Spare Me the 3D

Will I pay more to watch a movie in 3D, rent a 3D DVD, or buy a 3DTV? No way, no how. 3D is one of those “technology for technology's sake” gimmicks that marketing gurus want to convince you that you need.

Forget the glasses or the fact that watching a 3D movie makes me faintly nauseous. With the possible exception of video games, there's little content around that really benefits from 3D. According to The Wall Street Journal, cable content providers are creating a drama that is supposed to suck viewers into watching this premium programming in 3D. Will it surpass The Sopranos or The Wire ? Let's take another tack: Would I rather watch Battlestar Galactica (the Edward James Olmos version, not the Lorne Greene series) or Star Trek (any version) in 3D? Still no.

Maybe I am showing my age by rejecting decent 3D outright. But I remember reading an Avatar review by Roger Ebert (that young kid) making the case against 3D. The gist of the article: Yes, technology makes our viewing experience much better — who could imagine the computer generated imagery of Star Wars and Avatar before viewing the movies — but 3D's contribution is marginal. It's seeing space ships explode and Yoda with a light saber and a Na'vi with expression in its eyes that's mind-blowing. (Remember The Polar Express ? That whole movie creeped me out. The faces changed but the eyes never did. Even Tom Hanks looked sinister.)

But I digress: Whether the spaceships are in 3D or not is beside the point — seeing spaceships dart around imaginary planets still exceeds the boundaries of any experience we've ever had, and that standard remains intact. Heck, even Jaws holds up after all this time, and we all know Bruce the Shark was a technological misfire.

Anyway, no matter how the hard the marketing folks push 3D, it's still just a novelty. Maybe it'll find a niche in the gaming industry, but even minus the glasses, spare me the 3D.

(Speaking of sharks, TV, and gimmicks: For those of you who are as fond of pop culture as I, can you tell me whether 3D is “jumping the shark” and why?)

33 comments on “Spare Me the 3D

  1. AnalyzeThis
    January 13, 2011

    I also am not a fan of the 3D phenomenon.

    I have watched a few 3D movies in theaters and yes, it's clear the technology has improved… but did the technology improve the movie? No. Would I watch a movie just because it was 3D? No, that doesn't somehow make the movie better.

    Had I been given a choice between viewing a 3D or a non-3D version of the movie, I would pick whatever the most convenient option was. But if a 3D and non-3D showing of the movie were happening at the same time, I guess I would pick the non-3D option… solely due to cost.

    I just don't see 3DTV technology for the home catching on. Nobody wants to make content for it. It took years for content producers to switch from SDTV to HDTV, and actually come to think of it… that transition STILL hasn't even completely happened, despite the incredibly widespread adoption of the tech.

    It's slightly befuddling to me how 3D was suddenly made “cool” again. Prior to its recent recognizance, I think 3D was only considered to be cool in the 1950's.

    Anyhow, 3D in the living room isn't going to work out until maybe some sort of holographic technology gets adopted, and I doubt any of us will be around to see that anyways.

  2. SP
    January 13, 2011

    As for me, I get severe headache after watching 3D movies. I was just watching this sony palystation games and got very bad headache. But for youngster like 15-25 agegroups, i guess are crazy about 3Ds. In my view 3D products can fascinate them but I wonder when they reach 30 or above would they be still interested. I agree no one would immediately spend money on 3d products but you cannot say about the future. Like see how people wants only LCD Tvs now, laptop or ipad etc. I guess technology is driving the society needs. 

  3. itguyphil
    January 13, 2011

    I'm right there with you. I enjoy a good 3-D presentation ever time & again but to go out & purchase a HD 3-D TV would be overkill. I think I would find myself going back to my old 2-D TV rather quickly. Not to mention that the quantity of signals being sent to your brain must have some psychological or physical effect on you after prolonged exposure.

  4. Anand
    January 13, 2011

    @Barbara Are you saying eventually the price of 3D will come down drastically ?Rumours are that there are lot of side effects of 3D like headache etc. Not sure this will affect the sales of 3D televisionsets. 

    If 3D fails to revolutionize the television industry after LCD/LED TV where will the next revolution come from ?

  5. Parser
    January 14, 2011

    I am totally sold for 3D. Saying that I will not buy a 3D TV, because the technology is premature. I think we have to wait until the glasses are gone. I love IMAX 3D movies and can wear glasses there once a month or less often. The picture gives so much more information despite that computer-generated graphics, (Avatar) which gives only 8 planes with different depth perception. Probably less would be sufficient. The depth gives a sensation of being there at the scene. Certainly I would like to have those glasses gone or replaced by circular polarized one. We probably have to wait for that little bit longer. I am sure someone is working on holographic movies.  


