John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

3D: I STILL pretty much hate you!

Posted on January 23, 2011 at 9:07 PM

 One of my first posts here was titled “3D: I kind of already hate you.” Disenchanted by the overwhelming marketing hype that was cramming this new technology down our throats with a giant, splinterey, 3D battering ram – even though 3D sets hadn’t even been released by that point – that was all the consumer electronics industry could talk about.

 

In that post, I cited seven reasons why I was already pretty much already done with 3D. Now, after nearly a year of simmering on it, and having actual 3D in the marketplace, and seeing even more 3D sets and demos, and surviving a CEDIA and an even-by-proxy CES packed to overflowing with 3D announcements from virtually any manufacturer that has anything even remotely to do with video manufacture, I’ve decided that I’m no more a fan now than I was then.

 

And I've come up with eight fresh reasons why I’m still pretty much over 3D:

 

1. The industries falsely created hype and demand for 3D.

Even with the horrible sales numbers of 3D sets so far – resulting in a Rocky III Mr. T level routing of Best Buy’s stock price – they are predicting 4 million sets to have been shipped worldwide this year. Now that is 4 million sets SHIPPED. Not 4 million sets sold. But, mark my words, you are going to see a gigantic, monumental, colossal increase in that sales number next year. Why? Is it because people have decided that they love-love 3D TV so much? And that they’ve come around to embrace this new dimension because regular HDTV is so lame? No. It’s because 3D is going to become a de facto feature in new TVs, trickling down to virtually every price point. Basically, like HDTV is now. Go on. Just try and buy a set over 22-inches that isn’t at least 720p resolution. Unless you are cruising the back alley, knock-off section in China Town, good luck. And that’s going to be the same with 3D. So, if you buy a new TV over 40-inches, chances are it will be a 3D TV, whether you want it or not. Now, I’ve not done any looking for it, but I’m sure there is some Web-quote out there touting the millions and *millions* and MILLIONS of 3D capable Blu-ray players that have been sold with some kind of generic, bogus quote like, “All of these Blu-ray players in the market are a demonstrable fact that the public is hungry, nay, the public is STARVING for 3D TV!” BS. Total and utter B to the S. Because nearly ANY Blu-ray player that you’d purchase now is 3D capable. When my PS3’s drive crapped out, I asked S+V’s review’s editor, Al Griffin, if he had an extra player just lying around that I could use. He did. An old cast-off. And IT is 3D capable. So, yeah, millions of 3D Blu-ray players sold? Absolutely. Millions of Blu-ray players being used to display 3D movies? Hells to the no.

 

2. The continued dearth of 3D content.

To throw their full support behind this new, burgeoning format, surely all of the studios have fired off both barrels and flooded the market with amazing movies for everyone to enjoy. Right? I mean they have taken the absolute best of the 3D commercial releases and brought them to market to support all of these early 3D TV adopters, right? Right?! No. So far the titles that have been released have, by and large, sucked ass. Like, you wouldn’t want to watch them at all, in ANY D. Here is a list of titles that are available for purchase as I write this. I am going to divide them into three categories, “mainstream,” documentary and children’s films. (I write “mainstream’ because when you see the majority of the films in this list, you’ll see that they are far from being actual mainstream titles...)

 

“Mainstream”: Saw: The Final Chapter 3D, Piranha 3D, Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D, Step Up 3D: Make your Move, Clash of the Titans 3D, My Bloody Valentine 3D. Total titles: 6. Number of titles that could be considered technically, commercially successful: Three. Maybe? I’m counting Clash, Resident Evil and Saw in there. Number of these movies you’d watch more than one time and actual considering owning? Clash. Maybe...?

 

Documentary/IMAX: The Universe: 7 Wonders of the Solar System 3D, Under the Sea 3D, Deep Sea 3D, Official 2010 FIFA World Cup Film in 3D, Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk 3D, Space Station 3D, Dinosaurs Alive! 3D, Wild Ocean 3D. Number of titles: 8. Number that were even moderately successful: None. Number of titles that I’m betting all of my readers – combined – have seen: None. Though I’m sure that the World Cup in 3D will be a huge smash in Spain.

