18 July 2008

The Reality of 3-D Television

One of the biggest financial elements for any film production is the promise of DVD and broadcasting sales. Some productions even go so far as to part or gap-finance productions with DVD pre-orders; a practise possible with well-established properties enjoying a big fan base. But what of Stereoscopic 3-D productions?

Beowulf in 3-D on DVD

As written before, films playing in Real-D and Dolby 3-D theatres are simply not released in 3-D on any type of DVD or broadcast on television. There may be the odd distributor taking the step of active or passive 3-D plasma screen format versioning, but such a hardware market is not a real consumer fact yet and work on small screen reversioning is currently still close to working from a belief in the existence of a home theatre 3-D market rather than a basing these costs on a commercial reality. Anaglyph 3-D is still the most accessible and cost-effective 3-D release format for the small screen, yet it is quickly acquiring a bad name in the industry.

DIY Analgpyh 3-D with a CD Jewel case and felt pen markers
How not to watch analgpyh 3-D...

For some reason (most likely a financial one), Disney has distributed only 1 million anaglyph glasses and then asks of home viewers to construct their own anaglyph 3-D glasses using felt pens, clear film and cardboard for the Hannah Montana 3-D broadcast and DVD release. No surprise then that the girls doing this will walk away with a justified hate of very poor quality 3-D, but sadly also a distrust of anaglyph 3-D as a whole. Proper filtering using the red and blue of anaglyph is certainly possible and the results can be on par with a polarized projection solution, minus the hardware headaches and investments that polarized projection bring with it. But of course the think-tank at Real-D will advice Disney to distribute Hannah Montanna’s 3-D concert in this DIY way: it will be yet another nail in the coffin of consumer trust in anaglyph 3-D. Journalists are certainly doing a great job helping them with this, bashing anything other than polarized, digital projection on a daily basis – often without ever even having witnessed a proper anaglyph presentation themselves. But that’s the way these cookies crumble.

Hannah Montana in 3-D

Practically speaking, what would a saturated, well functioning 3-D television market look like? The daily news in 3-D (rising interest rates – now in 3-D), the weather report in 3-D (tomorrow: more stereoscopic rain), sports broadcasts in 3-D (poor refereeing in and extra time in 3 Dimensions), cooking programs in 3-D (carrots flying left and right out of the screen), talkshows in 3-D (talking to the hand that’s comin’ at ya, coz the 3-D face ain’t listening), soaps in 3-D (pregnant with her husband’s best friend – in stereo, so probably with twins)…

3-D Television Camera

In such a future, 3-D is the standard and 3-D cameras will be simple to operate, locked down to an EBU standard interocular, with SMPTE limited convergence control and, finally, an industry standard handbook on how to work it all. 57 3-D channels and still nothing on! Maybe 3-D TV should stay limited to a 3-D film and special event channel. Hannah Montana 3D, U23D, the NBA and World Cup rugby final in 3-D, followed by a late showing of Hondo (in all of its restored 3-D glory), House of Wax, Chicken Little, Beowulf and a 3-D converted Wizard of Oz. That will work and it will keep 3-D special. Because everyday 3-D will become as dull as 2-D in our present experience.

Hondo 3-D
3-D Converted still from the 2-D version of Hondo -
just to complicate things even further

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