Advanced Television

RIP 3D, you won’t be missed

October 10, 2013

3D is the dog that didn’t bark. Bringing pictures ‘to life’ was to bring (another) renaissance to movie theatres and provide another whole new replacement market for big screen TVs.

Avatar, James Anderson’s 2009 blockbuster about persecuted blue humanoid alien forest dwellers, was to be the start of something big and game changing. It turned out to be both the beginning, and the beginning of the end. Those who thought (still think?), 3D has much technical and artistic merit, may now wish things had started with less of a bang. That bang – caused by the record breaking takings of Avatar – was the start gun for a band wagon so big, but so craven and so ugly, it could only be a matter of time, a short time, before the wheels came off.

A slew of deeply unimpressive schlock movies appeared one after another where the main, the only, point was to have stuff come out of the screen. What came out was garbage. Some fairly decent movies even suffered the ignominy of being retrofit with 3D. Movie-goers and self respecting directors began to vote with their feet. Unfortunately, several TV makers and TV channels got on board even as the shine was fading. They have all backed out and are now blowing on their singed fingers.

Of course, TV makers are still trying (I wonder how hard, really?) to perfect glasses-less 3D, as though that’s the whole answer. For sure, no glasses would be better, they are a real inconvenience particularly in the home, but would it turn 3D back into an instant and sustainable success? I don’t think so. Sport never got the hang of it in terms of production; too much shot from the same perspective as 2D, which added little, or weird angles found to justify 3D but that didn’t add to the coverage. A handful of immersive experiences from skilfully made movies or TV dramas don’t justify a home’s investment in a set, never mind a whole industry’s realignment.

A lot of people found sustained watching gave them a headache – hardly surprising as it works by tricking the brain into having to constantly re-assemble an unnaturally broken image. The whole exercise was like a night club trying to sell you a hangover without the night out first.

So, goodbye for the foreseeable to 3D, and hello 4K. I’ve seen and it, and it is pretty spectacular on a 50″ screen in ideal conditions. Like current HD, though, much depends on how much bandwidth is handed to it by the broadcaster. Overselling and under delivering are part of what did for 3D, 4K should be wary of going the same way.


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