Monday, January 11, 2010

3D? or not 3D?

Outside of eBook's, the Google phone, and Sony's adoption of SD cards, the big news of CES seemed to be 3D: Panasonic demoed a $21K 3D video camera, and several vendors demonstrated 3D displays and Blu-ray players. I've resisted writing about it partly due to lack of interest on my part, and partly due to what a NPR reporter described as "skepticism that consumers would want to spend money to replace their displays just after buying into HD."

Independent of the price, do people even want 3D, or is it just a fad? I thought about writing something along those lines, but I've already been curmudgeonly recently, and had decided to just ignore the whole thing when I came across this skathing article from Roger Ebert (written back in October 2009):

The 3-D process is an abomination that has died many deaths. It failed in the 1950s as a novelty, and again in the 1970s as a device to breathe new life into exhausted franchises.
Simply put, has anyone ever attended a 2-D movie and thought, ‘If only it were in 3-D’? I doubt it, because 2-D creates a perfectly effective illusion of depth and dimension.

Good old Roger. He also manages to add a bit of itrigue that had never occured to me; the theory that movie theaters are on the band wagon meerly because charging for the glasses allows them to raise ticket prices!

As much as I want to applaud Roger for writing the piece I was tempted to write, I can't also help but be reminded of objections to the arrival of sound:

"Who in the hell wants to hear actors talk?"
-H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers Studios, 1927

I never approved of talkies. Silent movies were well on their way to developing an entirely new art form. It was not just pantomine, but something wonderfully expressive
-Lillian Gish

And when HD was first appearing, how many people suggested that it was the quality of the programming - not the resolution of the image - that needed improving?

The technology is interesting; particularly the camera, which is more than just two lenses mounted side by side - the two optical blocks have to be rotated to adjust for changes in the convergence point as the object in focus moves closer to the camera. Panasonic's camera is expected to be released at the end of the year, with full details being announced at NAB.

A poster on the dvxuser forum writes that networks and studios seem to think that 3D is the wave of the future, adding:

Producing content in 3D is a big learning curve, much bigger than the transition from SD to HD was just a few years ago for us. If you produce non-broadcast, the demand won't be there for 5-10 years but if you produce entertainment, buckle up and start learning about parralex, convergence, anaglyph, polarization, shutter viewing systems and how to shoot effectively in 3D

Discovery and ESPEN are promising 3D channels either later in the year, or next year. If the networks and studios are pushing it, is there something else going on too?; a leap forward that makes content unplayable on YouTube etc. perhaps? Or is it just the manufacturers looking to save their skins in a tough economy?

One more thing; Even skeptics can be swayed; Roger Ebert liked the 3D Avatar:

Cameron promised he'd unveil the next generation of 3-D in "Avatar." I'm a notorious skeptic about this process, a needless distraction from the perfect realism of movies in 2-D. Cameron's iteration is the best I've seen -- and more importantly, one of the most carefully-employed. The film never uses 3-D simply because it has it, and doesn't promiscuously violate the fourth wall.

I guess we will have to sit back and wait and see what the future brings.

Don't you wish there were a knob on the TV to turn up the intelligence? There's one marked 'Brightness,' but it doesn't work. ~ Gallagher

  1. Does anyone like 3D?: Roger Ebert, The Spectator
  2. Avatar: Roger Ebert,
  3. Hands On: Panasonic's Twin-lens Camcorder Gets 3-D for a Cool $21K:
  4. Integrated Twin-Lens FULL HD 3D Camera:
  5. Discovery, ESPN to launch 3D TV channels:

3D Movie Making: Stereoscopic Digital Cinema from Script to Screen


Freddie Fields said...

3D TV is an odd one. On the one hand you think it should be fantastic, but on the other part of you can't help thinking of naff B type movies and aliens jumping around!

I wrote a post here about it, and the prospects for 2010 -

Bottom line. If they can ditch the glasses then it has a chance!

Michael Murie said...

But what are the "glasses-free" systems like? One article I read suggested that - at least for the system demoed at CES - the effect wasn't very good on "smaller" screens; you needed a large screen.

Another writer felt that even the glasses-based 3D systems only worked with screens larger than 72 inches!