Entertainment Tech At The 2015 San Diego Comic-con

San Diego Comic-con 2015 - Digital Bits - UltraD - Last Ship VR Booth
San Diego Comic-con 2015 - Digital Bits - UltraD - Last Ship VR Booth. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Dateline: 07/14/2015
Along with all the big movie releases, such as Star Wars: A Force Awakens, Superman vs Batman, and big TV shows, such as Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and Dr Who, the annual San Diego Comic-con has an abundance of additional presentations and activities.

Also, just like many large-scale conventions, due to cross-scheduling and venue locations that are not always close together, there is never enough time to see, or experience everything - and there are always events that you hear about after they have passed.

With that in mind, three interesting highlights that caught my eye this year were a Glasses Free 3TV Display in one of the booths on the exhibit floor, a discussion panel covering Blu-ray by The Digital Bits and a big embrace of Virtual Reality by several movie and TV studios.

Ultra-D Glasses-Free 3D On Display

Onhand to promote their independently produced streaming science fiction series, Nobility, Cowboy Errant Pictures spiced up their presentation of the Nobility trailer being shown at their booth using a glasses free TV provided by Ultra-D from Stream TV.  Stream TV has been exhibiting their technology for several years at trade shows, such as CES and is now moving to bring glasses free TV to consumers via selected partners.

The demo on display at the Nobility booth actually looked fairly good, even from a slight off-axis viewing angle, but the content shown was not natively shot in 3D - it was displayed using the TV's real time 2D-to-3D conversion process, which sometimes displayed incorrect layers, or "folding" in some images. I have seen the Ultra-D process with native 3D content and the results, although not as precise as a glasses-required 3D viewing system, the result is much more accurate than what I saw at this demonstration at the 2015 San Diego Comic-con.

The Digital Bits Blu-ray Panel

Although the main focus of the Digital Bits panel was to spotlight the independent film Star Trek: Axanar, with primary focus on the upcoming Blu-ray Disc of: Prelude To Axanar, the panelists (from left to right in the above photo) Bill Hunt (Digital Bits Editor-in-Chief), Alec Peters (Executive Producer For Star Trek: Axanar), and Blu-ray Disc producers, Cliff Stephenson, Charles de Lauzirika, and Robert Meyer Burnett also discussed the current state and forthcoming developments for the Blu-ray Disc format.

Opinions expressed by members of the panel included concerns over the viability of the forthcoming Ultra HD Blu-ray disc format in light of the trend away from physical media, which has results in an increasing lack of commitment by movie and TV studios to remaster and re-release Blu-ray disc packages of classic films and TV shows.

One example that hit hard was the expensive work put into the Blu-ray Disc release of Star Trek: The Next Generation TV series, which included restored film footage, new special effects, and extensive added bonus features. However, as impressive as the package was, it did not sell up to expectations, so now it is unlikely that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek Voyager, or other classic TV series will get the same "deluxe" Blu-ray Disc treatment due to the time and financial commitment required to do it right.

Also, another thing that was pointed out was that a growing number of studios are "farming out" Blu-ray Disc releases to third parties, such as Shout! Factory and Twilight Time for release of older catalog titles on Blu-ray, so that they no longer have to bear the cost of manufacturing and promotion. As a result, some interesting catalog titles that are available on DVD may never make it to Blu-ray.

One additional factor that is affecting physical disc environment that was briefly mentioned is the transition from viewing video content on TVs to smartphones and tablets, as well as more emphasis on more interactive video game play.

For more details on The Digital Bits Blu-ray panel discussion at the 2015 San Diego Comic-con, read the detailed report from Home Media Magazine.

Virtual Reality

In addition to the Glasses Free 3D display, and Blu-ray discussion panel, the big tech demonstrations both on the exhibit floor and at venues outside of the San Diego Convention Center during Comic-con 2015 focused on the Virtual Reality experience, which moves "TV viewing" from a passive to active experience.

TNT provided a VR experience based on their TV series The Last Ship using the Oculus Rift system. Also, Google's take on virtual reality tech, Google Cardboard was evident on the exhibit floor, with Legendary Films offering three Google Cardboard VR experiences based on their previous film Pacific Rim, as well as two upcoming films, Crimson Peak and Warcraft.

In addition, off the exhibit floor, even Conan O'Brien get into the VR act with his own Google Cardboard VR experience as part of broadcasting his TV show, which was one of many events running parallel to the 2015 San Diego Comic-con event.

In addition to TNT, Legendary Films, and Conan O'Brien, several other studios were seen jumping on the Virtual Reality bandwagon. For more on that, read the report from Upload VR.

The Next Steps In The Entertainment Experience?

The San Diego Comic-con is definitely more than the comics and the costumes. Every year there is an increasing tech presence at the convention that brings new ways to experience entertainment, and the trend seems to away from passing viewing to active participation in that experience. In fact, there was even a discussion panel titled "Building The Holodeck", which centered on the topic of how evolving visually immersive technologies could someday lead to the realization of a true Star Trek-type holodeck experience, perhaps much sooner than the 24th century.