Is 3D-TV a solution to a problem that didn’t exist?

For some time now movie makers, technology manufacturing companies and even games designers have been telling us that 3D viewing is the future. The BBC, Sky and many film studios, as well as cinemas have all invested heavily into the technology with 3D broadcasts of sporting events and blockbuster movies present on your TV Guide right now. But ESPN the US based sporting channel have announced that they are to shut down their 3D offering by the end of this year due to “a lack of take-up”.

So is this the beginning of the end for 3D? There is no doubt that 3D can enhance a major movie release at the cinema or a sporting event, the final stages of Wimbledon will be shown in 3D by the BBC this year. The trouble with the format lies, of course, with the need for viewers to change their viewing habits. By asking the audience to sit in a certain position, wearing glasses that generally are uncomfortable – and, expensive to buy – there is an instant resistance as family members fight for the best viewing position and struggle not to laugh at other family members wearing glasses over glasses. Putting obstacles like this in the way of anything an industry is trying to make mainstream is only going to make it harder.

At the CEDIA show this year and the CES show in Las Vegas it was clear that manufacturers of screens and projectors had backed away from 3D, promoting Ultra High Def in preference (also known as 4K). JVC, who have produced incredibly good projectors for the home, have always maintained that their projectors are first of all, excellent 2D HiDef projectors – that can do 3D very well too, and this seems to be the change in approach across the industry.

The problem is, 3D is very expensive to broadcast and expensive to consume – certainly if you wish to make it a family event with additional glasses perhaps costing in excess of £100 a pair! In the States viewing of 3D broadcasts remained flat in 2012 following the initial uptake after the release of James Cameron’s blockbuster film “Avatar”. According to recent research only 6% of homes in America have 3D capability, and only a very few of these regularly view in 3D.

There is, of course, an argument that viewers are actually perfectly content with HD and that there just is not a demand for 3D. Certainly this is what ESPN seem to believe.

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