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Does the 3D emperor have any clothes on?

I went to see the latest Shrek4 in 3D with a party of 9 of all ages a few weeks ago. As we left the cinema, comments were all very favorable: «much better than the last shrek», «almost as good as the original», «the villain was really well portrayed»‚«great scenario, shame they didn't have Shrek seduced by a someone younger than Fiona so he would have had a complete mid-life crisis then»; nobody spontaneously mentioned the 3D.

When I asked the first response was «oh yes I did get a bit of headache» and «apart from the opening scene with the white horses, I didn't really notice it was 3D», «nothing like Avatar».

I agreed with all these comments.

The experience pushed me to write this blog and say what many have been thinking and a few saying for a while now:«The 3D emperor hasn't got many clothes on» which can only really interest the sex industry.

Here are my reasons:
Specific content specially written with 3D in mind, will always have a niche, and people will pay for that. So there will be more Avatar-like blockbusters, although Avatar in plain HD (gosh that's already no longer an oxymoron) is still beautifully made.
It seems only natural that Gaming would adopt 3D, but that's just an assumption we're all making. People presume that the games and sex industries will be first to adopt a new technology, but actually, they only do so if the new technology brings them value (the sex industry was most definitely not an early adopter of HD, but was first and to date, the only one to successfully adopt multiple angle views) so there's no golden rule. 3D must bring something to succeed. I'm not actually saying that gaming will not adopt 3D, just that it's not a done deal, and even if it does, there's no guarantee this will lead to adoption of 3D in TV usage.

[Last minute: just read a post in French here about Marc Dorcel a French Porn mogul that is investing in 3D. I suppose the author is right that when a beautiful ass passes literally under your nose it might have more effect than with regular video].

If 3D does impact these innovation hungry industries, it'll only concern their hardcore from the outset, maybe even for good.

The 3D Emperor will certainly take his clothes off if he's a porn star.

One of the main battle cries of our industry for the last couple of years has been “3 screens” or more openly “multi-device”. This will be an obstacle for 3D. Repurposing 3D designed for the cinema, where viewers are typically 10m from the screen, will be difficult for a PC let alone a mobile device. There is an issue of base-line calculation.

The industry needs a big subject to federate around. HD was one such example and does bring a deeper sense of immersion to all content, whereas 3D has is only relevant to content specifically designed for 3D. Just adding 3D for effect leads the latest Shrek movie as opposed to Avatar.
Technologies come to enable something new and go when they serve no purpose other than their own. 3D technology will be useful to enable the viewing of 3D content. Even if I'm wrong and 3D does end up bringing something to any old video, the “3D-ing” of all that video still needs to be done. Remember how may years it took the plain vanilla VoD sector to take off because of ingest problems.
Oh and if like me you spend an average 10 minutes a week or more looking or shouting at your kids for the remote, just imagine what'll happen in the average household with multiple pairs of glasses yikes!
One last reason I can see hindering 3D adoption: as an early adopter myself I have a 450€ HDMI 1.3 compatible A/V system that all my devices talk to. Enabling 3D is going to require HDMI 1.4 for the extra bandwidth beyond HD, which basically means I need to change that expensive sound kit to get full functionality. Otherwise I'll need to plug all my future 3D sources directly into my future TV set. Yikes again.

I can see one main reason why I could be wrong. In UK and France, Sky and Canal+ respectively, have both started promoting 3D. If they do decide to put all their marketing weight behind 3D, that kind of juggernaut could push mass adoption. The reason they, and satellite operators in other markets might do that is simple.
Operators delivering over multiple networks especially including DSL are severely handicapped when it comes to HD let alone 3D. HD with its fourfold bandwidth requirements really hurts TV over DSL eligibility. When 3D comes along, even if it turns out to only require another 20% (which is the optimistic estimate, others talk of a 50%-100% increase), things will only get worse. So if Sky promotes 3D, that hurts BT but more importantly Canal+ will really want to hurt Orange.
Of course the set makers are aggressively pushing 3D already, but I think they are making a big mistake. People will either think their message is irrelevant or worse, succumb, buy a set and then feel conned by the brand, with the scarcity of content where 3D actually makes any difference. If I were a set maker, I'd promote 3D as a cool extra feature, not the one big reason to buy a new set. As Jeff Vinson reminds us on his blogpost on 3D, «Don't believe your own hype!».

But in the end, early-adopters aside, mainstream customers buy mainly things whose added value they fully understand. I can easily imagine the articles in 2011 and 2012 explaining why 3D never made it mainstream.

4 thoughts on “Does the 3D emperor have any clothes on?

  1. […] was an early critic of 3D arguing as early as 2009 that the 3D emperor didn’t have any clothes on. Hopefully that will […]

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  3. […] have blogged on my scepticism for 3D in the living room before (see here for example) so we started out exploring Panasonic’s take on the issue. Nigel pointed out that until recently, […]

  4. […] innovative IPTV market place. Despite the global 3D flop, which I saw coming before the summer (see here), the first-ever commercial 3D IPTV service was just announced in France by Dorcel for adult on […]