  6. Susan Fourtané
    January 14, 2011

    I wouldn't say that 3D is a “technology for technology's sake.” 3D technology involve much more than video games and movies. It has gained a place in business, education and training, healthcare and community. Technology leaders such as IBN, Toyota Cisco Systems, among others, have incorporated 3D in their corporate training.Some other uses of 3D include customer transaction, virtual meetings and simulation-based training. Medical schools have been the benefits of 3D simulation-based training and there are already some universities leading in this area like Imperial College London. 


  7. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 14, 2011

    Thanks for weighing in, pro-3D crowd! From what I understand, prices for 3D are not expected to drop that quickly. There is still a big gap in content for TV, at least, although we might see more 3D movies as cinemas invest in the equipment, which  runs in the $ millions.

    The glasses will go away. In fact, Apple is working on glasses-less 3D technology. There is also a lot of technology in development for improving the glasses that exist now. A local company in the Boston area, Kopin, is doing some great stuff with optoelectronics.

  8. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 14, 2011

    anandvy: Prices for 3D won't be coming down that fast–in particular, there too little content right now for TV to make it worth the investment. As for the next technology leap, my money is on OLED–organic light emitting diodes. These can be sprayed on to a flexible substrate so conceivably, a screen can be paper-thin and can be rolled up like a blueprint. Right now, there are good qualiy small OLED screens for cell phones and video cams, and big screens are still a challenge.

    Anyway, I think like HD, the next leap should provide significant improvement over th last, and I just don't think 3D is that leap.

  9. alawson
    January 14, 2011

    Great article, Barb. I was at South by Southwest last year when the big names were debuting their greatest 3D TVs.  They herded us in groups of 15 into a room and gave us glasses to watch a well-prepared video that sported the best 3D effects.  It was amazing–a true experience for the senses.  At the end, we were told when it would be available and affordable. But the one question no one could really answer was, “Where's the content ?” What, beyond digital-friendly films like Avatar and a football game here and there will be produced for 3D?  It's almost a year later and that's still my holdup.  Great experience, but would I buy one for the occasional benefit? Probably not. My 2 cents: content will make or break the 3D trend.

  10. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 14, 2011

    Well said! In a roundabout way, that's what I was thinking: Which great movies would benefit from the application of 3D? I came up with none–great movies are built on content and if your movie needs 3D to draw folks in, it will not pass the test of time. If I would watch something anyway–such as Avatar–would it be “cooler” in 3D? Yes. But would I wait in line or pay more? Nope. Watched Avatar on HDTV recently–still liked it.

    The 3D TV content that is being developed in Japan sounds intriguing, BTW–it's a drama about air-traffic controllers. Excellent choice of subject matter.

  11. Uwe
    January 14, 2011

    Boy oh boy. This one reeled me in! 🙂 I did my graduate work on stereo 3-D and delivered my thesis paper via 3-d. Probably a first there. The content will come – in fact it has been here for a long time. Trouble is that there is a great deal of confusion regarding this century-old technique. From an academic standpoint, 3-D offers greater retention and recall if the production is good. Alas, the delivery systems differ so much (say anaglyph versus polarized versus Real-D circularly polarized, lenticular, and more..) that it would be nearly impossible it seems to me, to get a thumbs up/down consensus if there is no standard. Disney has chosen Real-D and knows that their 3-D films out-gross their 2-D counterparts significantly. I find it sad that some TV set makers are selling 3-D glasses costing hundreds of dollars when I got three pairs for about 75 dollars several years ago. There is some skimming happening and that is hurting acceptance I bet, and combined with the non-standardization, it's no surprise that new content isn't exactly errr..flying out at us. But, if one is willing to look into the archives for the time being, there are many films to watch while we wait for the dust to settle. Finally, some terrific 3-d conversion techniques have come around. I think that market research will get us toward new “old” content while new release are increasingly being given the 3-D treatment.  Great topic, Barb!

  12. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 14, 2011

    3D thesis papers? Is there an app for that?

    Uwe, you gave me something to think about. I have no doubt the technology behind 3D is astounding and probably deserves better than its reputation as being something you wear funny glasses for. And if it helps memory retention, sign me up! 


  13. Uwe
    January 14, 2011

    Don't you know there's an app for everything? 🙂 Here's one:



  14. Damilare
    January 15, 2011

    That would be very nice. Watching 3D without glasses is something i would look out for.i am a fan of 3D technology especially in gaming and movies. 3D technology has added some sort of flexibility and flavour to video entertainment. its definately a way forward.

