Yes, it’s true, many have been reporting the death of 3D in the last few months but in a rare public statement 3D has reprise the famous Mark Twain quote applying it for it’s own case!
But lets talk a bit about it for a second. I have been a bit silent on this blog since the last IBC (partly due to being busy, partly because I didn’t find I had much things to say… I think it’s better to just shut up when it’s the case). However, if you read that blog back, you’ll find that I made an entry during IBC that was titled “IBC: Many still skeptical about 3DTV” in which I was raising the different reason why people were being skeptical about 3DTV. Since then, it seems that it went from scepticism to dismissal.
I think this is not only premature but wrong.
For one, 3D is the way we perceive the world and we will not stop perceiving it that way in a foreseeable future. Further, for a large majority of the population stereoscopy is the leading 3D perception mechanism. While not perfect, stereo 3D (in theatre and at home) is good enough to give a satisfying experience to an involved audience. Now, with the segmentation of the viewing habits, who would really want to give up on such a think as an involved audience?
True, theatre and especially IMAX gives a more immersive experience than home viewing and is more satisfying for 3D at the moment. However, with bigger screens becoming cheaper we have an increasingly good experience at home (not to mention better presentation techniques that are evolving).
One more thing that gives the impression that 3D is on the it’s way out is the apparent lack of interest of consumer in north america. This is not indicative of what is happening globally. In Asia and especially in China, consumer demand is quite high and rising. We have to remember that 3D has not reach a true maturity yet and many production still uses it a gimmick rather than a natural production tools and it is inevitable to have part of the audience getting tired of that aspect.
Another factor that give the impression of a set-back is high expectations. Electronic manufacturer were seeing their sales of flat screen TV beginning to slow down and were hoping for a quick sales boost by introducing 3D massively. This was truly wishful thinking. With little original content to offer, the force of attraction of 3D was not very strong in the consumer’s home. Further, there was no real full time original TV channel to watch and the first generation 3D sets with active glasses were expensive and not very friendly to operate. There was just no way the consumer would flock to replace their 3-4 years old flat screen with new more expensive ones!
At this point, technology is getting more mature and less expensive. It is included (basically for free) in many TV sets today. So the installed base of people who could see 3D on their TV is increasing, wether they are conscious of it or not. People are working on ways to produce 3D content more economically as well as converting library content as lower cost with high quality. All of this will converge at one point and create a home market for 3D. At that point, people in the industry will get excited again.
In my experience, you can’t ask salespeople to be exited for the long term, they have only their quarter and their bonus in mind, hence the statement that you may hear that “3D is dead”. They are right in their own world (the next quarter) and this is why they will tell you that it’s now “all about 4K” (the current wishful thinking wave), but that is a different subject!
Another important development that may change all that perception soon is tablet. If Apple would be to launch a 3D auto-stereoscopic iPad with it’s distribution ecosystem, then I bet that you would hear the same people who tell you that “3D is dead” sing the praises of 3D within months!