Panasonic Rolls Out its 2011 3D HDTV Lineup, and more Last Wednesday afternoon, I attended a media briefing on behalf of Home Theater Forum at Panasonic Hollywood Laboratory in Universal City, regarding the current status of 3D and home theater technology. Speakers at the event included: Shiro Kitajima, Chief Operating Officer of Panasonic Corporation North America, and President of Panasonic Consumer Electroonics James Mercs, Managing Director of Panasonic Hollywood Laboratory Robert Harris, Vice President of Business Development for Panasonic Solutions Company Mike Dunn, President of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment Steven Roberts, Senior Vice President of DirecTV The briefing touched on multiple aspects of 3D, from the latest Panasonic 3D camcorders (one of which is being taken into space on the Atlantis shuttle when it launches in June) to 3D content generation to 3D programming options on DirecTV, which now total 5 channels. Shiro Kitajima discussed the sales figures of 3D HDTVs, the amount of 3D content available on television (including CBS’ Emmy winning coverage of the US Open), and the development of the new 3D Innovation Center. James Mercs went further into detail regarding the Innovation Center (3DIC), discussing its functions and elaborating on various uses for 3D. A 3D clip from Avatar was then presented on the big screen, and the audience was challenged to deduce which half of the screen was the source and which half was the 3D BD file. (For the record, I believe the source was on the left – but I was never able to confirm this…) Robert Harris (from Panasonic, not the restoration expert) discussed 3D applications, particularly in terms of two professional grade 3D camcorders. The AG-3DA1 is currently being used by students and professionals, and is going up on the June Atlantis shuttle mission. Harris also described the new AG-3DP1 camcorder, which offers extended zoom range and further enhancements. Mike Dunn’s presentation focused on the partnership between Panasonic and Twentieth Century Fox, which began in 2002, and beyond the James Cameron Avatar collaboration, has included work with directors Michael Mann, Baz Luhrmann and Oliver Stone. A preview for the upcoming Star Wars Blu-ray release was presented, followed by an extended clip from the current 3D film Rio. Steven Roberts discussed the evolution of 3D on DirecTV in the 10 months since DirecTV began broadcasting its first 24 hour 3D channel, N3D. DirecTV has added four more 3D channels, including a 24/7 3D movie channel, ESPN3D, a VOD/PPV 3D channel, and 3NET, which is a 3D Discovery channel offering. Roberts also discussed multiple sports events available in 3D, including the MLB All Star Game, Grand Slam Tennis and the Champions League Finals. Following the briefing, we were given demonstrations of both the A1 camcorder and various examples from the new line of digital cameras, including a few sample 3D stills. With the briefing at PHL concluded, we travelled up to the Sheraton, where a conference room was lined with examples of various 2011 Panasonic HDTVs and 3D HDTVs. These included the Plasma VT and GT lines, as well as current LED/LCD models. Panasonic 2011 Plasmas: The new plasmas are noted to have the following attributes – 600 hz drives Fast-Switching Phosphur (to reduce crosstalk and blur) Smart Viera (the 3D set interacts with other devices, including iPhones) Viera Connect (via wifi, the 3D set pulls multiple features from the internet, including console-less gaming, online sports subscriptions, various applications, and the Viera Market) The new plasmas use what is being called NeoPlasma as part of the upgrade in 3D and picture quality, including an improved panel design. All the plasmas have been improved in efficiency, thus consuming less power to produce the same level of picture quality. Luminous Efficiency has been raised 15% by the use of a new fishbone pattern and a filter improvement, reducing ambient light and providing deeper black levels. One specific change is that the illumination pattern on the panel has been switched so that the pixels go from light to dark, rather than dark to light – thus adding another step to reduce afterglow and crosstalk. Panasonic 2011 LEDs: The new LEDs have the following attributes – IPS Alpha Panel Better Motion Image Response 3D High Speed Panel High Speed APD Tech (brings scan speed to 2ms) The new 3D LEDs are designed to be