3DTV and Why??? Or Why Not???

Ok, ok…I have had more people ask me about what I think about 3DTV and the production of 3DTV. Mainly, people have asked me about two separate topics, first being whether I will be producing 3DTV projects and what do I think about 3DTV as a consumer based viewing option. OK, strap in and let’s go! This is a long post, so get a drink and a snack and maybe some Ibuprofen?

3DTV Production and Workflow?
First, let’s tackle my thoughts on creating 3DTV based productions. First of all, it is a whole new workflow to invest when the creation of content that has yet to find a true market. My customers have yet to show interest in this offering, mainly because the type of groups I work with do not necessarily have the target audience that consumes this type of offering.

Yes, we can go purchase a camera and the editing software and hardware upgrades to manage this workflow…but it would mainly have a purpose of forcing a market into this offering.

When we converted from SD video production to HD production, lots of the production skills changed and how we deliver this product. From the cameras, software, hardware, and the end consumer.  Then there was the creative element, what do we do with roughly 26% more screen real estate. A lot of people think this is not a big deal…but this is a huge workflow decision and how to creatively produce content to fit 16X9 screen resolutions in a still evolving 4×3 screen world (the old television screen size). Yes, more and more people have HDTV’s but it still is not the industry standard, yet!

Given this context…there is a lot to consider when producing 3D content. Do you want to make everything look 3D just to do it or do we want to produce content that leverages the style of 3D, exposing the audience to new visual cues. Also…do we want to produce content that requires people to take one extra step…put on some strange “looking” glasses. Yes…imagine the boardroom setting showing a video, hey…pull out your glasses to watch this video. Oh, I forgot mine…that is ok, just watch the weird colors overlap.

So on the production side…I will sit back and see how the market evolves *AND* when and if clients join the 3D TV conversation. Then I will decide if that will become a client offering.

Now…let’s attack the consumer side. Specifically…will I purchase a 3DTV for the home and what do I think about watching 3D content at home and in the theater.

First…let’s talk about how it effects the eyes.
I come from a long family history of bad eyes and those who have a “lazy eye.” I am the abnormal person in the family with 20-15 vision…I was at one time recruited to join the Navy since I had great vision, I am 5’9″ and my undergrad was in Mathematics. I couldn’t enlist because of my Asthma. But…everytime I watch a 3D production in the theater, I get a headache. Yes…I take the glasses off and my head hurts and it takes a while for my eyes to re-adjust.

In December 2009, Avatar was released in theaters in 3D…many people took to the “airwaves” to react to 3D production. The British Telegraph wrote this article in January 2010: “Do 3D films make you sick?“:

“But no matter how advanced the technology, a significant minority of the population cannot sit through a 3D film without experiencing discomfort. More than three million people in the UK have eye conditions that impair ‘stereoscopic vision’ – normal, two-eyed depth perception – making it difficult, or even impossible, for them to experience 3D.

When watching something in 3D, our eyeballs rotate inwards, with accommodation as the goal. But if that happened, the viewer would be left focusing on a spot in front of the screen, rather than focusing on the screen itself. But this confuses the brain because the eyes have converged without accommodation. Instead, the eyes oscillate between their natural inclination and the artificial state demanded by the film. This can cause extreme eye strain, migraines and nausea.”

During the summer of 2010, TechSpot.com wrote that Sony updated their Playstation 3 Terms of Service Agreement statement:

“Sony, no doubt preferring to play it safe, has issued a warning saying these problems are not to be taken lightly. The latest Playstation 3 Terms of Service statement advises that anyone who experiences ‘eye strain, eye fatigue or nausea’ should turn off 3D immediately. Players can begin using the technology again when discomfort subsides, however.”

But in January 2011, NYTimes wrote an article saying that many eye-specialist fired back by questioning Nintendo’s new warning.

“Nintendo said several days ago that children under 6 should not look at the 3-D screen on its new 3DS hand-held device because it could harm eye development. The admonition raised skepticism and eyebrows among a group that knows a lot about eye development: eye doctors.

Some of the world’s elite pediatric ophthalmologists said the Nintendo announcements surprised them because it seemed to have little basis in science. ‘The fact you’d watch 3-D in a theater or a video game should have zero deleterious impact whatsoever,’ said Dr. Lawrence Tychsen, a professor of pediatrics and ophthalmology at Washington University in St. Louis.”

Based on this research, it made me start thinking whether my little nieces should be going to watch movies like “Alice in Wonderland” which was released in 3D at the theaters, especially since they are showing signs of “lazy eye” and they are under the age of 6. Now this has nothing to do with Nintendo, but it does draw health concerns for me as an uncle and parent.

