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What's Holding 3D Back? Print E-mail
Wednesday, 10 February 2010
Article Index
What's Holding 3D Back?
Consumer Education and Glasses

Consumer Education

The industry as a whole should be applauded for the steps it’s taking towards compatibility.  Some people already own 3D capable televisions and they don’t even know it.  Many others have Blu-ray players that can be made 3D compatible, such as Sony’s Playstation 3.  The rollout of new 3D televisions and players all working on the HDMI 1.4 format is on its way.  Anyone that’s happy with a less than 1080p 3D signal can use HDMI 1.3 components that they may not even have to upgrade.  It’s a fantastic setup for consumers.

Of course, this only really helps if the industry educates the consumer on what they’ve got and what they could have.  The rapid spread of bad news and misinformation spelled the death of plasma, which now holds a much smaller market than LCD.  Already I’ve heard phrases like “Sure 3D’s cool, but you’ll have to be rich to afford those TVs” thrown around while shopping in big box stores.  That’s not true of course.  3D capable televisions – aside from a few luxury models such as Toshiba’s CELL TV – are going to cost roughly the same amount as any new higher end television.  It’s simply an added feature.

A great many people are already convinced of the 3D advantage; films like Avatar and Up were the best advertisement possible.  The industry now needs to focus on letting people know they might not need a whole new home theater to get 3D in their homes.

The Lord of the Rings

Movies and television shows not shot in 3D will gain the benefit of automatic conversion from some of the higher end 3D Blu-ray players and televisions coming out this year.  Initially this sounds like a great idea, just like converting standard definition to high definition.  It all goes back to how moviemaking must change with 3D.  The problem can best be explained using The Lord of the Rings.  

Lord of the Rings on Blu-ray This summer brings us one of the most anticipated Blu-ray releases yet.  The Lord of the Rings trilogy is just behind Star Wars on the Blu-ray wish list.  There’s no question that Peter Jackson’s epic will look great in high definition.  It has some of the most well produced digital effects ever created.

It’s not all digital though.  Many shots in the film were constructed using practical effects.  Forced perspective, for example, is used throughout all three of the movies to show the size difference between the hobbits and regular sized humans.

It’s the oldest trick in the book and it’s simple to pull off.  In a shot where Frodo is standing next to Gandalf, digital effects could be used, but it’s much easier to have Frodo stand a few feet back.  When the two characters are filmed with traditional cameras, they look as if they’re standing next to eachother.  The flat image tricks our eyes.

With 2D to 3D conversion though, the difference in positioning will almost certainly be evident.  Instead of a four foot tall Frodo and six foot tall Gandalf, we may end up with shots where a six foot tall Frodo is standing three feet behind a six foot tall Gandalf.  Watching old sci-fi movies in high definition can be a letdown because the effects just don’t hold up, but 3D presents a whole new standard to live up to.

Those Darned 3D Glasses

It’s easy to harp on the glasses.  They’re a simple target to pick on and they seem to be the chief complaint that people have when it comes to watching anything in 3D.  They may annoy some people, and they may take away from the experience.  They may even turn some people off entirely because they just don’t look cool enough.  It’s not the style or comfort that’s the problem though.  It’s the supply.

Active shutter glasses, now known as Active 3D Glasses, are the standard for viewing 3D content.  They won’t be cheap, but they produce the best image.  They’ll be included with 3D TV purchases, but it’s up to each company how many sets get packed in. Flash forward to Christmas 2010.  There’s a family of four eagerly waiting for Dad to finish setting up the new 3D Bravia they picked up.  Unless Dad also picked up some glasses they’ll be in for disappointment, since Sony only includes two sets of the glasses.

Now zip ahead further to the 2011 Superbowl.  It’s time for the guys to come over to check out the big game in 3D.  Everyone that wants to watch will need 3D glasses or they’ll be forced to look at blurry football.  Active 3D Glasses are currently selling at prices starting at $100.  New sets of glasses may be a hard sell at that price though.  They’ll either need to come down or more sets will need to come with each television.


3D movie and television technology is fascinating.  The idea of watching a movie that pops right out of the screen is fascinating; feeling like you’re looking through a window at a sporting event, rather than sitting at home on the couch, is an unrivalled experience. People want 3D technology, and manufacturers want consumers to have it.  Everything in between is still a bit of a haze, but we’re getting there.  After all, this may be the time that 3D finally sticks.

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