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CES: Panasonic Pushes For 3D HD Standards

CES '09: Complete Coverage from Broadcasting & Cable

While consumer electronics giant Sony has garnered much of the buzz over 3D HD production heading into CES due to its sponsorship of the 3D HD broadcast of the BCS college football championship game tonight, competitor Panasonic made 3D HD the centerpiece of its CES press event Wednesday in Las Vegas.

Panasonic is proposing a 3D HD standard for 1080-line-progressive (1080p) pictures working with the Blu-ray, HDMI and MPEG standards organizations. It is also in discussions with other major manufacturers and Hollywood studios about such a standard. The company wants to nail down a standard in 2009, so it can start building 3D-capable plasma sets in 2010.

Yoshi Yamada, chairman and CEO of Panasonic Corporation of North America, said he believes the move to 3D could be as important as the industry’s prior leap from standard-def to HD.

“We’re at the start of another phase change that will have a major impact on Panasonic’s future business, from 2D to 3D,” said Yamada.

To that end, Panasonic has created an authoring facility in Los Angeles to create 3D HD Blu-ray discs that will officially open on Feb. 1, and is collaborating with heavyweight Hollywood director and 3D pioneer James Cameron to help develop a 3D HD standard. The authoring facility is designed to jumpstart the creation of 3D content.

“Panasonic doesn’t think 3D HD for the home is far away at all,” said Yamada. “We want to see a Full 3D HD [Panasonic’s name for 1080p 3D] standard created in 2009, so we can start a 3D product business in 2010. But for it to be successful, we know there needs to be adequate 3D HD content.”

Panasonic is also expanding on plans introduced last year to bring wireless HD networking and Internet connectivity to its HDTV sets. The company is rolling out its Viera Cast technology, which routes Web content tailored for the TV screen through Panasonic-controlled servers to broadband-connected Panasonic HDTV sets, throughout much of its Viera HD line. It is also introducing Viera Cast in broadband-capable Blu-ray disc players.

Viera Cast content partners include Amazon’s video-on-demand service, which gives access to over 40,000 movies and TV shows through the Internet to the TV screen. Amazon on-demand customers can use either the PC or the TV to order movies that will be delivered through Viera Cast.

“They can buy it with one click, and it is added to their Amazon on-demand delivery queue,” said Bill Carr, VP of digital media for Amazon. “The partnership with Panasonic is really a breakthrough for our customers and Panasonic customers.”

Panasonic introduced the Z1 plasma HDTV, a one-inch thick plasma display that uses a wireless link to transmit uncompressed HDTV signals from a separate set-top box directly to the display. It also announced that it working with cable giant Comcast to implement HDMI CEC networking technology between Comcast set-tops and Panasonic HDTV sets. Enhancing Comcast set-tops with HDMI CEC will let Panasonic customers use the Panasonic TV remote to access their TV features and the Comcast interactive program guide through a single user interface.

“They can use a single remote, and have a single way on-screen to do navigation,” said Comcast SVP of video product development Mark Hess.