 

Children’s/Animated: Coraline 3D, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole 3D, Despicable Me 3D, Magic Forest 3D, A Christmas Carol 3D, Open Season 3D, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore 3D, The Polar Express 3D, Monster House 3D, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 3D. Number of titles: 10.

 

3. 3D, not so good for kids. No, not so much.

Now some of those kid’s titles were actually pretty good, and I was happy to watch Despicable Me and Open Season and Cloudy (all in traditional 2D Blu-ray, mind you) once. Maybe even two or three times. But you know the demographic most likely to watch these films over and over and over again? And then over and over some more. Kids. And you know the people that have been told to seriously limit their 3D viewing? Yeah. Kids. According to Samsung’s list of warnings and cautions under “Viewing TV using the 3D function,” parents are cautioned that children and teenagers "should be closely supervised when viewing these images." You know, unless you want your child’s developing eyes and brain to have 3D induced bouts of awesome like: "(1) altered vision; (2) lightheadedness; (3) dizziness; (4) involuntary movements such as eye or muscle twitching; (5) confusion; (6) nausea; (7) loss of awareness; (8 ) convulsions; (9) cramps; and/ or (10) disorientation." So, enjoy supervising your kids and watching that retarded owl movie for the 10th time!

 

3a. Or, on second thought, maybe not for kids at all.

Nintendo ratcheted up the 3D warning rhetoric when they launched their new handheld game player, the 3DS. Instead of calling for supervision, they warned that children under the age of six should not use the new 3D function of the upcoming Nintendo 3DS at all. Apparently the vision in children under six is still developing, and that watching these 3D images "has a potential impact on the growth of children's eyes," according to a statement issued by Nintendo. But really, they have four other senses, so maybe 3D can just help to improve their hearing or sense of smell. Further, Nintendo recommends taking a 3D gaming break every 30 minutes. And if you’ve ever watched a movie with a child under 6, I can tell you that what they LOVE most is being told to STOP watching every 30 minutes. Oh man, it just goes over SO great!

 

4. Hardware exclusive software package/bundle shenanigans.

With the craptastical selection of 3D Blu-rays currently out there, you’d think that the studios would at least be gearing up to provide some compelling reason to buy these new sets and as many 3D discs as possible, right? Shockingly, it is actually the complete opposite. Instead of trying to get lots of great titles to market for everyone, they are signing these exclusive distribution deals. Samsung, for example, had exclusive rights to bundle Monster vs Aliens, How to Train Your Dragon and all four Shrek 3D titles for three months. Sony has entered into an agreement with Disney to be the exclusive provider of many of their 3D titles, starting with Alice in Wonderland. In the biggest – and most 3D sales crushing coup – Panasonic has locked up an exclusive of Avatar. You know, THAT Avatar, as in the most successful film of all-time and the movie that actually established what 3D SHOULD be. Yeah, you can’t buy it. Until sometime in 2012. Unless you buy – or already bought – a Panasonic 3D TV. And, sure that might be a good one-time strategy. But once you’ve bought your first TV, why should you be locked out of getting new titles. Do you buy a Sony now to get Alice or do you wait to get one with Toy Story 3D? Or Tron? Or...? Yeah, sucks to be you. Filed under “and the heinous 3D hits just keep on coming!” Best Buy managed to lock down their own exclusive title deal. If you want to buy – oh man, I can’t even say it with a straight face – if you want to actually OWN the digital nightmare which was The Last Airbender on 3D, well, you’ll have to go down to Best Buy to get it. I’d recommending going late – really late – at night so no one sees you actually buying this piece of shame. And please, for safety on the roads, don’t all rush out at once! Form a safe and orderly line in the 3D movie section; I’ve no doubt that there are plenty of copies available for everyone. Paaaaa-lenty.

 

5. Not all 3D is created equal.

For the most part, ALL HD looks good. It doesn’t matter if you’re watching Iron Chef or Iron Man, Monday night football or Friday Night Lights or Saturday Night Live or whatever. HD generally looks awesome. Sure, some films can appear soft at times and we reviewers nitpick their less than inky blacks or grain or whatever, but at the end of the day, most HD looks awesome. The same definitely can’t be said for 3D. First, almost no movies are actually made in 3D. They are 3D-ified in post. With some computer processing and some virtual camera work and some rendering time limited only by the amount of money they want to pump into it, 3D effects are added to 2D material in post production. And when people say, “Oh, I just love 3D! I saw Avatar like ten times and it was amazing! Do you ever have dreams where you actually live on Pandora and speak Na’vi? Seriously. Do you?” These people need to realize that Avatar was a special – very special – exception to the 3D experience. Made by an amazing director with virtually no budget and created in 3D every step of the way. In essence, Avatar does not, in ANY way, equal the typical 3D experience.

