Where next for 3D?

While the cinema, home theatre and gaming world is a buzz with chatter of 3D, there is still a long way to go before you will be inviting friends around to watch the latest 3D blockbuster in your home.

That's not to say that it won't happen, virtually everyone we've spoken to in the course of our research and interviews for the 3D week on Pocket-lint has said not that it is going to happen, but that it is happening right now and that we are just at the tip of the iceberg.

Most experts we've spoken to also believe that Avatar by James Cameron will be the "watershed" moment for the technology, the Wizard of Oz for colour movies so to speak.

The industry is putting their faith in Cameron's directorial mastery and the, no doubt, massive accompanying marketing budget. If it fails the industry fails. If it succeeds it will open the floodgates to more 3D movies, more 3D enabled cinemas, more 3D enabled televisions, basically more immersing yourself in the experience.

That immersing will take time though. It's not going to happen overnight, the switchover is too expensive. The good news though is that we've got plenty of natural catalysts to help.

The biggest one of course is Hollywood itself. With so many movies in 3D for the cinema now being produced, there will come a time in the not so distance future where studios won't have an effective way of captialising on the home market. Without that the current Hollywood film model of cinema, DVD, TV isn't sustainable.

Take Shawshank Redemption. It is one of the most successful films of all time bringing in untold riches for the studio, but only after it hit DVD. It was a flop at the box office first time around.

A movie's money isn't just made at the cinema. Currently 3D sales in Blu-ray and DVD are virtually non existent. That's a problem.

That urge to relive the cinema experience in the comfort of your own home should cause consumers to demand 3D on their TVs in their homes. Doing so will give the manufacturers the reason to invest in the technology and so then the cycle begins.

Those natural catalysts will be the 15 movies already released in 2009, and the 25-30 movies expected to be released in 2010. Then there will be the re-releases. Lionsgate studio is already talking about re-releasing Titanic and Terminator 2: Judgement Day in 3D. The process in comparable terms is fairly cheap, while the rewards possibly massive. If successful the box office could be huge.

No doubt Lucas films will do a Star Wars 3D extravaganza as a perfect way to get fans of the movies to go to the cinema to see the same film for a yet another time and that's before the re-issued 3D Blu-ray and DVD box sets hit the shops and download stores.

Add that to the World Cup in 2010 and the Olympics in 2012 and you've got even more reasons to buy a bigger TV. Sales reports have always shown that sports and football are good drivers to upgrade your TV, so you might as well get a 3D while your there. Tell me you wouldn't want to see Usain Bolt break the world 100m record in 3D?

Hollywood is well and truly behind the transition to the third-dimension. A flood rather than trickle of content is just around the corner.

On the consumer electronics side are companies like Panasonic, Sony, Toshiba, Samsung, LG, and Philips all hoping that it will be their brand to be the one you opt for when going 3D and are clearly hoping that it will be the perfect way to lift flagging sales.

If we are all expected to buy a new TV within the next 8 years that's a good business model.

All the major manufacturers have concepts or finalised products with sources telling us that there will be plenty of announcements at CES 2010.

Maybe 3D will be the saviour of Blu-ray actually giving it a purpose, rather than just a slightly better picture than DVD. It certainly gives it more than the 5 years we reported on in 2008.

Gaming likewise will be an important element in the adoption of 3D in the home. Gamers are always ahead of the curve when it comes to living room tech and Microsoft and Sony have both used the PS3 and Xbox 360 respectively to get movie downloading into the home, something Windows Media Edition from Microsoft never really managed effectively.

If Sony or Microsoft can successfully introduce 3D gaming into the living room, it is yet another reason to upgrade your television and embrace the three-dimensional world on offer.

So where next? The journey has just started. Formats have to be finalised and finalised quick. As Guy Clapperton, a freelance journalist who has chaired forums at Bafta on 3D told us "The industry can't take another standard wars."

He is right. If consumers like you and I get a whiff of competing 3D standards vying for our cash then it could set the 3D movement back years. Forget 8 years, start talking 20.

Of course the other drawback that the industry has to overcome is this business of having to wear glasses. As Clapperton points out, "Are we really going to be expected to sit in the home and wear sunglasses to watch television?" What happens when you sit on them, lose them, or the dog takes a fancy to them. It's a major hurdle that while not one an early adopter is probably fussed about, it will stop a large number of people from "having a go".

The 3D future is coming. The excitement, interest and intrigue of all those that we've talked to tell us that. It has the power to reinvigorate the home cinema/ home theatre arena and will certainly make the space a lot more interesting than how many connections the latest amp has on the back.

Like the massive change affecting the mobile phone industry at the moment. It puts the content not the hardware centre stage, and for those looking for "the experience" that can only be a good thing.


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