Does tech suffer blurred vision on 3D future?
Death of field...
Part 1 With the advent (again) of 3D, the movie industry has over the past couple of years turned big-time to IT for support. Over the same period the TV manufacturers have been looking to 3D to boost sales that started flagging once the first craze for HD has passed. So how are the effects of the current 3D phase showing up on the IT industry's bottom lines?
Image via Shutterstock
The first fact to face is that 3D hasn't turned out to be anything like the bonanza Hollywood and the TV manufacturers were hoping for. James Cameron's hit Avatar, the most expensive, but also the highest-grossing movie of all time, appeared in 2009 as the confident leader of the current 3D revival, triggering a spate of shot-in-3D and 2D-to-3D bandwagon jumpers. Server farms across the globe ran white-hot 24/7 crunching the frames, while at home families were invited to throw out their newly acquired HD TVs and spend an extra grand or so to sit around in retro Polaroid shades watching the few 3D Blu-ray disks the market was able to provide.
3D TV not the cash cow manufacturers hoped for
Even Avatar couldn't save the 3D TV. Image via Shutterstock
Is that 3D tide now on the ebb? There's certainly a lot of shingle showing up on the beach. The high price of the yen and widespread public indifference to the new eye-grabbing technology have triggered a huge retrenchment from the Japanese TV manufacturers. Hitachi, way ahead of the curve, quit the TV business towards the end of 2009, around the time all the other players were thinking the White Knight had arrived in the form of that Avatar theatrical release.
Panasonic, whose 3D TV's exclusively bundled the Blu-ray version of Avatar, is now projecting a 420 billion yen (£3.4 bn) net loss – attributable mostly to its TV division. Its largest plasma plant is suspending production, proprietary plasma know-how having been the prime push behind Panasonic's 3D TV marketing.
Sharp's brand new LCD panel factory at Kameyama has scheduled an 80 per cent cut in production, and poor Sony, besieged on all sides over the past 18 months – as CEO Sir Howard Springer puts it: "We've had everything but toads and pestilence" – is now warning of a 90 billion yen (£0.74bn) loss this year, which would make it Sony's fourth successive year in the red. In consequence the company seems to be on the brink of pulling out of its LCD panel manufacturing venture with Samsung.
Less than 40 per cent of punters watched Pirates of the
Caribbean: On Stranger Tides in 3D. Image via Shutterstock
Hollywood has fared little better on the 3D front. True, total box office receipts were up 5 per cent last year, but only thanks to a 7 per cent hike in seat prices: the total number of tickets sold actually fell. You could argue that 3D was paying off, because it was smash hit movies like Toy Story 3, excellently executed in 3D, that justified the ticket price rise. But ultimately the movie industry isn't about the price you can gouge for the seats, but the number of bums that fill them.
In 2009, Avatar was watched in 3D by 80 per cent of all punters queuing for the movie. That percentage has dropped radically for the latest movies. For Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Pirates 4), less than 40 per cent of the takings came from 3D tickets.
Next page: How much do movie-goers care about 3D?
Eggs and baskets
3D isn't dead but I don't think it's going to see mainstream uptake in TV or cinema; watching those is something one does to relax and it's hard to relax when your wearing 3D glasses, more so when it's used as a substitute for good film-making.
Hollywood have bet the farm and may have lost because they tried to use 3D to supplant the gap in substance resulting from the writer's strike, they're paying them more but they're working less (8 episode seasons anyone?) and I've been pretty underwhelmed by the vast majority of films and TV lately, it's all just bland, lowest common denominator stuff.
Gaming is the future home of 3D, another step toward the total immersion games developers strive to achieve already with high-end casts and budgets. I've yet to upgrade my rig to utilise the 3D features already cropping up in big titles but I'd bet my farm on that.
Went to watch my first 3D film last night as it wasn't being shown in 2D. Totally underwhelmed, ignoring the fact I had to hold the glasses up over my specs for the entire film, the D wasn't very 3.
Example being any scene with a group of people in, instead of seeing a sea of heads, it was more like looking at bunch of 2D cardboard cut outs moving round.
On the whole, didn't add anything to the film apart from sore arms and took from me extra cash.
Anyone with an ounce of sense
knew from the outset that the only possible successful niches are gaming and CGI kids movies. Outside of that, nobody gives a shite about paper-cutout 3D. Especially not when it was such a transparent ploy to extract more money from people who'd just shelled out for HD.