Get in the Bin!: 3D Television

This article was published on the original Sorry I’m on 27/09/2010.

Luke Miksa's: The Negative Space Bar

There are many embarrassing fads currently permeating throughout our current cultural zeitgeist; Justin Beiber, auto-tune, Ed Hardy, but there is something out there that is obviously just a fad that is misleadingly being sold as the future of home entertainment: 3D Television.

Spot The Weasel...Ever since the release of Avatar in late 2009, 3D has been all the rage in technological circles. We are seeing sporting events, television shows and a great many films utilising this ‘new’ space-age, technological advancement and having it shoved down our collective throats. The problem is that 3D popularity is cyclical; with booms of 3D films in the 1950’s and the 1980’s prior to this current run of popularity. It seems that every generation gets a run of 3D domination: which is fine, except that in each instance the fad dies and becomes a gimmick just as quick as it started.

But I hear you saying, “…but Luke, Avatar was revolutionary; a state of the art, immersive experience that you yourself have praised for its technical achievements. You can’t deny the highest grossing movie of all time, sir. You just cannot.”

This is all true, but don’t forget that Avatar had an unprecedented production schedule of about five years, as well as having an extravagant budget which has been estimated to have been around the $250 million mark – both huge numbers by Hollywood standards. No matter how hard they try, no other movie will match Avatar aesthetically due to those two glaring facts. And in the year since Avatar’s release we have seen a slew of 3D films which have served nothing but to hammer this point home: nothing has matched Avatar and it appears nothing will in the foreseeable future.

All that and dodgy accents up in here.

And I’m not just talking about the dodgy post-conversion of standard films to take advantage of gullible cinema goers (Clash of the Titans), but even films that have been planned in the 3D format from the start have been unspectacular and forgettable (Toy Story 3*). Does that mean 3D has peaked with the very movie that began the trend? Any superior hardware is sure to die if there is not enough quality media to make people want it (Nintendo Gamecube, anyone?)

Let’s move on to 3D televisions; which the manufacturers and retailers are trying to convince us is the Next Big Thing™. Obviously, these companies are taking advantage of a hot product to make you unnecessarily purchase their goods for an absolute premium. And so they should because there are a ton of idiots out there with too much money that need to buy the hottest items out there to impress their friends.

Therein lies the deciding factor which proves to me that 3D television will go the way of the Laser Disc and the Virtual Boy:

3D TV Owner: Hey man, check out my sweet new big screen 3D TV!
Schlub #1: Oh wow, neat! That must have cost a bit, huh?
3D TV Owner: You bet your ass it did! But once you see the big game in 3D you’ll never want to watch it in plain old 2D ever again.
Schlub #2: OK cool. How does it work?
3D TV Owner: Simple, all you need to do is put on your 3D glasses like so…
(Puts on monstrous 3D glasses.)
3D TV Owner: …and voila!
Schlub #1: … but I don’t have 3D glasses.
3D TV Owner: Really, oh. The TV only came with two pairs. I was expecting you all to bring your own. Guess you can’t watch the game, douche.
Schlub #2: These glasses are uncomfortable. How am I supposed to wear them with my normal eyeglasses?
3D TV Owner: I dunno. Sucks to be you, doucher.
Schlub #1: These glasses look ridiculous. Do you have to wear them to whole time?
3D TV Owner: Of course, it’s 3D!
Schlub #2: This is dumb. Let’s all go watch the game at my place.
Schlub #1: Yeah, the 3D is not even that good anyway.
(They all leave the 3D TV Owner to watch the game alone like a jerk.)

3D glasses are not this fun.

The glasses that you must use aren’t the simple, red/blue cellophane deals that came with comics back in the day, but battery powered Shutter Glasses that refresh in sync with the TV set. As you may have guessed, you would be paying a premium if you wanted any extra glasses besides the general two you get with the TV set, which makes it awkward if you want to have some friends over for a movie.

But I hear you saying, “…but Luke, TV companies are developing sets that do not require glasses and would therefore be totally kick-ass.”

This is true; as a matter of fact Nintendo will be releasing the 3DS handheld console next year; which provides 3D without the need of glasses, otherwise known as autostereocopy. The technology is called a Parallax Barrier, and produces two unique images simultaneously through small slits in the screen; similar to lenticular printing that can be seen on Pogs and trading cards.

The disadvantage of this form of 3D is that you need to be in the perfect spot in front of the screen to see the depth of the 3D image. Not much of an issue for a handheld gaming console, as it’s only going to be in front of your face anyway. The issue is implementing that technology to a large enough screen for home viewing. Asking the viewer to sit in an exact spot to watch TV is absurd, and therefore not practical; and it only leads you to not being able to have more than a few people watching TV at the one time: a similar problem with the glasses.

The development of autostereocopy technology to be used feasibly in a home environment is probably years, if not decades away. Until then I see the impracticality of implementing 3D television as the new standard in home viewing to be nothing more than an expensive fad that will soon be gone in a few years, ready for another resurrection for the next generation, and hopefully next time they’ll get it right.

Until then, 3D TV can go ahead and…

*I of course talk about the film’s 3D quality and not the quality of the film itself, which was outstanding.

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