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Hollywood partnership seeks 3D for the masses

13 April 2011

Avatar director James Cameron and his 3D film technologist partner Vince Pace have joined forces to make stereoscopic content as common as colour TV. The Cameron-Pace venture was launched last week at the US National Association of Broadcasters show in Las Vegas, not just to develop the partnership's Fusion 3D camera system, but to drive 3D beyond the realm of Hollywood blockbuster, into live television, sport and advertising. One of the aims of the new venture will be to simplify crew and equipment requirements for 3D production, getting the camera manufacturers onboard to develop more mobile and compact systems on a par with current 2D technology.

Unsurprisingly, Cameron is rather bullish about prospects for 3D entertainment, from the big silver screen down to your humble pocket-sized device. In a special show interview with Variety magazine, he estimated that the business model for 3D will mature in around five years - when "everything is in 3D and people demand 3D the way people used to demand colour," he said. "And if you're not broadcasting in 3D you're not playing the game, and you're not getting any revenue." He predicts broadcasters that have more 3D programming will take the competitive high ground.

So much for the providers of 3D; meanwhile, for consumers, a mix of economic hardship, the high cost of the hardware and those obtrusive specs are probably holding back the flood gates. Technologies like Nintendo's 3DS gaming console demonstrate startling specs-free 3D graphics at the small screen level, but bigger screens will ultimately be the market focus. As large-screen 3D LCD and plasma prices begin to fall, however, will those specs curtail a wider take-up as we wait for the promise of spec-less technologies to be fulfilled?

Apprentices pay back forty times over!
Back in February 2009, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) commissioned a study to develop a model to examine the impact of the Further Education (FE) sector in delivering its primary function: ie to provide people with the skills they need in the labour market. It focused on people aged 19 and over, and it sought to measure the economic value of the FE sector.

The research revealed that apprenticeships deliver the highest ‘Net Present Value’ (NPV) per qualification started; but in terms of the return on government investment (the NPV of each qualification divided by its funding costs) vocational qualifications delivered in the workplace offer a similar return to apprenticeships at around £35 - £40 per pound of funding. The NPV of qualifications (based on the 2008/09 findings), moreover, is estimated to be £75bn over the years in which successful learners remain in the workforce.

Ann Watson, managing director of specialist awarding organisation, EAL, is “extremely heartened” by the revelation that apprentices return forty-fold the investment in their training and that over the course of their lifetime, they contribute an additional £75bn to the government’s coffers. Buts she warns that in order to maximise its investment, the government must ensure that training is linked to higher level skills, particularly in the engineering and manufacturing/building services sectors, and is tailored to the needs of employers.

“The government’s commitment to slash the red tape which hinders engagement with training has been fantastic, but I’m sure we’d all agree that there is still headway to be made,” she said. “It will be important for government to maintain its understanding of the specific training needs of industries such as engineering and manufacturing, and the difficult conditions which companies – especially SMEs – face when formulating policy.”

Watch out for those EMFs
Paul Laidler, principal of safety and compliance consultant, Laidler Associates, is advising suppliers and users of machinery that they must continue to take steps to assess and control risks associated with electromagnetic fields (EMFs), even though the publication of the Physical Agents (Electromagnetic Fields) Directive has once again been postponed.

The directive was originally drafted in 2006, but the Health & Safety Executive recently confirmed that it will not now be in place until at least 2014. Laidler warns that this delay does not absolve machine manufacturers from their current responsibility to analyse risks associated with EMFs. Employers are also required to take account of these risks as part of their general duty of care as imposed by the Health & Safety at Work Act.

“It’s easy for companies to assume that the EMF risks associated with the products they supply or the equipment they use in the workplace are minimal,” says Mr Laidler. “That can be a very dangerous assumption. Consider the case, for example, of someone fitted with a heart pacemaker, the operation of which is disrupted by the electromagnetic field around a machine. If the supplier and user of the machine had not given proper consideration to its EMF performance, they could easily find themselves in legal hot water.”

Laidler says that EMF audits of existing installations should be undertaken without waiting for the new directive to come into force. Similarly, manufacturers and users of new equipment should undertake EMF assessments as part of their supply and installation procedures to ensure safety of machinery and the workplace.

Les Hunt

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