The Top 10 Reasons 3D TV is 10 Years Away

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Thu, 01/13/2011 - 19:00 -- Nick Dager

The Consumer Electronics Show has come and gone and this year as in recent years one of the biggest buzzes at the show belonged to 3D televisions. The major studios want it the consumer electronics manufacturers want it; the only people who don’t seem to really want it – at least in their homes – are their customers. This is good news for filmmakers and even better news for exhibitors. Movie going audiences have embraced 3D movies and still show a willingness to pay a premium to do so. This should continue as long as Hollywood doesn’t flood the market with 3D films that are poorly made or not suited to 3D in the first place which is no certain bet. But 3D television in homes – in any meaningful numbers – are at best a decade away. Here are the top ten reasons why. 10. Some People Simply Hate 3D There are a sizable number of people who don’t care for 3D and there is a small percentage of people – estimates vary somewhere between two-five percent – who either can’t see it or get physically ill when they watch it. This is not a huge hurdle – the numbers are small and may be shrinking – but it is still a factor. 9. The Price Most 3D televisions are priced significantly higher than comparably sized flat-screen HD panels. This too is not a huge hurdle and prices will eventually drop but it is also one reason widespread adoption is slow to start. 8. The Technology There are too many competing technologies and very few if any are compatible with other products. Until this changes widespread 3D in the home will remain on hold. 7. The Glasses One of the reports out of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show is that several manufacturers are offering televisions that work with passive glasses rather than more expensive active shutter glasses. This solves part of the cost problem and could also address one of the compatibility issues if the same glasses can be worn in most movie theatres and most homes. But that also assumes the technology is robust; demos are one thing bringing a product to market is another. 6. The Lack of Standards Manufacturers love to introduce proprietary technology because if they win it’s a home run. More often than not however the average consumer wants the promise of long-term stability before making an expensive purchase and that means standards. Without a viable set of accepted standards 3D for the home is not likely to go anywhere. 5. Human Nature People are show to embrace new technology on a broad scale. This is related to the fact that many people still don’t like or don’t get 3D but it represents a much bigger market segment. In recent years a very large number of people invested in wide-screen flat panel HD televisions. In the past consumers typically held onto their new televisions for an average of thirteen years. This pattern could well change but it seems unlikely to be reduced by too many years unless something dramatic happens to fuel customer demand. 4. The Cost of Production That raises the issue of the challenges the creative community currently faces regarding stereoscopic 3D. Generally stereoscopic 3D productions cost anywhere from 20-50 percent more than comparable 2D productions. While the promised payback on 3D films in theatres has been significant there have also been 3D movies that did not fare so well. Making movies is a high-risk endeavor; making 3D movies raises those stakes even higher. That won’t change anytime soon. 3. The Production Challenges The creative community is only just beginning to understand how to shoot and light 3D. Actors are just starting to understand the nuances of performing in a scene that is being presented in 3D. More than a few major directors have voiced concern about working in 3D and a few have all but said they refuse to consider it. Despite this filmmakers especially younger filmmakers are excited about the possibilities and are embracing 3D and all it has to offer. More 3D content is coming to market but there’s an enormous vacuum to fill. 2. The Post-Production Challenges If anything the challenges of editing 3D are even more daunting than shooting 3D. The greatest opportunities for 3D and the current biggest hurdles are in the post-production process. Here too great progress is being made but only a small number of post houses have serious expertise working with stereoscopic footage. That will change but again it takes time to learn something this complex and this new. 1. Content All of which leads to the fact that there is still relatively little good 3D content available for the home. And content is king. This lack of content is changing and more is coming to market but very few people are likely to invest two thousand dollars or more on a new TV just to watch Avatar Up and a handful of other movies. Stereoscopic 3D presents one of the greatest creative opportunities the motion picture industry has ever known. Until a steady stream of quality recorded and live 3D content is available the public is likely to opt to spend a few dollars in order to see the next 3D movie at the Cineplex but not to spend thousands of dollars on a television for the home.