Making a spectacle of yourself
January 2010 has been a month in three dimensions - new decade, new technology. James Cameron has taken the biggest box office blockbuster crown from, um, himself with his 3D ‘game changer’ Avatar, while Panasonic unveiled the first official 3D camcorder (basically two camcorder lenses strapped to each other in a nice box with a natty microchip). 3D movies have been gaining momentum in cinemas for a while now, with Avatar simply the tipping point, but Panasonic’s endgame is obvious: bringing 3D into your home. Admittedly, with a $21,000 price tag (just over 13k) it won’t be appearing in most of our homes until the price drops, but it signals the first fully fledged push to get you watching 3D in the living room, and it’s clever to target the camcorder market, promising enveloping, super-real 3D footage of your toddler’s first steps. Rest assured, the hard sell will come from movies and sport.
The TV you need to buy in order watch 3D will currently set you back nearly 10 grand – yes, they do already exist – with very little content available as yet. But as Sky prepares to roll out its own 3D service in April (with the first Barclays Premiere League game being broadcast in 3D to nine pubs this weekend), the next generation of Blu-ray players will also support 3D. Twentieth Century Fox could easily hold back Avatar’s home entertainment release and unveil a home 3D edition, if they so wish. However, there is still an obstacle to overcome, one very familiar to retailers of high-definition TV and movies – public perception. While the jump from VHS to DVD was demonstrably better, even to the most casual punter, the shift from high-end SD to top-end HD has left the majority of the public cold, with Blu-ray (the winner in the HD format war, vanquishing HD DVD thanks to the PS3) and HD TV sales being driven by more casual upgrades than the need to get the tech. If you managed to get a consumer into Curry’s or Comet, plonk them in front of a 50” LCD TV with Iron Man soaring in 1080p Full HD before their eyes, you just might make your point.
3DTV is even more compelling on demonstration but has an extra obstacle – most people still think you need the red and green specs that have been knocking around since the beginning of last century, a fallacy perpetuated by events like Channel 4’s 3D night or Virgin’s 3D episode of Chuck. You DO need glasses but they are far more sophisticated, based on science to genuinely trick the eye and the mind into seeing depth. Every person I know who has seen 3DTV wants it immediately. There and then. But ask yourself – when you walk into Curry’s or Comet on a Saturday, in-between a trip to the supermarket and the DIY store slog, will you stop long enough in front of the bizarre blurry overlapped image on the flagship 50-incher long enough to pop on the demo specs sat next to it? If you do, you’ll be impressed, but is that too many steps and do you really want to make a literal spectacle of yourself? The irony is, 3DTV is worth it.