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Will the [email protected] Consortium Jump Out At You!

by July 04, 2008

Friday July 11, Journey to the Center of the Earth will join a growing list of 3-D films like Beowulf and Meet the Robinsons. But as the first live-action film to reach out to the third dimension, critics are already calling Journey a fun, family oriented thrill ride. But can 3-D technology’s amusement park ride ever compare to an immersive dining experience you’d want to enjoy over and over again?

The box-office draw for 3-D features has been compelling with more than twice the rate of ticket sales per viewing over the same film’s 2-D showing. But this might speak more to the material being rendered than the technology itself. Would Beowulf have been considered a hit if it weren’t 3-D? Studios hear the call because they’re working toward filling seats with at least 40 upcoming movies using three dimensional visuals.

Disney’s Pixar is buying into 3-D in a big way. The studio plans to release all of its computer animated films in the new visual format starting this November with the release of Bolt. Monsters vs. Aliens will get the 3-D treatment from DreamWorks when it’s released early next year. James Cameron’s Avatar, reworks of the first two Toy Story movies and George Lucas’s Star Wars saga will all get rendered in 3-D.

But there’s nothing new about adding 3-D effects to movies. By the looks of 3-D fare being screened at compatible Megaplexes, it’s similar to the kind of Saturday matinee films you might be old enough to remember as a kid. Is the second coming of 3-D just a passing fad or is it here to stay?

Fad or not, 3D will make its way to the home market one way or another. It’s estimated that three quarters of a Hollywood blockbuster’s revenue is now drawn from the home market. That’s where the 3DatHome Consortium wants to jump out at you like a corny effect in an overwrought action film.

Consumer electronics industry leaders with a vested interest in the next potential big-thing are joining forces. Their hope is to set industry standards and technical roadmaps to put 3D compatibility into your living room. Membership is broken down into Board, Leadership and Basic levels. On the board sit the top companies including Intel, Philips, Sony and Samsung. Also within the mix of members are names like Mitsubishi, Disney and IMAX.

Is 3-D a Short Sighted Vision?

Film history is driven by efforts of theaters trying to stay one step ahead of the entertainment experience derived from living-rooms across America. Widescreen aspect ratios, full color movies and surround sound are all advances made by theaters to keep audiences coming out.

Now that high definition widescreen monitors and hi-fi audio systems in some homes trump the theatrical experience, theaters are looking for the next big thing. But is the industry deluding itself?

The success of home theater technologies from wider screens to surround sound all have one thing in common. They immerse you in the movie. Ambient sound and filling as much peripheral vision as possible with a 100” projection can make you forget you’re just watching a movie. But viewers won’t be able to forget they’re watching 3-D with a pair of special glasses. By its very nature 3-D effects are intrusive, they break the spell that make movies an enduring art. Fine for novelty thrill-rides, but would you want to take it home?

High resolution surround-sound, sure! High definition images, definitely! But I just can’t imagine many home theater enthusiasts are going to salivate over watching 3-D every day at home. Even those who are curious about the technology will probably find themselves losing interest after a few screenings.

Immersion Not Intrusion

The first thing 3-D has to do to capture the mainstream is lose the glasses and it has to be made cheaply to bring it out of the summer blockbuster. Then, if the effects were used sparingly so as to provide immersion rather than novelty, it might just take off. But until then 3-D movies are probably just an occasional thrill ride we’ll be satisfied keeping at the amusement park.


About the author:

Wayde is a tech-writer and content marketing consultant in Canada s tech hub Waterloo, Ontario and Editorialist for Audioholics.com. He's a big hockey fan as you'd expect from a Canadian. Wayde is also US Army veteran, but his favorite title is just "Dad".

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