3D Mania

During the last couple of years 3-D has become more and more prevalent. In the past, 3-D was always a special occasion type of entertainment, typically found in amusement parks. While I am sure the trend has been building for some time, it seems that the release of Toy Story 1 and 2 in 3-D started this latest ball rolling.

I took my son to see Toy Story and Toy Story 2 in 3-D a while back. While we were there, they advertised a couple of upcoming movies, also featuring 3-D. I chose not to see A Christmas Carol in 3-D, but even in a regular theater it was obvious that it had been filmed with 3-D in mind. The next time I became aware of 3-D’s imminent rise was the release of Avatar. Considering the long lines, I chose to forgo the 3-D experience for Avatar as well. The movie was just fine in standard mode.

This year’s CES was full of 3-D televisions. Blu-Ray now has a standardized 3-D format. 3-D is everywhere you look. My biggest question at the moment is: why? I have yet to figure out the appeal of 3-D as it currently exists.

Thinking back at all the 3-D shows I have seen over the years, the one that stands out the most to me is Captain Eo at Disneyland. I first saw it when I was 5. Maybe at 5 the glasses fit me better, or maybe I just didn’t notice the flaws, but it pretty much set the standard for 3-D from my perspective. I watched Captain Eo as many times as I could while it was available. When it was removed from Disneyland and replaced with Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, I chose not to waste my time with it. Later, Universal Studios and Disney’s California Adventure added “4-D” shows, which poked and prodded the audience to represent a fourth dimension. Those shows were okay, but the 3-D effects were hard to see with ill-fitting glasses. Even the new Toy Story Mania ride at California Adventure is hit-and-miss for me. Like I said before, maybe Captain Eo spoiled other 3-D for me. Perhaps Back to the Future II did too. When Marty is discovering the futuristic Hill Valley a 3-D ad for Jaws pretends to eat him. I think that technology is still pretty far away from reality. That would definitely be something to see though.

I expect to be bombarded with 3-D at the Digital Signage Expo next month. Following so close behind CES, there is usually some residual excitement hanging over the city of Las Vegas. When I get a look at how 3-D might look in a commercial setting, maybe I’ll see the point of it. Don’t get me wrong. 3-D is really cool. I just keep having disappointing experiences with it.

The thing I don’t get about the home television version of 3-D, though is the crudity of the current technology. Why would I want to wear 3-D glasses in my home given the current picture quality of 3-D? What if I had a bunch of friends over and ran out of 3-D glasses? It just seems like something is missing. Thinking about the various TV technologies out there I have an idea for what the 3-D industry could do to catch my attention. I envision a type of clear display placed a few feet in front of the TV that replaces the standard 3-D glasses. This clear panel would create a semi-holographic image somewhere between the TV and the panel. Anyone in the room could watch it, and nobody would feel self-conscious about the dumb glasses. When this happens, or perhaps when movies go to holographic form, I might be interested. Until then, bring Captain Eo back, Disney, and let’s catch a nostalgic view of the technology again.

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