What Happened to 3D, the Wunderkind Who Would Thrill Travel Adventurers
By Hal McClure
It wasn’t so long ago that 3D was the technological rage of the new century. Techies said it would re-vitalize the film industry...3D would sell big screen-television sets by the shipload...and even pop your popcorn. Well, maybe not.
This writer, I admit, was an exuberant member of that early 3D cheer-leading gang, filling several columns in this space rooting for the new/old kid on the block.
I was excited, believing our industry’s first 3D travel adventure film would attract our absent fans to come back home, easily filling North American auditoriums with patrons eager to catch this latest marvel.
I could imagine a TAD filmmaker’s 3D African safari pic scaring our audiences when a hungry-looking lion seemed to leap into their laps as he soars toward our Land Rover.
And why not? For over a century our faithful travel film fans have seen it all—from Burton Holmes’ lantern slides, and his followup 1896 moving-pictures intro—shown on 25-second reels. And later, films in black & white, color and finally digital and hi def. And 3D?
Would our audiences be receptive on taking another giant step— with 3D? I thought so.
An equally enthusiastic colleague even agreed to partner our travel adventure film’s first 3D production. It never flew.
Today, 3D in theaters and IMAX still continue their popularity, spurred by such blockbusters as James Cameron’s Avatar 3D version. Also 3D has made great gains in portable game systems, and mobile phones.
Big TV screen sales have increased in popularity. The global research NPD Group reports that U.S. sales of TVs 55 inches and above had increased 28 percent during the first half of this year—from 25 million in 2011.
So, again,what happened? Why the home 3D TV slowdown? Analysts report much of the blame can be traced to the 3D glasses viewers must wear.
The active glasses are expensive, heavy and not easy to wear. When you look at the screen, the technology first blocks the left lens and then the right. It happens faster than “a blink of an eye,” as one reviewer wrote. And when images are shown to each eye separately, this "staggered" effect achieves more lifelike 3D images.,
The goal, of course, has always been to watch 3D with the naked eye—without glasses. Earlier this year, Toshiba produced such a 3D set, but reviewers and viewers were not enthusiastic with the view or the price—although the demo video lis pretty good. (See a Toshiba 3D video above.)
This fall, Panasonic introduced the “world’s largest glasses-free 3D“ shown on a 145-inch TV screen. Some viewers reported the images were improving, but they weren’t clear or sharp enough to watch comfortably. (At this writing no Panasonic video demos.)
It was a big jump, however, for the glasses-free crowd—with the technology bound to evolve. And it's easy to imagine our travel adventure 3D film audiences ducking that safari lion—without glasses.