HDTV Makers Look To Make 3D The "Next Big Thing" - Will It Work?

It's a question worth asking, but the answer is still probably a couple of years out, at best. Will 3D finally make a lasting impression? Unless you've been living under a rock over the past year, you will have noticed that the movie industry, the consumer electronics industry and big time TV makers have all been pushing 3D with an almost comical amount of force. Just two or three years ago, most folks would laugh at you (or scoff at you, one) if you asked them if they'd be excited about watching a film at the local cinema in 3D. Mention the same question but with "TV" instead of "local cinema," and your pal may have requested that you see a doctor.

It's rather amazing how marketing teams from big players in the media and industry have seemingly flipped the stereotype about 3D upside-down within a matter of months. Granted, a lot of negative stigma is still attached, but the format sure has come a long way since 2005 or so. We recall U2 3D as being the breakout cinema hit for 3D in this decade; even while most folks figured that paying extra to see a movie that required unattractive glasses and a chance for making them dizzy and/or sick, the allure of seeing Bono three inches from their face evidently won movie-goers over. The films did remarkably well in theaters, and it wasn't long after its launch that firms like RealD began trumpeting their efforts to expand 3D into cinemas across the globe.

Shortly after that, big names in the film industry began to just aboard the bandwagon. Pixar even committed to making its future films in 2D and 3D. DreamWorks wasn't far behind, and now James Cameron's Avatar is apt to break records for sales in 3D cinema. So, how did all of this happen? Hype, and a dire need from both the film industry and TV makers to find the next big source of revenue. It's a perfect storm of desperation that has led us to this point, and now it seems that 3D will be shoved down our throats for the next few years (at least) whether we like it or not.

You see, TVs can't get much bigger. Most top out around 65", and even that's way, way too large for the average apartment or home. Sure, it's "really cool" to see a 150" TV, but just how practical is that when the average home has a door that would have to be ripped out and replaced to even have such a set installed? So, with size out of the question, what's next? Resolution? Nope. Almost every big-screen HDTV that ships today supports full 1080p (1920x1080), and that's exactly the resolution of Blu-ray. Broadcast TV and cable TV can't even hit that; the best you'll get from OTA reception or your pay-TV provider is 1080i, and unless our entire distribution system is upgraded (not likely), 1080p to the home over coax isn't apt to happen anytime soon.

So, what's left to upgrade? The "wow-factor," that's what. TVs can't reasonably get any larger, and increasing the resolution would be pointless. So, the obvious answer is to look to 3D. Samsung, Sony and Panasonic were all on hand at the Ceatec trade show this past week in Japan in order to showcase their newest wares, and the 3D section at all of the booths was huge. People were lined up to try on the glasses and have a look at the latest developments, but even analysts who understand just how popular 3D has been made have doubts about its ability to last in the home. It's expected that the average 3D flat-panel could cost $2000, with glasses sold for $50 each. That's $200 in glasses along for a family of four. Are you willing to pay that? We're betting you'd have a hard time pulling the trigger.

3D in the cinema is one thing; it's a neat, unique experience that's helped by being with friends and seeing the film on a huge screen. But in the home? You have to take your glasses off each time you get up to address the baby, finish supper or answer the door. That doesn't sound very convenient. There's no doubt that the industry players are pushing 3D with all the force they have; after all, if 3D fails, what's the next new thing that they can push? TVs can't get much thinner, you can only do so much with Internet connectivity and there are only so many more premium features to market. So, what do you think about the new 3D revolution? Are you being sucked in? Is your existing HDTV just fine? We're betting most folks won't be willing to splurge on seeing things in 3D at home, and even if they do--where's the content going to come from? Yep, that's a whole 'nother can of worms.

Tags:  Samsung, Sony, HDTV, TV, Toshiba, 3D, Film, cinema