Future of 3D TV: All In or Fold ‘em?
Just about everyone with an opinion on 3D in the home seems to show a genuine interest in the concept, but ... there are lingering questions, and the answer may lie somewhere in between.
July 07, 2010 by Matt Whitlock

That alone almost proves why television and movies will never fully “transition to 3D,” at least for the foreseeable future, but there are other factors. For viewers, it takes a conscious effort to watch something in 3D - putting on glasses, extra focus on your eyes, brain processing, etc. It’s hardly a sit back, veg out, and lose-yourself experience. Even the content itself is often a reminder you’re not a part of what you see in front of you, but a viewer wearing a pair of glasses to make things jump out of the screen.

On the production side, they’re learning that it takes effort to make something “good” in 3D. James Cameron did it, but it cost nearly half a billion dollars to do it right. Animation studios like Pixar and Dreamworks have done it repeatedly, but not only can they do it well for far less money, the viewing audience is much more open to a 3D interpretation of a cartoon world than the real one. After all, we don’t have anything to compare 3D in a cartoon to, but we view live action 3D every day.

I hope more and more we see studios end the last-minute 3D conversion process and get more selective about 3D theatrical releases, reserving 3D for those films actually made in 3D to begin with. Unfortunately, that’s doubtful given the premium in ticket sales.

I worry more about the quality of 3D television content when the networks really start experimenting in the format. Once it’s proven something in 3D can attract an audience more than that same program in 2D, prepare for a massive push of converted and poorly produced content to try and grab ratings. That may work for a short while, like how people are flocking to see some poorly made 3D films, but it will backfire eventually.

Reading above, it almost sounds like I don’t believe there are many quality experiences in 3D possible. Untrue. I believe there’s a bright future for 3D in movies (both live action and animated), games and sports, in particular, as well as some kinds of television content. However, I don’t foresee watching things like the local news, CNN, C-SPAN, or The Biggest Loser in three dimensions. It’s not because it isn’t technically possible; it’s because it wouldn’t offer a better experience.

Going forward, the entire pitch for 3D TV needs to change. What everyone needs to understand is that 3D TV is not a fad, nor is it an all-in or fold proposition. 3D capabilities are going to be included in television displays going forward; some models now, many more in the years to come, and eventually all of them. However, unlike the high resolution abilities of modern TVs, which are essentially always on (even if artificially), 3D capabilities will always be a moderately used feature for specific types of content - which is exactly what it should be.

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Matt Whitlock manages several technology-focused community websites, including Explore3DTV.com, TechLore.com, and several others. With almost 15 years in the consumer electronics industry to draw from, his writings span a wide range of technology categories, from home entertainment systems to electronic gaming and everything in between.

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