HOWARD MEGDAL: I recently had a chance to see what 3D TV looks like, surveying a pair of the televisions and glasses to go with them. My short-form response: they are getting there, but 3D TV doesn’t have what I think will be necessary to overtake HDTV quite yet: ease of use and clear value-added.
Of the two televisions, neither of which I learned the brand of, the first television came closer to getting it right. The 3D effect was significant at times, with a snowflake appearing to head right for me. The glasses were also light enough to be worn over my own frames without any discomfort. But a combination of glare and an inability to read words clearly made it unlikely that I’d want to watch anything like a sporting event on it- after all, the score and time remaining is a bit more important in a basketball game than the illusion the basketball itself is coming right at you.
And the second television was: a disaster. The glasses were heavy enough that it became uncomfortable to wear them inside of five minutes. And the 3D effect, supposedly greater (this was the 1080 TV) was not demonstrably different than the one I experienced with Rad Racer on my Nintendo, first night of Hanukkah, 1988.
In short, I could see wanting a 3D television that makes sporting events, in particular, more three-dimensional without sacrificing the ability to know basic facts about that event. Then there’s the salient fact that very few events are broadcast in 3D. When that happens, 3D TV will be value added. But they simply aren’t there yet, and that makes a 2013 tipping point for the market, as alluded to in a recent New York Times piece, seem incredibly unlikely.
MOLLY SCHOEMANN: I’m not sure I understand the point of having 3D television in your own home. Part of the charm of 3D is the experience of watching a film in theaters with a giant movie screen and an excited crowd. It’s easy to get worked up about 3D when everyone around you is also experiencing the expectation-meeting thrill of seeing objects and people leap off of a one-dimensional screen. I enjoy those kitschy photographs of audiences all wearing 3D glasses and smiling or looking shocked, but the effect wouldn’t translate well to a living room. The sight of a person sitting on a couch by themselves, wearing 3D glasses and smiling, is kind of depressing more than anything else.
Yes, I saw Avatar in 3D. And yes, it was neat seeing alien flora and fauna in three dimensions and watching giant blue people trot around in front of my face. But at the end of the day did I go home, turn on the TV and tear my hair out in despair that the car-insurance gecko remained tragically flat? Do I really feel like I’m missing that much because David Caruso doesn’t take his sunglasses off right at me? No. And that’s the main problem. Having a 3D television will result in 3D Jerry Springer, where the angry fat lady tackles her cheating husband right in your living room! It will result in 3D depictions of athlete’s foot and 3D diagrams of how tampons expand for that perfect fit. It will result in 3D Leno. Do we really need this in our lives?
The main point of experiencing movies in 3D is that we want to make the action and the excitement as real as possible because it helps us pretend we are right there in the world of that movie. How many of us really want to be right there in the world of Three and a Half Men? For those who use their televisions solely to watch movies, a 3D upgrade might be a worthwhile expense. But those people probably already invested in a big honking flatscreen TV a year or two ago, so I’m guessing that until more of them have jobs, 3D televisions will remain an indulgence with limited popularity.