  15. t.alex
    January 16, 2011

    Barbara, you might be enjoying 3D more once there are more 3D products that do not require wearing glasses 🙂

  16. Ariella
    January 16, 2011

    Barbara, I also don't really care all that much if the movie is in 3D or not.  I did notice that just about every “family” movie that came out recently is said to be in 3D that does not require glasses.  Sometimes these effects backfire.  I recall seeing a review on the latest Narnia installment, The Voyage of the Dawntreader, that declared the movie looked better without the 3D effects.  

  17. jbond
    January 16, 2011

    I am not a fan of the whole 3D phenomenon either. You know back in the day it was used to just enhance movies, get people more involved when today’s technology wasn't there (HD, computer animation). I think for it to gain ground the cost of the televisions has to come down, they need to eliminate the glasses and they have to come up with a much larger content choice.

    As for “jumping the shark” I feel television and movies are completely using the 3D to try to take old content and label it as new. It’s bad enough it seems like Hollywood cannot come up with original ideas anymore, it seems like everyone is remaking everything.


  18. Mydesign
    January 16, 2011

         Barbara, i would like to think in a diffrent way. New technologies are developing day by day & If we are able to analyze the developments happened in television sector for the last one or two decades, we can see the transformation and the results are very amazing. Starting from color television, Flat TV, LCD TV, Plasma TV, LED TV, HD TV, Blue ray technology and now 3D TV, What would be the Next?

          Every year companies are spending millions of Dollars for the research and developments in the same sector, which is not much benefitted for them due to the fast transformations. For example Sony had spent millions of dollars in R&D of LCD TV, before it comes in a fruitful way (mass popular), the competitor introduced LED TV and similar way things are happening for other innovative products also. Before 3D technology became popular (production and market driving), competitor may come up with some other advance technologies and hence this process is progressing like an open chain. From customer point of view, we can take advantage of these innovative technologies, but what’s the gain for companies?

  19. Ashu001
    January 17, 2011


    I am not saying what you are saying is wrong/incorrect but have you wondered what will be the Social Consequence(atleast in China) if all Americans think like you do??

    There will be no Manufacturing jobs there.Creating tremendous amounts of social instability there.Not Good for China and another thing that would end up doing is removing the incentive for China's Govt to hold down the value of the Yuan(vs the USD).If that happens,whos going to buy our American Treasuries to pay for all the useless pork barrel spending projects as well as over inflated Govt salaries& pensionsin America???

    Can you imagine the Social Instability that would create in America?

    Your thinking is entirely irresponsible and derails the Global Financial System and the Oligarchs who benefit the most from it[Okay the last line was a total Joke….]

    But you get the gist….

    Things would sure as hell get more exciting than they are now for sure.



  20. elctrnx_lyf
    January 17, 2011

    Even though the concerns raised against the 3D TV's are very high but none of the TV vendors were taken back since they believe that technology will defintely will have a huge success. I won't say that every one will accept 3D whole heartedly but i can say watching a game of cricket or an F1 race will be a thrilling expereince. And Imagine once people get used to such stuff they will never like a normal TV viewing experience.

  21. Ashu001
    January 17, 2011


    Your assuming consumers in America have the Money or they will get the Credit from the Banks to buy the 3D TVs.Unfortunately looking at Employment trends/Salaries and Bank Credit-all contracting currently it does'nt look very likely,

    Think about it,if it boils down to choosing between putting Food on the Table and buying the latest 3D TV,which one will you choose???

    Increasingly that is a choice more and more Americans are being forced to make every single day.

    One can see that clearly in the number of Americans on Foodstamps-A 

    record 44 million and counting.



  22. saranyatil
    January 17, 2011


    definetely no one can get addicted to 3D but certain things are really great to watch it on 3D and yes hollywood is now renovating movies by creating buzz amoung the viewers. already R & D team of many companies are working on the technology to remove glasses soon they too will be in market and priced at a high price. with time and increase in demand for 3D TV s will reduce the cost .

  23. Ariella
    January 17, 2011

    Ashish, given that one can always fall back on food stamps and other government programs to bail them out for what are defined as necessities, including healthcare, why would they give up luxuries to pay for necessities out of their own pocket?  I am 100% certain that there are people on food stamps who carry a far more expensive cell phone plan than I do because they do not wish to live without all the bells and whistles modern technology offers.  

  24. Ariella
    January 17, 2011

    jbond, today I visited the Museum of the Moving Image, which featured a number of 3D art installation exhibits.  The modern 3D glasses, which look like sunglasses, rather than like the glasses with two different color lenses of the past, are required for the effects to work.  While the appearance is impressive, and some people persist in reaching out to touch what is not actually there,  I find it does not sustain my interest. 

