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Is 3D Here to Stay This Time Around?

October 30th, 2009
3D glasses.

3D glasses.

If there is one major thing to have come out the technology sector this year, then it must be 3D. Reports from NAB, Las Vegas, and IBC, Amsterdam, suggest that the 3D experience is with us like never before (3ality and Pace largely leading the way), and available on new and exciting platforms.

The dual-end cameras are setting the pace and SONY and Panasonic both have their single-lens 3D prototypes awaiting release (capable of capturing HD images). The Usain Bolt 150m run in Manchester in May – captured in 3D by Sky and FilmNova, a division of Nova International – showed how recording 3D television has advanced, and in late-November, Channel 4 will host an entire week celebrating 3D viewing, with The Queen in 3D, Derren Brown’s 3D Magic Spectacular and The Greatest Ever 3D Moments all given the 3D development.

These are predictions and statements however we have heard before. 3D is no new generation thing (in 1922, Power of Love was released, featuring the “anaglyph process” which involved simultaneously shooting two views of a scene and then printing the film in two different colours and combining them with layered film on one reel). It has been tried, tested and of course, developed over more than fifty-years. Advancements in both the cinematic world and that of gaming have magnified the watching and playing experience. It is immersive and playful, but so far, audiences have only been moderately interested in releases, despite the highest quality 3D ever available at the IMAX 3D and REAL D cinemas.

Panasonic's 3D HD Camcorder Prototype.

Panasonic's 3D HD Camcorder Prototype.

Robert Zemeckis’s Beowulf (2007), Journey to the Centre of the Earth (2008), The Rolling Stones’ epic performance, Shine a Light (2008), and the strangely eerie bubblegum charm of Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds (2008), have all proved only relative success with cinemagoers. Furthermore to the debate, won’t such films lose something when watched at home? Predictions suggest a drop in DVD sales, and not just because of piracy and illegal downloading but because something is lost from the big screen to the small, and if we are talking about 3D, then surely the loss is greater as the experience cannot be replicated at home.

3D, on any medium, has the ability to add depth and layers to the screen (called depth perception or Stereopsis <>), despite cinema being its premium tool. One of its greatest assists, and something perhaps best left for adventure land rides – exciting the children and horror lovers – is its capacity to throw things at you: fists, sticks, blood, and limbs. Others see it as a “distracting technique”, removing you from reality and thus, losing the believability of the story and destroying the illusion.

A 1950s 3D viewing cinema audience.

A 1950s 3D viewing cinema audience.

A contrasting view is that this is an encouraging movement for 3D technology. There is the ability to offer something home television and computers cannot, but this is still a double-ended-sword; you fight piracy and illegal download theft, yet run the risk of affecting sales revenue, because whether or not a DVD release comes with a pair of those trendy Buddy Holly glasses or not, it can never compare to the immersive experience of watching it on the big screen.

Then there are the industry trendsetters, those “techno-chasers”, the Spielberg’s, Katzenberg’s and Lucas’ fuelling the fire, jumping in their studios like agitated children, just waiting to give old classics the 3D makeover. Currently we await Pixar/Disney’s Toy Story 3D, a film so perfectly executed the first time around that there is fear adding a 3D layer may be a step too far. Time (and ticket sales) will tell.

So far, at least, the last three generations have all had the 3D movement, and so far, it has proved nothing more than a retro gimmick from an industry under threat. Validating the medium could be James Cameron’s much anticipated Avatar (Fox Studios). Until then, it remains stuck with the novelty value and a steep admission rate.

I leave you with a quote from director Sam Mendes when asked if he would ever consider working in 3D, to which he replied, “I already have. It’s called theatre”.

Avatar (HD) Trailer:

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