Like many of you, Insiders, I sat in a darkened theater a few months ago wearing goofy glasses and was taken to another world. James Cameron’s Avatar demonstrated how far 3D technology has come and what it is capable of. Though it has gone in and out of vogue over the decades, the last year or so has seen a surge in the number of films released in 3D, and theater owners are scrambling to install 3D systems across the country. Every Pixar and Dreamworks animation project on the docket will be released in 3D and Warner Bros. even did a last-minute 3D retrofit on Clash of the Titans to jump on the bandwagon.
It’s not just the moviegoing public that’s enraptured with 3D movies. Studios see them as a way to help fill the revenue gap left by declining DVD sales, as 3D shows command a significant premium over regular films’ ticket prices. As studios and producers of 3D technology line their pockets from the format’s recent box office success, it’s only natural that their attention should turn towards the next big potential 3D venue: home entertainment.
Late last year, the Blu-ray Disc Association announced that it had finalized its ‘Blu-ray 3D’ specification, which calls for every 3D Blu-ray product to be compatible with any 3D display, be it LCD, plasma or another tech. Since then, major manufacturers such as Panasonic, Sony, LG and Samsung have announced or released 3D-compatible HDTVs.
While studios, electronics manufacturers and everyone else with a stake in the home 3D game is hoping that consumers quickly jump on board with the new technology, I feel that it’s going to be a long, slow road to widespread 3D adoption in the home. Here are the three main reasons I feel that the 3D format is not ready for prime time in the home yet:
This is by far the biggest obstacle standing in home 3D’s way. You know that shiny new 50″ HDTV you bought last year? It won’t be 3D-compatible, and you’ll have to invest in a new set that is significantly more expensive than a traditional high-definition TV set.
With the country just beginning to emerge from a crippling recession, and with the Blu-ray format yet to solidify itself in the majority of American homes, it seems unlikely that a new, even more expensive format is going to quickly gain traction.
While 3D glasses have come a long way since the nose-cutting, red and blue paper specs of yore, they are still required for 3D viewing in theaters and in the home. They can be uncomfortable and awkward, and aren’t cheap either. 3D HDTV sets generally ship with a few pairs, but if you have a family or group of friends that are going to be watching a movie with you, additional pairs costing up to $150 apiece will be required. Manufacturers hope to eventually provide 3D images without the need for glasses, but for the foreseeable future, if you want 3D you’re stuck with specs.
Lack of Content
Even if you can get past the expense of new equipment and the annoyance of glasses, you’re not going to have much to watch on your new 3D setup. Only a few 3D Blu-ray titles are currently available, and they are often exclusively bundled with certain manufacturer’s devices because of studio alliances. Some television channels, including ESPN and Discovery, plan to offer 3D content, but it won’t begin to be available until later this year. A large supply of content that appeals to a broad swath of consumers is, by all appearances, a long way off.
Your turn to chime in, Insiders. Do you have more hope for the quick adoption of 3D in the home than I do? What are some potential factors that could induce quicker acceptance of the new format? How likely are you to purchase a 3D-capable set in the near future?