I blogged recently about the movie “Avatar,” and in that review, I mentioned that the film was released in digital 3D—and let me take a minute to say the news headlined a story where one viewer suffered an aneurism supposedly from visual overload while watching that movie. There have been many new films release in the past few years in 3D, most of them CGI cartoons like “Up,” “Monsters Vs. Aliens” and the upcoming “Shrek 3D.” During the previews for “Avatar” was an upcoming remake of the classic horror flick “Piranha,” which boasts 3D. Another 3D live action film that was released was “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” In that film as well as “Piranha,” the 3D effects are not as significant as they are in the CGI films.
Hollywood has had an infatuation with stereoptic vision for many years. The first feature film to attempt 3D was “Power of Love” in 1922. It met with critical ambivalence and was quite expensive to make. Since then, there have been fewer than 100 films to use 3D, the expense and the apathetic viewer response keeping the effort at bay. Even to this day, most people will attend a 3D movie out of curiosity rather than for the immersive cinematic experience. The film “Avatar” has elevated 3D to a true experience and if Hollywood can maintain that level of filmmaking, 3D may catch on except for one problem: the glasses.
To get the effect, the viewer has to wear special glasses to fool the eye into seeing two separate images as one. Watching the image without the glasses makes the movie blurry. Older technology used red and green or blue lenses and color films use polarized lenses that separate the images. To get the best effect, one needs to view the screen straight on. To look at it from an angle alters the perception. This has been and continues to be a problem. That, and the fact that movie houses charge a premium for 3D movies.
Now, with the success of “Avatar” and other 3D films, there is much talk about 3D television coming out of the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas. A lot of pundits in the industry insist that 3D is the next big thing since HDTV. Unless, however, there is a huge development in the technology that removes the need for external viewing glasses, 3D will never become the norm for TV watching. Imagine coming home from a hard day’s work, taking off the glasses you have to use to read, settling into your easy chair and clicking on the TV. The picture you watch is all blurry and, with a groan, you reach over and grab the TV viewing stereoptic glasses just so you can watch the news or your favorite program. Of course, you also had to replace your 2-year-old LCD or LED TV with a new 3D set.
Won’t happen. TV producers dragged their feet in developing HDTV content and even converting to an all-digital broadcast medium. They will not be quick to jump onto 3D series development. The most we can hope for is 3D presentation of feature films.
Now, if they can develop holographic TV, where the image is projected in 3D from several projectors and needs no glasses, then we’re talking a success. People will flock to this kind of viewing experience, and demand original broadcast content from producers. But in the meantime, we need be content with the meager 3D movies during the summer and Christmas movie seasons.