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.
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July 07, 2010 by Matt Whitlock

Try getting the average consumer’s pulse on 3D, and just muttering the phrase “3D television” seems to elicit a different response from everyone. Like research would indicate, just about everyone I’ve seen with an opinion on 3D in the home seems to show a genuine interest in the concept, but what I am commonly finding are these same people uttering phrases that indicate a drastic misunderstanding of 3D in general. Specifically, phrases like “3D is just a fad” and “I’m not going to watch everything in 3D.”

Those two statements are inherently flawed, as is people’s entire understanding of 3D’s future in the home. What I consistently see is an “all or nothing” expectation, proving the industry has done a terrible job communicating the future of 3D to consumers, instead relying on the equally uninformed mass media and polo jockeys at CE chains to educate consumers on 3D. What are they saying? “Let me tell you about the transition to 3D TV ...”

Nothing could be worse for 3D.

Ten years ago, the industry started throwing HD-ready televisions at consumers during a time when there was little HD content. The message, “Soon you’ll be able to watch your favorite television shows and movies in HD, although there’s little content out there right now to watch other than a channel on DirecTV and the occasional live sports event. But, as the transition to HDTV progresses and content you want watch is available, you can add a box to this TV and start enjoying content in high definition.”

It’s not surprising that consumers today are confused about 3D, given the message is almost identical, “Soon you’ll be able to watch your favorite television shows and movies in 3D, although there’s little content out there right now to watch other than a channel on DirecTV and the occasional live sports event. But, as the transition to 3DTV progresses and content you want watch is available, you can add an emitter and 3D glasses to this TV and start enjoying content in three dimensions.”

The technology pitch is identical, but the reality, however, is there is no “transition to 3D.”  With “analog to digital” or “SD to HD,” the content itself (how it’s made and the experience it offers) and how you watch it, isn’t fundamentally different. That’s why everything is better in HD.

We’d be kidding ourselves if we didn’t recognize that content produced in 3D is not just not just an enhanced experience of the same content in 2D. If it were, then movies like The Last Airbender and Clash of the Titans would have been improved by the addition of 3D. But they weren’t. It made them worse.

Argue if you will that adding 3D after the fact is different than making it in 3D (which is true), but then also try to come up with an explanation why everything artificially upconverted from SD to HD is better. Sometimes you may not be able to tell the difference, but I’ve never seen a SD to HD conversion that made something look worse.

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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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