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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Skepticism forms against 3D entertainment

A few months ago, Midwest Tape posted a blog discussing 3D: the Future of Entertainment. Since then 3D movies have bombarded the big screen, some even becoming summer blockbusters. But despite big screen popularity, Hollywood industry leaders and consumers alike seem to be forming a resistance toward the emerging 3D entertainment trend.

Hit or Miss
So far, six of this year’s top ten films hit theaters in 3D and altogether more than 20 3D films will release by the end of the year. But while some 3D films like Avatar($749M), Toy Story 3 ($404M), Shrek Forever After ($238M), and Alice in Wonderland ($334M) dominated the box office this summer, others fell short. Films converted to 3D at the last minute like Clash of the Titans ($163M), Step Up 3D ($42M), and Piranha 3D ($18M) drew less than favorable crowds that ended up leaving theaters disappointed.

According to the president of Box Office, Paul Dergarabedian, “As revenues from 3D films rise, there is a great temptation to see the technology as the salvation of the industry.”1 In the next two years, producers will release nearly 60 3D films. But industry experts argue that just because it is possible to make a film in 3D, doesn’t mean it should be done every time. According to film critic Roger Ebert, “The 3D in Clash of the Titans was hastily added in postproduction to ride on the coattails of Avatar.”2 DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg agreed, associating the term “cheeseball” with the film.2

Rereleasing classics in 3D
Due to the growing popularity of 3D films, popular classics like Titanic and Beauty and the Beast are being remastered into the 3D format. To do this, two offset images need to be created from one flat picture. Graphic artists may separate a shot of a man standing in front of a wall into three layers: the man, the wall, and the sky. They then turn the image into a topographical map by drawing depth lines around all of the objects on each of the individual layers. Next, computer software creates new, offset images of the individual objects by moving the contour maps to the left or right and smoothing everything out. Once completed, this time-consuming process must be repeated for every object of every shot of a movie. (Read more about 2D to 3D conversion here.)

However, during the conversion process, artists and software have a lot of blanks to fill in, leaving some 3D scenes looking awkward.3 For optimal quality, 3D movies, like Avatar, are normally filmed using two slightly offset cameras.3 According to James Cameron, Avatar producer, postproduction of 3D films is counterproductive to the cause.4

Consumers will need 3D-ready televisions to watch 3D films once released on Blu-ray. However, according to a new report, "Focusing on the 3DTV Experience,” released by the Nielsen Company in cooperation with the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing, buyers remain reluctant to buy 3D televisions for three main reasons.5

  1. Cost
    According to, depending on brand and screen size, 3D televisions can cost anywhere from just over $1,000 to over $3,000. In 2010, only 5% of flat-panel TV sales were 3D televisions. Over time though, these sets are predicted to gain popularity. DisplaySearch foresees that 3D televisions will account for 37% of sales in 2014.6  
  2. Availability of programming
    Currently, there is a limited number of television channels broadcasting in 3D, with ESPN 3D being the most popular. Other cable networks like HDNet have begun developing 3D content and there are reports HBO will launch a 3D on-demand channel as early as spring 2011.5

    Additionally, many movie studios are only selling their 3D discs to certain television brands making it hard to find compatible 3D content. For example, the December release of the 3D Blu-ray version of Avatar will initially only be sold as a pack-in for buyers of Panasonic 3D television sets.6
  3. Skepticism of glasses
    Out of the study’s 425 participants, 89% complained that the glasses made it harder to do other things while watching television.5 Another downfall is that the glasses are not compatible with different brands of televisions.6 For example, Sony brand glasses will not work on Samsung televisions and buying extra glasses can cost upwards of $150.

The Future of 3D
Despite uncertainties, 3D is here to stay. In a recent article, “Why 3D Movies are Falling Flat this Summer,” David Wertheimer, executive director of the Entertainment Technology Center at The University of Southern California said the dip in enthusiasm for 3D is to be expected, noting that it’s going to take longer than some people might like to perfect the emerging trend.7

Do you still think 3D media is the future of entertainment? If it sticks around, is 3D media valuable to libraries? Share your thoughts below.



