The great experiment in 3D television is over. Effective this year, no more manufacturers are offering the 3D feature on their HDTV models, choosing instead to push for 4k Ultra HD without 3D (even though the two can easily co-exist). Does this development upset you, or have been you cheering for the death of 3D?
Back in late 2010, I moderated a panel on Blu-ray interactivity at an industry conference in Los Angeles. Nobody really cared about my panel, which was fine by me since I’m very nervous about public speaking. The featured guest at the event was James Cameron, who spoke earlier in the day to promote the impending 3D release of ‘Avatar‘ on Blu-ray (which would be exclusively offered as a pack-in promotional item with the purchase of Panasonic 3D televisions). The tone of the conference tried to push 3D as the biggest revolution in home video technology since DVD. Cameron assured the attendees that 3D television was a perfected and flawless product that would arrive fully-formed out of the gate.
Of course, that didn’t turn out to be true. 3D on TV had and continues to have a lot of issues, the most serious of which is the problem of “ghosting,” or 3D crosstalk artifacts that make the experience of watching 3D distracting and even painful on many types of televisions, especially LCD televisions. The inevitable dimming of the picture while watching through 3D glasses is also often a huge disappointment.
Beyond technical problems, the biggest hurdle 3D TV faced was consumer apathy. Many viewers either don’t care about 3D or actively dislike it. Even many of those who do like it don’t enjoy needing to wear clunky 3D glasses to watch a movie. Although some manufacturers touted the development of glasses-free 3D, that technology required viewers to sit in very specific sweet-spots for the 3D effect to work, which was not terribly convenient or practical.
Even as the feature became almost ubiquitous in HDTV models for a while, 3D never quite caught on with viewers, many of whom would refuse to buy 3D glasses or software despite owning compatible televisions. In recent years, major manufacturers like LG and Vizio dropped support for 3D, a decision that had negligible impact on their sales. This year, even the last of the hold-outs gave up on 3D for their flat-panel TVs.
This doesn’t mean that 3D is entirely dead. 3D movies continue to be made and are successful enough in theaters to justify more of them. For the purposes of home theater, many projectors still offer 3D with no sign of that changing. However, we’re already seeing home video studios curtail their 3D releases on Blu-ray, either by exclusively bundling it with Ultra HD discs or not offering it at all on some titles.
For my part, I enjoy 3D when it’s done well and enhances the movie. Unfortunately, it isn’t always done well. Too many Hollywood movies are converted from 2D to 3D as an afterthought with no appreciable benefit to the film. In those cases, I’d just as soon watch in the brighter and more colorful 3D.
I own a 3D DLP projector (DLP is the only display format immune from crosstalk artifacts) and will try to keep it in good working order for as long as I can. I’ve just ordered a replacement lamp for it this week.