[NOTE: this article was updated after Sony's CES 2017 press conference.]
Samsung, LG, TCL / VIZIO, Hisense, Panasonic, Westinghouse... CES 2017 is upon us and while all the big guns are out slinging a plethora of voice activated, self-driving, Dolby Vision, nanocrystal, quantum dot equipped gadgets, there's one former CES-darling with no buzz at all...3D. My friends, the end is nigh.
3DTVs and Blu-ray 3D debuted in 2009 and 2010 with studios and display manufacturers chasing the public's newfound and 'Avatar'-fueled fascination with stereoscopic 3D content. At the time, simply converting a movie into 3D could drive up box office considerably. Blu-ray (the format) was fortunate in that, with upgraded HDMI ports and cables, it too could offer 3D.
The results were immersive and sharp, but marred by the need to wear active or passive glasses and some horrible (cheap) stereo-conversions. Basically, despite landmark 3D features like 'Gravity' and 'Life of Pi' and 'The Jungle Book', trend-chasers made too many 3D movies, reducing audience appetite, while physical media sales continued to fall. Meaning, the market share of people actively buying and watching 3D content for the home was niche on the best days. Plus, certain display technologies suffered from more cross-talk issues while some viewers experienced headaches.
As Plasma TVs were phased out, the signs were not good for 3DTV. Market leaders Samsung and VIZIO dropped support across their entire product lines while companies like Disney were and are inconsistent at best -- some of their brands get 3D day-and-date...some wait for special editions... some skip the format altogether.
Today and yesterday, LG announced their 2017 OLED and SUHDTVs as Panasonic and Sony announced their own OLED UHD TVs. While these displays will likely win a crap-ton of awards this year, LG confirmed it is officially out of the 3DTV business in a move that, if Sony and Panasonic follow suit, will be the final nails in 3DTV's growing coffin.
To be clear, I fully expect 3D to live in the theatrical environment for some time (especially when it comes to premium auditoriums and/or blockbuster movies) while many 1080p and UHD front projectors still support the format, as do the Ultra HD Blu-ray players. So you can still watch the movies you already own, and studios are still (for how long, I don't know) releasing 3D Blu-ray titles.
What we're talking about is next generation DISPLAYS... 3DTV. As this transition from HD to Ultra HD progresses -- fueled by affordable large screens, Super Bowl sales, and pretty demo reels in big box stores -- most major display manufacturers have dropped 3D support from their feature sets. (It probably doesn't help that Samsung and LG make a lot of panels for other manufacturers.)
The question then becomes what will our 3D fans do moving forward?
I'd love to option up a discussion in our forums about whether or not you plan to keep a 3D display in your main system. If so, will you snag one of the 2016 Ultra HD models as prices drop (the LG E6 is incredible and offers excellent 3D)? Or do you have a projection setup? Or will you slowly be backing away from 3D?
I personally wish 3D would stay on as a feature, but also have to admit I go months at a time without watching 3D at home AND that HDR is striking and engaging and far easier for everyone to enjoy at the same time.
Alas, it seems the future of TVs is here and until the next 3D craze (glasses-free?), it is 2D-only.
May you have a sequel.