 

6. Living in 3D is not like movie watching in 3D.

We live in a 3D world. We see things with depth and range and perspective every time we open up both of our eyes. (Well, most of us do. There is some percentage of the population that doesn’t have stereoscopic vision.) But most 3D material doesn’t try to replicate this added depth. Oh no. (Though I’ll hand it to Pixar, they don’t seem to go over the top with their use of 3D. While I didn’t feel that the 3D experience added one iota to my Toy Story 3 enjoyment, I don’t feel like it took anything away from it either. Of course, Pixar is the modern day Demigod, down from Olympus to bless us with awesomeness. All hail, Pixar!) Instead of being subtle, most films have to go for the over the top, obviously 3D, 21st century version of the guy hitting the paddle ball into the camera or hurling a spear towards the audience. When watching 3D movies – even in 2D – you are almost pulled out of the experience – the new loss of that critical suspension of disbelief – by these scenes that have been so obviously engineered to create the eye-jarring, poke at the audience effect. In real life, even when things are coming right at you, they aren’t 3D coming right at you. The only time that I’ve had an actual, real life, 3D objects coming at me experience was a few weeks ago when we drove to Alabama for a funeral in a blizzard. It was pitch black. I was the only car on the road. My headlights the only illumination. Total blizzard. And these big, puffy, white cotton balls of snow was all I could see. Millions of them. Whizzing into the windshield. At first it was fine. Then Dana said, “Wow! All that snow! It’s making me really dizzy. Like when you watch 3D or something.” Then I started thinking about it. And I started to get this really weird, disoriented vertigo-ey feeling. All of a sudden I felt like I was standing completely still, and the world was whizzing towards and past me. Except my hands and brain told me that the car was moving. The world out the windshield looked like the Millennium Falcon making the jump to lightspeed. It was dizzying and horrible and made me want to close my eyes and lie down. Except of course, I couldn’t, because of being on I-20 and all. And that’s what many 3D effects feel like. Except with – hopefully – far less chance of killing your entire family.

 

7. Entertainment systems are already plenty complicated enough.

Look, I am in the service side of the TV industry. I answer phone calls every day from people that own and try to operate their A/V systems. And I can tell you with absolute, 100%, complete and utter certainty that adding 3D into the mix – with the TV and its settings and the Blu-ray player and its settings and the glasses and their syncing – that it is NOT going to make things easier. With most people struggling to figure out that they need to change the input on their TV, this new wrinkle is going to be like watching someone struggling to juggle two tennis balls and then tossing them a flaming hoop and running chainsaw. You know, just to mix it up a bit. In fact, I had a real difficulty getting my first 3D install to work and I’m supposed to know what the hell I’m doing with this stuff! And not filling me with any kind of warm-fuzzy was the fact that Panasonic’s tech support Pana-sucked.

 

7a. Holy crap, Panasonic! Are you serious with this?!