  1. If 3D TVs and 3D Blu-ray players take hold, libraries may have to consider adding this media format. However, it is too early to tell. Ideally for libraries, it would be optimal if the film makers put both 2D and 3D versions on Blu-rays.

    We do know however, that 3D Blu-rays are going to require patron and staff education in addition to the special equipment.

    Therefore, we're going to avoid purchasing the new 3D technology Blu-rays. So what we need from Midwest Tape, is a way to filter these out of results, and/or an alert that let's us know if we are about to purchase a 3-D Blu-ray, rather than a regular one.

  2. Currently, we have 14 3D Blu-rays in our database. These titles are easy to distinguish as they are marked (3-Dimensional) in the title line. Given that most patrons don’t have access to 3D hardware yet, it’s understandable that your library is leery about jumping on the 3D bandwagon. However, 3D Blue-rays are formatted to display in 2D when special hardware (3D-capable television, 3D glasses, and a 3D-capable Blu-ray player) is not detected. This eliminates the need to purchase two separate discs and makes it easy to fulfill the needs of both 2D and 3D movie viewers.

  3. 3D is definitely here to stay - for some entertainment experiences. The story remains as always: a great many movies and TV shows should never see the light of day, either in 2D or 3D. That won't change. But, done well, 3D production add a depth and complexity that very much enhances both the story and the experience - Avatar is a great example.

    As production get more familiar with the technology and how best to complement the story/experience, we'll soon find 3D being a staple, both in the cinema and at home. As it is now, I love watching sports in 3D - it's the next best thing to being there.

  4. Thank you for sharing your personal experience using 3D. I agree that 3D could make an even larger impact on the entertainment industry, if done correctly.

    What do others think? Is 3D here to stay? Does anyone else have access to 3D media at home?

  5. Compatibility issues between glasses, tvs and movies is a concern but people said that about eBooks/downloadable audiobooks and the variety of proprietary readers when that type of media first became popular. Personally, i like the idea of going to the movie theater to see special treats like 3D movies. It is not nearly as fun sitting at home and watching 3D movies - even if you have a comparable home theater video and sound setup. When you watch movies at home, you miss the whole ambiance of the dark theater - the big box of candy, the other people in the audience, the big cushy chair and sticky floor. I think studios should not spend their time trying to recreate the movie theater experience on your home BluRay or DVD player.

  6. You bring up a good point, Jenny. While people were initially skeptical (and some still are) regarding eBooks and eReaders, the format now seems widely accepted. This makes me wonder—if 3D truly takes off—what will be next for the entertainment industry? Is 3D the bump Blu-ray needs to nab the majority market share? What do others think?

  7. Thank you for clarifying that 3D Blu-ray discs will play a 2D version on regular Blu-ray players. That will make a huge difference for our collection practices. However, it is still going to require more patron education until 3D Blu-ray discs become more commonplace.

  8. After further research as I prepare to educate our staff, I've learned that 3D movies on Blu-ray discs don't necessarily use the new 3-D Blu-ray technology that works with 3D TVs. Of the 15 Blu-ray 3D discs in the Midwest Tape catalog, two of the covers do not show the official "Blu-ray 3D" logo. Those two movies are "See Monsters 3-D" and "My Bloody Valentine 3D". It appears that the Blu-ray 3D version of "My Bloody Valentine" was released to Best Buy exclusively. For many of the forthcoming films, we cannot tell yet because there is no cover art shown yet. Can MWT help us by tagging the records with the form of 3D being used, such as "Blu-ray 3D," "Real D," vs. Anaglyph 3D, etc.?

    With further understanding of the technology, we're more open to offering Blu-ray 3D, but it will definitely require staff and patron education.

  9. Thanks for sharing your research. It looks like 3D discs may have some of the same complications that we saw in the Blu-ray/High-Def days. Midwest Tape is still developing our policies for handling 3D products, and we will continue to include as much information as possible on our titles. Please feel free to call us (800.875.2785) about questions on individual titles; our staff will be happy to help you resolve your questions.


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