Thought 1: 3D Television is going to be a flop for the next few years.
- Price - Interested in watching your movies in 3D? Here's what you'll need: a new TV, a 3D compatible Blu-Ray player, and Blu-Ray discs that are optimized for 3D viewing. Oh, and don't forget about purchasing 3D glasses for every member of your family, which have an MSRP of about $180 a pop. That stuff adds up quickly. I can see some folks willing to shell out all that cash just to watch Avatar in 3D, but I don't know about the non-niche consumers.
- Exclusionary Experience - And about those 3D glasses: if you aren't wearing them, you won't be able to appreciate whatever you're watching in 3D. So let's say that you own four pairs of those glasses and happen to have five friends over. You can see where this is going; they're going to be a little left out.
Thought 2: 3D will stick around in theaters.
- Initial Investment - Regardless of what happens in the development of 3D in movie theaters, theater owners have put a lot of money into this thing. I don't picture them being willing to just toss out those fancy 3D projectors anytime soon.
- Consumer Intelligence - Audiences are going to become a lot smarter about 3D. Currently there are two types of 3D films: there are movies that were shot in 3D - like Avatar - and films that weren't and just have 3D effects thrown in in post-production, like Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. I've already heard folks - not exactly what you'd call cinephiles - say things like, "The 3D in that movie was really cheap." Word of mouth travels fast in this era - note this site called Is it Real or Fake 3D? Studios need to keep this in mind; perhaps they ought to start slapping a "Made in real 3D" sticker on films that were actually made in 3D.
- Narrative Enhancement - Most of the successful technological innovations in film have had some grounding in enhancing a film's narrative. The addition of sound to films let filmmakers expand their creative horizons pretty damn significantly. Varied cinematography, like the stuff in Citizen Kane, added new emotional depth to stories. Color was another wonderful addition to the toolbox, as The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind proved. Innovations like Smell-o-Vision haven't been quite as successful; I think that's because they weren't implemented in a way that added something to the film's ability to tell a story. So far the same applies to 3D. True, 3D makes stuff like Piranha 3D and Avatar look really awesome, but at this point it hasn't done jack shit for visual storytelling. This needs to change. Whether that'll happen anytime soon is anyone's guess.
Thought 3: 3D will be a big deal for video games.
- Individual Experience - So far I've been kind of pessimistic about the prospects of 3D as a part of the cinematic experience. I feel a little differently when it comes to video games. There are a lot of reasons for this, most notably that video gaming is, for the most part, an individual experience. That means implementing it effectively (and cost effectively) into gaming is a lot cheaper than making it a part of films, which have traditionally been more of a group experience. Case in point:
- The Nintendo 3DS - Have you heard about this thing? It's Nintendo's successor to the DS. There are the traditional graphical enhancements, sure, but the new big thing is that you'll be able to play games in full poppy-outty 3D without having to wear 3D glasses. That's huge. (It works because the 3DS screen is much smaller than a regular TV, and thus has a much smaller viewing angle.) Folks who have given it a try have been very impressed. Nintendo's been doing a great job at being an industry leader these days - were Sony or Microsoft interested in motion gaming before the Wii? - and I don't doubt that if they can get this right, the rest of the industry will follow suit.
- Gamers Love Gimmicks - It seems like a condescending remark, I know. But let's face it: gamers for the past few years have ate up graphical enhancements that don't do a whole lot in terms of improving gameplay. 3D is a prime example of a graphical enhancement that doesn't necessarily improve gameplay. This is my prediction that I'm most uncertain about, but I think it's worth noting.
Thought 4: The future is yet unwritten.
- Technology Improves - Cue the necessary caveats that are an obligatory part of any piece of futurism. A lot of my knocks against 3D are primarily technology based; the fact that anyone who wants to experience 3D television needs a pair of overpriced glasses is a nice example of that. But here's the thing: one day, the glasses won't be overpriced. And one day, you probably won't even need glasses to experience 3D - just check out the 3DS. Anyway, it'll happen. Just not anytime soon.