. However the real potential of this market is likely to remain untapped as unless specialist indie 3D producers can see a definite future income stream, they cannot justify investing in tens of thousands of dollars worth of 3D kit to deliver the level of quality the market requires.

Andrew Murchie is a Director at Multiply, a stereoscopic filmmaker and 3D enthusiast based in Edinburgh, UK. He blogs on Stereo 3D related topics on Enhanced-Dimensions.com and runs The Stereoscopic 3D Channel on YouTube.

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