Now let’s talk about those gamers!
I have many friends that are gamers…I am sure you have friends that sit hours and hours in front of the television playing their Playstation, Wii, XBox, etc. With the advent of Playstation and Nintendo with 3D games, how can one sit with the glasses on and play games for hours. I would have a migraine and want to sleep for hours. As I was surfing around, doing some research on this topic, I found this blog post by Jason Weissman titled “3D Gaming is Doomed to Fail.” Hmm…that is a big statement, which perked my interest.

“The biggest barrier for this technology is that using it for more than an hour (or in some cases even less time) causes tremendous eye strain and headaches. If you are like me, you likely have lengthy game sessions. I tried several games in different 3D modes on both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 and while the games generally looked great, the experience was not one I’d often seek to repeat.”

So if people in theaters are feeling this way, and the gamers are sharing the same concerns…I am starting to wonder if this makes sense for the house. Once again, here is is Jason Weissman:

“Many people have asserted that 3D will never take off in the home because gamers would need to wear 3D glasses. That is why the 3DS is not typically denigrated in the same manner and why many people say they will wait for glasses-free 3D televisions.”

Now let’s talk about the glasses!
Yes…those pesky things that we have to wear to watch 3D content whether in front of a television or in a theater. I have many thoughts about the glasses. Why do I want to wear glasses in my house to enjoy content? Now I understand there is not a lot of content out there, and I would have to subscribe to 3D programming…but I am not sure I would want to put on those glasses to watch ESPN’s College Football in 3D for a 3.5 hour game.

I like to drink beer and eat food that usually is not healthy during these games…so imagine wearing the glasses, getting a headache during the 4th quarter when the game is getting good. Then proceed to the bathroom because the 3D effect has set-in and it is time to puke. I understand this is a bit extreme, or is it? Especially if you are like me on Saturday’s and like to watch HOURS of college football.

Good3DTV.com reported that in ESPN’s initial study/research with 3DTV, eye strain can be reduced with frequent breaks. Hmmm…interesting.

“The network has stated that a wide range of 3D TVs were used, including passive and active 3D TVs to conduct the study. Most of the complaints about headache came from the viewers watching active 3D television. Most people watching passive 3D TVs were almost not affected. Duane Varan, executive director of the Disney Media and Advertising Lab, further stated that the passive 3D TV viewing was much more pleasant owing to the viewers being able to interact with other people watching in the room due to the lighter set of 3D glasses they were wearing.”

Those glasses can be costly ranging from $25 to over $150 dollars. Ok, let’s buy a television for close to $1200 and then purchase glasses to watch the content. And then make sure you hit the Walgreens or CVS for migraine medication…oh do not forget the Tums.

Let’s wrap it up!
Another interesting note from the ESPN research study…“According to Varan, advertising for products in 3D is much more effective. The desire to buy a product that has been advertised in 3D format has increased from 49 to 83 percent compared to an advertisement in 2D.” 

Oh yeah, those ad dollars…we will get back to that in a second. Or, let’s tackle it right now. Television networks are in dire straight…need to find another way to generate ad dollars. Yes, just like when HDTV was originally created in Japan in the late 80’s. They needed a new revenue stream, so they gave the consumer a reason to buy a new television… because all content was going to be released in HD.

Bottom line, you have to buy the right television and wear glasses to enjoy the experience, and only for a short amount of time.  Maybe if this technology pushes into wide acceptance, more people will spend less time watching television, because headaches will detract from prolonged couch potato syndrom.

So, what will I do with 3D content? I will not produce 3D content quite yet…I will wait to see how the market reacts this year (2012). I do not think that 3D TV has a place in my living room, it does not make sense to watch content with glasses in the comfort of my home. The theater experience will remain the 3D experience for me. I do not mind paying to go watch certain movies in 3D, because I believe that the movie theater still has a place in our American fabric. The movie theater is a time to take the family to watch something special, and 3D content is still considered special to me, not everyday.

BTW, here is a GREAT article by TVPredictions.com called “10 Reasons Why People Won’t Watch 3DTV” and here are the list of reasons. Note, this article was written this past summer…so some of the reasons might be evolving. But, I found it interesting.

  1. 3D TV Interrupts Your Viewing Experience
  2. It Makes You Sick
  3. Millions of People Just Bought New TVs
  4. There’s Not Much 3D to Watch On My Cable or Satellite
  5. There’s Not Much 3D to Watch On Blu-ray
  6. People Hate the 3D Glasses
  7. The Glasses Are Too Expensive For a Family
  8. 3D TV Is Not HDTV
  9. 3D TV Is Not Easy to Use
  10. 3D TV Has Lost the Culture War

I would recommend reading the explanations for each point, I think you will find it interesting. CLICK HERE to read the whole article!

***Image at the top from Think Like Maxwell blog…CLICK HERE to read!