To just seal the fate that there is going to be a massive, cluster bomb of screw up and confusion, Panasonic is actually publishing “James Cameron’s Preferred Settings” for watching Avatar at home. “To enjoy the highest possible 3D picture quality of Avatar, James Cameron suggests to use the special setting below.” Which, on the surface, is actually totally kind of awesome. I mean, wow! The king of the world himself is telling you how to adjust your TV for the optimum experience of watching his movie! Sweet! But once you scratch away that first thin veneer of awesome, you reveal a rusty undercoating fraught with problems. And makes the idea seem like straight out of the king of the world of crazy talk. For some TV owners, giving yourself what I like to call “The Cameron” or “A Good Cameron-ing” you need to download and install new firmware for your set. After completing the 9 step update process, customers are advised, “If you have any problems after installing the new firmware, please contact your local sales company.” So, that just puffs me up will all kinds of confidence that there isn’t any way that this is gonna totally turn your 3D TV into a giant, ornamental “Well, kids, looks like we aren’t watching Avatar tonight. How about a game of Sorry?” wall brick. And I *love* that they tell people to call their “local sales company” and NOT Panasonic directly. “Whoops! Sorry the firmware that we developed and then told you to install on the TV we made didn’t go over so well. But, uh, don’t call us. Kay? Make this someone else’s problem. Ba-bye!” Then they are led through several screens of adjusting picture quality and settings and color temperatures and actual tweaks to the set’s grayscale. Now, in theory – IN THEORY – this is a good thing. And if every single Panasonic TV that rolled off the line were made to the exact same tolerance and specification and every video board and chip and processing element and setting left the factory producing an identical image, then this would be great. Except, they don’t. And by just blindly making these adjustments to contrast and color and red and blue grayscale values – instead of using test patterns and tools capable of measuring these things – you are every bit as likely to make the picture worse. Now, I’ve no doubt that these are the settings that worked on the Panasonic TV that James Cameron used. But unless you bought that TV from ole JC on E-Bay, well, then using his settings is a crapshoot. You’d be just a well off using the settings on my TV. And, no, you can’t have them.

 

Bonus reason for hating 3D:

When movie Jedi Master, Roger Ebert, himself says that he hates 3D, maybe you should listen. I mean, this guy has seen like every movie ever and when he says, “3D is 3-D is a waste of a perfectly good dimension [and] Hollywood’s current crazy stampede toward it is suicidal” maybe you should listen up. You can read Mr. Ebert's article from Newsweek here.

 

I’ll close by stealing a line from my first post on hating 3D. Rather than straddling the fence on 3D, I'm still pretty much firmly rooted in the 2D camp; happily watching my Pioneer Elite Plasma and looking over the fence, sneering and shouting at 3D to keep his dog from crapping on my 2D lawn and to pick his trash up and for Pete’s sake, stop sticking things in my face!

Categories: January 2011, 3D TV, Rants

Post a Comment

Oops!

Oops, you forgot something.

Oops!

The words you entered did not match the given text. Please try again.

Already a member? Sign In

5 Comments

Reply lykitiz
2:40 AM on January 24, 2011 
Some good points, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But I like 3D. Not for viewing reruns of Gilligans Island, but for playing video games. 3D gaming could be a reason for many people to buy a 3D TV over the next year. 3D movies and other content is just an added bonus for me.
Reply bob
7:20 AM on January 24, 2011 
I can't argue with any of your points John. The only thing that I would say is that the format does not look like it's going to fade away like other fad technologies.
From the enthusiasts and dealer perspective I'd add that purchasing a 3D display or projector does put you into a higher performance category for your 2D content. What I mean by that is that 3D is typically included in higher end products, it's not an entry level technology and so people that buy these products are getting top-of-the-line performance options for their 2D viewing.
Reply John Sciacca
4:25 PM on January 24, 2011 
Thanks to Adam Sohmer -- PR Jedi and all around good guy -- and Darryl Wilkinson -- Dark Lord of the Sith, Home Theater editor at large and all around expert stick poker -- for forwarding a link to Roger Ebert's latest piece on 3D published yesterday. Titled "Why 3D doesn't work and never will. Case closed." Some interesting reading from a guy that knows a thing or two about watching movies... http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2011/01/post_4.html
Reply John Sciacca
4:29 PM on January 24, 2011 
lykitiz says...
Some good points, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But I like 3D. Not for viewing reruns of Gilligans Island, but for playing video games. 3D gaming could be a reason for many people to buy a 3D TV over the next year. 3D movies and other content is just an added bonus for me.

I could see the gaming benefits of 3D, but could also see the even MORE massive headache it would induce from concentrating and focusing so hard and having your eyes have to fight extra hard to focus and converge in imaginary space. One you get past that first blinding, searing migrane, though, you should be home free!
Reply patrice congard
4:38 AM on January 26, 2011 
I personnally feel that the real criterion is the "suspension of disbelief". For this to happen, it requires the 3D effects to become realistic, and not to need wearing glasses.
Regarding the second point, one interesting, although fairly unknwon technology is called "allioscopy". Their main problem is that they are not big enough to have the software production made according to their standard. Still, they achieve some 3D display without the need for glasses, but I never had a chance to properly evaluate it.