No Surprise Here. News Headlines Say 3D Hype Bubble Busted.

Jared Newman/Time Magazine:
     “The 3D Hype Bubble Is Now Completely Busted
Satoru Iwata/Nintendo:
     “just [having] this 3D stereoscopic effect isn’t going to keep people excited
Samsung, the world’s largest TV maker, admits that
     3D TV hasn’t lived up to the hype
, and the company is now exalting web-connected smart TVs as its next big source of growth.


As long as 3D is presented as a novelty and the reason to watch it is to be surprised by stuff flying at you out of the screen, it will cycle in and out of popularity. I’ve been saying this since before Avatar and all of the 3D hoopla started.  It is surprising to me that 3D is presented as a novelty in the first place, because that is really counter intuitive. We see things in 3D from the moment we wake in the morning until we go to bed. Nothing novel there. The only novel part is that we are used to looking at photographs and movies on a flat surface without depth. Seeing depth in this context is a novelty – for a short time – then if it doesn’t add anything of value, who cares? And it wanes.

Photographs and motion pictures are what I like to refer to as referential imagery. We look at it and interpret what we are seeing. We don’t look at it and try to experience it in a real way. Indeed, I believe recent research will demonstrate clearly that different parts of the brain process referential imagery in a different way from reality. I believe there is even a bias towards NOT wanting referential imagery presented in a “real” way. It can be distracting. Case in point: Eye tracking studies show dramatically increased eye movement when the same scene is depicted in 3D vs. 2D.  Why should that be a surprise? There is an order of magnitude increase in visual information to interpret. Spatial information provides much more context and reasons to look at various things on a screen. It is instinctual to survey one’s surroundings to determine safety and opportunity. Our subconscious constantly does this. It is why when we see something out of the corner of our eye we instantly and automatically focus our attention towards it. It is a problem for motion pictures because the director wants to control what we are looking at. For referential imagery this is easy. Simply open up the lens and reduce the depth of field so everything is out of focus except for what you want the audience to look at. This is not a trick that transfers well to 3D. Blurry or not, there is a lot of information present in a 3D image that isn’t present in a 2D flat image.

So, does this mean 3D should go away? Absolutely NOT! What it means is that 3D has it’s place and when that place is only novelty, then it will cycle in and out of popularity. I think where it is forced into the context of referential imagery, then there will be a bias towards losing the depth. Where the purpose is to provide an immersion and experience and correct depiction of the subject matter, then 3D is absolutely the perfect choice.

Think about it. What made Avatar so compelling? It was the chance to experience a foreign world with aliens and see new things in the context of their environment. Much of the movie was experiential as compared to interpreting the reference of the images.

I think it also explains the success of animated 3D movies over live action. The 3D imagery provides immersion and puts the audience in an unfamiliar environment in a fun way.

Can live action 3D motion pictures be successful? Absolutely! But not when the storyline and purpose of the movie is to present referential imagery. There needs to be a compelling reason for the audience to desire to experience the space and be immersed in the experience. OR… the imagery depicted needs to be in 3D for proper interpretation and understanding.

It is true that for some people, the novelty of 3D never wears off. I fall into that category. But I now recognize that the majority of people will invest only so much time on a novelty before they are ready for something else. Fortunately, 3D has a lot more than novelty going for it. Unfortunately, most of the motion picture companies and TV manufacturers haven’t figured that out. All they continue to promote are things flying out of the screen and poking you in the eye (for the most part). There are exceptions. But they aren’t mainstream – yet.

Might I suggest a motion picture about tattooing? Anyone working on a screenplay?


1 Comment

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One response to “No Surprise Here. News Headlines Say 3D Hype Bubble Busted.

  1. Thanks for sharing this blog. Exclusive work. Please keep posting.

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