  25. Ashu001
    January 18, 2011


    This ridiculous trend-Of Responsible buyers being disregarded/Not Highly regarded vs the Irresponsible Spenders is going to end soon as Credit slowly but surely dries up to the Biggest Sugar Daddy of them all-Uncle Sam.

    Remember the Sub-Prime Miracle for Housing??

    Once that happens there is a strong possibility the existing political elite in America will get overthrown by the masses who feel cheated(and the fact that their food stamps can't buy them half the things they actually need everyday).This is already happening in Africa,where the Tunisian President was kicked out of the country because of a popular revolt against Inflation and Very high unemployment.Think it can't happen in America??? Think again.People can do very surprising things when they get hungry and desperate.

    Cool post explaining what can and most probably will happen…



  26. Barbara Jorgensen
    January 18, 2011

    tech4people–I am concerned that my lack of enthusiasm for 3D has an anti-progressive even anti-business aspect to it–I benefit as long as tech companies benefit and support our site and others like it. What I find annoying is the idea that this is the next must-have equipment, gadget or accessory. I stand by my main point: if a movie, program, game lacks content, making it 3D isn't going to make any difference. Here in the US we call it “putting lipstick on a pig.” Even if you dress it up, it's still a pig.

    3D can enhance an experience and can be very impressive. It is great in an I-Max setting and other special venues. It's just not something I feel I have to have in my home. If it becomes a special feature–let's say I can order someting in 3D on my plain old HDTV in 3D w/o upgrading everything I own, OK. Right now, it's more a marketing ploy to convice us to buy more stuff and I don't see the value in it (sorry tech companies!)

  27. Ariella
    January 18, 2011

    Well, it does keep the economy going — getting people to buy more stuff. But if, as Ashish points out, they are buying on credit and do not have the money to pay for the stuff they acquire, that is not a good thing for the economy.  The mortgage disaster is a very stark reminder of the dire consequences for buying something you can't afford by borrowing beyond your means.

  28. eemom
    January 18, 2011


    I totally agree with you.  I cannot see myself owning a 3D TV even if I didn't have to pay for it.  I do find 3D movies nauseating, and having it to watch all the time does not at all sound appealing.  I also do not think that it is a factor of age, my teenagers do not favor 3D movies either.

    The other problem is that the last 2 “3D” movies I went to see, were not even true 3D.  The content (to your point) did not support 3D, so the filmmakers stuck a couple of 3D scenes in there so they can call it 3D.  The movie price was raised for the privilege of 3D, yet my experience was not at all enhanced.

    Although some always go out to adopt new technology, and here in my family we consider ourselves early adopters, some technology is just not worth adopting – at least to me!


  29. stochastic excursion
    January 18, 2011

    The 3D trend is sometimes represented as another media format in the long series of media format makeovers.  After viewing some examples of 3D cinema however, you're left with the impression that this tech upgrade belongs more in the gimmick category.

    Proponents of 3D include production companies with deep pockets.  For these large, established content providers, increasing the barrier to entry across their industry confers advantages.  The force feeding that goes into most media format upgrades is seen to be taking place with the institution of this technology.

    Then there's the question of whether there is a sound enough financial basis for growth in this economy.  Have appearances really fallen to such a pitiful state?!? 

    True, no growth is the ultimate in sustainable growth, but it does tend to make returns on investment difficult to monetize.  We might as well all start a company like Twitter!  Now there's an opportunity to use 3D…

    Actually, the z-axis could be used to increase efficiency in data manipulation.  It could also help you keep better track of things like social networks, etc.  It goes to show, no technology is a wasted technology.

  30. jbond
    January 19, 2011

    Ariella – I know that the current technology states you have to have the glasses which are a vast improvement over the old paper glasses with flimsy lenses. My original comment was to state that one of the key factors for 3D televisions to become a large mainstay in households is for technology to advance, to eliminate the glasses and for the price to be reasonable.

    A big drawback to the glasses is any individual that wears prescription glasses (not contacts) either has to not be able to see the screen clearly or wear 2 glasses at the same time.


  31. Ariella
    January 19, 2011

    Yes, as someone who does wear prescription glasses, I know what you mean.  The 3D glasses do fit over, though. 

  32. Damilare
    January 31, 2011

    This is new, thoughtful and scary aswell. Sure theirs still much more work needed to be done on the technology. for now it look like your eyes is being controlled. And theirs no proof about whether its got a long term or short term side effect. So i would still stick to the  3D glasses.

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