close to the plasmas in look, which is partly a result in the panels having twice as fast of a response speed at 2ms than the older ones did at 4ms. Off angle viewing has been improved, as I could see by walking all the way from the left side view to the right side view without noting a drop in the color or brightness. The new LEDs are also much more efficient with power consumption, using considerably less power than prior models. All of the sets shown at this event are capable of doing 2D-3D conversions of picture information, although the quality of this is certainly not the same as established 3D programming. Most of the sets also provide varying levels of adjustment for motion smoothing – but this is not feature that I particularly desire or recommend. The higher end HDTVs feature professional calibration possibilities, which were represented at the event by SpectraCal with a hardware/software package. Finally, here are the specs for the 2011 Panasonic Plasmas and LEDs: Plasmas: All Plasmas use a 600 Hz subfield drive, and include Viera Link and a Game Mode. All include the Viera Image Viewer and DLNA (linking to PC or other home network devices). X3 Series – Available in 42”, 46”, 50” – This is a 720p HDTV with 2 HDMI and 2 USB inputs. S30 Series – Available in 42”, 46”, 50”, 60” - This is a 1080p HDTV, with 3 HDMI and 2 USB inputs. ST30 Series – Available in 42”, 46”, 50”, 55”, 60”, 65” – This is a 1080p Full HD 3D TV, with an Infinite Black 2 Panel, with Viera Connect, 2D/3D Conversion, Skype Video Calling, Motion Smoother, and with 3 HDMI and 2 USB inputs. GT30 Series – Available in 50”, 55”, 60”, 65” – This is a 1080p Full HD 3D TV, (with Flush Design), with an Infinite Black 2 Panel, with Viera Connect, THX, 2D/3D Conversion, Skype Video Calling, Motion Smoother, 3D Playback of Viera Image Viewer material, PC input, with 4 HDMI and 3 USB inputs. VT30 Series – Available in 55”, 65” – INCLUDES 1 PAIR OF ACTIVE SHUTTER 3D GLASSES, This is a 1080p Full HD 3D TV (with One Sheet “Frameless” Design), with an Infinite Black Pro 2 Panel, with Viera Connect, THX, 2D/3D Conversion, 24p Cinematic Playback, ISFccc, Skype Video Calling, Motion Smoother, 3D Playback of Viera Image Viewer material, PC input, an RS232c Terminal and with 4 HDMI and 3 USB inputs. In short, the ST, GT and VT Series are the 3D HDTVs. All 3D HDTVs are available up to 65”. The GT & VT Series have thinner and lighter designs. The GT Series adds THX certification, 3D playback of Viera Image Viewer material, a PC input, and additional HDMI and USB inputs, and uses a “Flush” design. The VT Series, the top of the line, has an Infinite Black Pro 2 Panel, 24p Cinematic Playback, ISFccc, an RS232c terminal, uses a “Frameless” design, and includes one pair of 3D glasses. LEDs/LCDs: All LCDs and LEDs use an IPS Alpha Panel (other than the U30, which uses an IPS Panel), and include Viera Image Viewer, Viera Link, Game Mode and a PC Input. C30 Series LED/LCD – Available in 19” – This is a 720p LED, with a 60 Hz refresh rate and 1 HDMI input. C3 Series LCD – Available in 24”, 32” – This is a 720p LCD, with a 60 Hz refresh rate and 2 HDMI inputs. X30 Series LCD – Available in 32” – This is a 720p LCD with a 60 Hz refresh rate, Web access via Wifi, an iPod/iPhone Entertainment Kit, and with 3 HDMI inputs and 1 USB input. U3 Series LCD – Available in 32”, 37” – This is a 1080p LCD, with a 60 Hz refresh rate, with 3 HDMI inputs. U30 Series LCD – Available in 42” – This is a 1080p LCD with an IPS Panel, with 120 Hz Motion Picture Pro 4, 24p Smooth Film, and with 3 HDMI inputs E3 Series LED/LCD – Available in 32”, 37”, 42” – This is a 1080p LED, with a 60 Hz refresh rate, with Web access via wifi, and with 4 HDMI and 2 USB inputs. E30 Series LED/LCD – Available in 42” – This is a 1080p LED, with 120 Hz Motion Picture Pro 4, with Web access via wifi, 24p Smooth Film, and with 4 HDMI and 2 USB inputs. D30 Series LED/LCD – Available in 42” – This is a 1080P LED, with 120 Hz Motion Picture Pro 4, “Flush” Design, with Skype Video Calling, an ISF Pro Setting Menu, 24p Smooth Film, and with 4 HDMI and 3 USB inputs DT30 Series LED/LCD – Available in 32”, 37” – This is a 1080p Full HD 3D LED, including 1 pair of 3D Glasses, with “Flush” Design, with 240 Hz Motion Picture Pro 5, 2D/3D Conversion, Viera Connect, 24p Smooth Film, 3D Playback of Viera Image material, Skype Video Calling, an ISF Pro Setting Menu, and with 4 HDMI and 3 USB inputs.