Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Commentary: Is 3DTV THAT Urgent Of An "Innovation"?

According to a friend I just got off the phone with, at CES 2011, you "couldn't take ten steps" without someone either handing you a pair of now cool (but still expensive as you have to buy that new TV) 3D glasses, or gently nudging you or using booth babes to lure your toward a glasses-free (and wallet busting) 3D experience. Yeah, yeah, I get it - it works and it works really damn well. The problem is... not everything that's going to be ON those new super sets will be worth watching in three di-mensions, dammit.

Anyone expecting Avatar quality effects in every new TV project is probably going to end up poking themselves in the eye with their new remote after the wave of quickly produced "reality" shows, game shows and made-for-tee-vee crap (more than likely in production) starts flooding the airwaves in the rush to satisfy the small but growing user base. Of course, if you HATED Avatar, you probably don't care much for 3D in your TV either. That pic above is a shot from the 1961 movie THE MASK (or Eyes of Hell), a Canadian-made psychological horror flick that tried to bring 3D back into theaters, but didn't quite succeed. It's a cult classic now (I remember when it reappeared in the 80's as a WPIX "event" movie with 3D glasses available all around the NYC area), but I also consider it a cautionary tale of sorts.

Granted, the current and back catalog of far better made 3D movies are all waiting for their cable debuts as timed exclusives or whatever, but old fogeys like me don't want to see our favorite shows or news go this gimmicky route any time soon or if at all. If I hear that Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad or The Walking Dead are getting 3D episodes or that there's going to be a mandatory 3D standard as HD is phased out, I'll be among the ones shredding the cable bill and playing more games instead. Oh alright, maybe after watching Coraline and a few other flick I didn't pay to see in 3D when they were in theaters. But I'm STILL going back to games if 3D creeps into where it doesn't need to be.

Speaking of games, let's NOT see too many of them get saddled with the 3D treatment, please (or at least make the experience optional). It's hard enough to make a great game that doesn't require a half-dozen patches these days, and sticking a developer with the task of adding that extra level of immersion only works when they're skilled enough to blow players off their couches without the eye-popping 3D. Sony is on the right track so far with their 3D games, not forcing consumers into buying that Bravia or shoving 3D onto the PSPhone (c'mon Sony, the jig is up - just REVEAL the already leaked thing and get it over with).

Microsoft is (so far) heavily ignoring 3D on the Xbox 360 in favor of Kinect-ing as many new and core users as possible and as for the 3DS, well... it's looking good, but Nintendo has to SQUASH the "It'll make little Johnny BLIIIND!!!" frenzy that hit not too long ago and will rear its ugly head again as the new handheld approaches its launch. Yeah, it's going to be a REALLY interesting tech year. And don't even get me started on the whole tablet craze. As nuts as the 3D was at the show, the amount of iPad killers and wannabes about to flood into stores is ridiculous to the point that Apple pretty much has to reinvent their products (again) to keep up with the better features many of these upcoming tech toys have.

Ah, the circle of digital life goes on, I guess...

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