What’s wrong with 3D television?

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When HDTV screens emerged on the scene, there was one major flaw with the format – there simply wasn’t enough high definition content to truly justify buying an HDTV. This was a problem easily remedied and we’re now in a situation where you can watch almost anything in high definition, even though that means different things depending on the format. Sports was the killer app that ultimately pushed HDTV into millions of homes. 3D television also suffers from a similar lack of programming, but the problems associated with 3DTV are quite a bit bigger than just waiting for the content providers to catch up.
Setting aside the fact that most of the 3D content available for home viewing isn’t optimized for the available 3D televisions and the fact that 3D glasses currently cost more than a Blu-ray player, there are two fundamentally broken aspects to 3D. First, the 3D experience needs to be immersive to work. On a 50-inch screen in a normal living room setting, 3D fails miserably. Anytime you look away from the screen at the room around you, the 3D magic fades and your brain is forced to reset when you look back to start feeling like you are getting a 3D experience. In an ideal scenario, watching 3D should happen in a dark room with no distractions to feel believable. That’s not a practical reality for most people.
The second thing fundamentally broken about 3D is the glasses. The previously mentioned price (about $700 for a family of four) is outrageous, but you can’t interact with the normal world in the way we’ve all become accustomed to with two-dimensional television. My own habit of watching baseball with a computer in my lap doesn’t work in a 3D world because I either need to remove the glasses every time I look at the computer screen or the glasses create an annoying experience while looking at the computer. Toshiba has just announced two 3D screens with no glasses required. I haven’t seen them, so I have no idea how they compare to other options, but at 20-inch and 12-inch sizes and less than 3-foot viewing distances, I don’t imagine they will be finding a place in the family viewing area anytime soon.
There’s also a third problem with 3D, which is that directors and cameramen haven’t been shooting for 3D. Cinematography tricks that worked for the past 100 years don’t work in a 3D world. That means most old content won’t look good when converted to 3D. HDTV didn’t have this kind of adoption problem, because movies shot for film could easily be re-released in high definition and look great. I think sports will be the killer app that drives 3D adoption, just like it was for HD. If you can make every living room feel like a front row seat, it changes the home entertainment experience. On the other hand, nobody’s close to working that kind of magic.
But that’s just one guy’s opinion of 3D. Do you have a 3D television and love it? What would make you switch to 3D?

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12 comments

  1. Holographic 3D. I have no idea what that actually means, but I tend to think of it in one of 3 ways…
    TV in the Round – where you have a round table on which 3D holographic projections act out what’s going on, and you can basically view it from all sides.
    The Diorama – Remember when you’d glue plastic dinosaurs into a shoebox to create a scene from the cretaceous period for a grade school project? Like that, only moving.
    The Holodeck – Totally immersive.

  2. Holographic 3D. I have no idea what that actually means, but I tend to think of it in one of 3 ways…
    TV in the Round – where you have a round table on which 3D holographic projections act out what’s going on, and you can basically view it from all sides.
    The Diorama – Remember when you’d glue plastic dinosaurs into a shoebox to create a scene from the cretaceous period for a grade school project? Like that, only moving.
    The Holodeck – Totally immersive.

  3. The fourth thing wrong with 3D is that many of us with seizure disorders are triggered by 3D technology, which suggests that there are some unexplored neurological side effects…..

  4. The fourth thing wrong with 3D is that many of us with seizure disorders are triggered by 3D technology, which suggests that there are some unexplored neurological side effects…..

  5. @Connie: I believe the relationship between seizures and 3D is specific to 3D done like Samsung where a flash in the picture triggers the 3D glasses. The same problem is true of strobe lights.

  6. @Connie: I believe the relationship between seizures and 3D is specific to 3D done like Samsung where a flash in the picture triggers the 3D glasses. The same problem is true of strobe lights.

  7. The fifth thing wrong with 3-D technology is that it is horribly over-priced. The current shutter 3-D TV system comes from technology that is at least 30 years old. A friend of mine bought a 3-D program for his computer (I believe it was a TRS-80) back in the early-80s. It was the same shutter glasses set up that is being touted as “new” technology. He paid less than $100 for the program and the glasses. The only difference was that the glasses were controlled using a wire, not a radio signal. What’s wrong with using other systems that are seen in theaters such as “Real 3-D” that doesn’t use that “shutter technology” and the 3-D is just as good as with shutters? These are also much cheaper. Maybe that’s the problem; they are cheaper.

  8. The fifth thing wrong with 3-D technology is that it is horribly over-priced. The current shutter 3-D TV system comes from technology that is at least 30 years old. A friend of mine bought a 3-D program for his computer (I believe it was a TRS-80) back in the early-80s. It was the same shutter glasses set up that is being touted as “new” technology. He paid less than $100 for the program and the glasses. The only difference was that the glasses were controlled using a wire, not a radio signal. What’s wrong with using other systems that are seen in theaters such as “Real 3-D” that doesn’t use that “shutter technology” and the 3-D is just as good as with shutters? These are also much cheaper. Maybe that’s the problem; they are cheaper.

  9. 3D video technology will have to move beyond the glasses for me to adopt it and then it would have to be as smooth as 2D television. I wear glasses and some days have enough problems with eye fatigue without adding to it with 3D technology that, so far, usually gives me a headache (I haven’t tried the “Real D 3D” currently being used in theaters for that same reason). As a matter of fact, I specifically do NOT go to 3D movies. If it’s not available in my area in 2D, I’ll wait until it comes out on video.

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