Mainstream media, along with a lot of new media sites out there have been drilling 3D into our heads since long before CES. Catch phrases like “It’ll change the way you watch movies” and “Things are sooo much better in 3D” are everywhere. I even saw “3D” deodorant at my local grocery store which I couldn’t understand since every deodorant I’ve ever used has been 3-dimensional. It seems however that not everyone agrees, and some are realizing that 3D isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
The first piece of evidence is a report released by Consumer Reports on Tuesday of this week. While the consumer review company admits that 3D images of the units they tested were excellent, as of yet there’s nothing to watch. They’ve recommended that consumers hold off if they’re satisfied with their current HDTV. The amount of content available simply can’t justify the $3000 price point that CR quotes.
“Blu-ray discs with 3D content are just arriving, and while 3D broadcasts are starting up it will be a while before there are many of them,” said Paul Reynolds, electronics editor, Consumer Reports. “Though there isn’t a huge price premium for the TVs, a 3D setup isn’t inexpensive. For the sets we tested, you should figure on paying about $3,000 for the TV, Blu-ray player, and glasses for a family of four.”
I’ve you’ve purchased an HDTV within the last three to five years, there seems to be little point in upgrading now. At this point you can’t even own Avatar in 3D. The studio that created what is probably the best example of 3D thus far couldn’t even be bothered to release a 3D title.
When you think of Roger Ebert, “tech guru” isn’t the first phrase to cross your mind. He does however know movies. He really knows movies. People who watch movies know this and they’re probably going to heed what he has to say on the topic. So when a guy who’s job has been nothing but telling people what to watch for decades comes out and says:
“Hollywood’s current crazy stampede toward it [3D] is suicidal. It adds nothing essential to the movie going experience. For some, it is an annoying distraction. For others, it creates nausea and headaches. It is driven largely to sell expensive projection equipment and add a $5 to $7.50 surcharge on already expensive movie tickets. Its image is noticeably darker than standard 2-D. It is unsuitable for grown-up films of any seriousness. It limits the freedom of directors to make films as they choose. For moviegoers in the PG-13 and R ranges, it only rarely provides an experience worth paying a premium for.”
…you know something is amiss.
Mr. Ebert goes on to say:
“When you see Lawrence of Arabia growing from a speck as he rides toward you across the desert, are you thinking, ‘Look how slowly he grows against the horizon’ or ‘I wish this were 3D’?”
(You can read the full article here.)
I have to say that I agree with Mr. Ebert’s remarks. While 3D is great for animated films which appeal to children, when it comes to serious adult fare, what’s the point? 3D doesn’t add to the experience of movies like “Saving Private Ryan” or “E.T.”. It’s a gimmick used to get you back into the theater. If you’d only watch great films like this once they were re-mastered in 3D then you’d fit in well in Hollywood. If the content means so little to someone that a trick of the eye is what is required to get them to watch it then they probably shouldn’t bother watching in the first place.
I won’t say 3D is pointless or useless. It does serve a purpose and when done correctly in the right film, it can add to the experience. That said however, producing everything in 3D is a joke designed to allow talking points and specific advertising. Not only that, but if movies are shot and/or animated in such a way as to make you realize that the 3D effect is missing (See The Movie Podcast Ep 1) then it’s nothing more than a gimmick. Once directors and studios figure out how to use 3D for natural effects is when it will be truly worth it. Until then it’s all about the marketing.