3D – The Emperor’s New Clothes

James Cameron at the eTalk Festival Party, dur...

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James Cameron has much to answer for – and I am not referring to Titanic. Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the marvellous Avatar, the 3D presentation did not especially bring the film to life for me, and heralded a mad rush to promote the inclusion / adoption of the technology. With the glut of depth-mastered films came a push by UK trailblazer Sky Broadcasting to get it’s transmission of a new channel lined up with the release of 3D TV devices by the main manufacturers.

Fast forward a year and consumer electronics is heralding the arrival of sooper-dooper hand-held gaming devices which now also sport the Emperor’s new clothes. But is anyone really forking out on the new reality ? It really is getting silly when it seems any device simply has to have a “3D” moniker to get sold.

So it started with movies: apart from being able to scratch out a few quid to rent a pair of Michael Caine’s to the great unwashed, film producers loved the fact that 3D presentations are more difficult to pirate. Marketing machine into overdrive, then, as the studios decide to pump megabucks into a parade of perspective-warping wonders. Problem is that, whilst the effect is interesting for the first 15 minutes of a film, it rapidly dwindles away as your eyes adjust.  I discovered the added delight of eye strain and the warning signs of a major headache. Couple this with washed out colour depth and parallax errors (image ‘faults’ caused by your position in the cinema relative to the screen) and it becomes tiresome. Pointless, then, verging on the painful.

Hardware manufacturers took the studio hype and spun it into Blue Ray players and TVs with 3D capability. Again, the ever-present speccie accompaniments remain obligatory for what becomes an even quicker case of ‘so what’ than the big screen. Not helped by a huge chorus of everyone but the ultimate tech-heads not running to the shops to snaffle grand-plus-price-tagged gear.

Then comes Sky TV with its 3D ambitions. Hot on the heels of the new tellies in the shops, the Murdoch Men shape up to transmit more parallax-pony to the masses. The marketing of Sky 3D – very evident in Banker Central, aka London City – has quietened down of late. Again, I suspect take-up has been tiny. It has gone from “Build it, And They Will Come” to “Never Mind The Quality, Feel The Depth”.

And so to 3D gaming consoles. Now that’s a reasonable idea – immersive gaming sounds a treat but so far only available on, er, hand-held devices such as the Nintendo 3DS. Another shot in the foot for Consumer Electronics. Not to be outdone, HP and others launch the 3D laptop. Possibly the most farcical device ever invented ! Would I really want to venture into my Facebook page ? Could it possibly improve my productivity to see around the edges of my Microsoft Word document  ? Nope. Still, they have managed to create a slick-looking piece of kit which no longer requires the ridiculous bins to view the other dimension. Problem is, do I really want to carry round 3D movies to watch on-the-go ? I cannot see the point of a 3D laptop. Worse still to come with the charming 3G phone from LG – unless of course I can talk to a holographic representation of my called party. Hmmm.

3D through whatever medium – and certainly in its current, largely bespectacled form – is novel but is hardly going to revolutionise the visual arts. Given a choice between the available dimensions of any movie, I will probably continue to plump for an old-fashioned number 2.


SimonDecember 22nd, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Jason Hiner at TechRepublic weighs-in on this one (originally published in April 2011) :


SimonNovember 5th, 2013 at 11:17 pm

Shock !! Horror !!! Eminent and otherwise sensible film critic and wittertainer, Mark Kermode, is getting confused in his old age on this particular topic:


SimonNovember 16th, 2013 at 5:27 am

Follow-up on the good doctor’s surprising announcement : Just listened to Mark’s review of Gravity on the weekly Film Review podcast (‘Wittertainment’) and he confirms his diagnosis that this particular film is well worth catching in 3D. Worth a look.