Tuesday, 5 February 2013

3D is dead. I’m trying hard not to laugh.

“The view from CES 2013: 3D is dead”. It’s not the first time the death knell has been sounded, so I don’t think this time it’ll be forever either, it will go into that twilight of undead technology that will rise again once our collective memory dims. However, we’ll get some immediate respite from every movie release needing to be in 3D, perhaps fewer headaches, and I won’t have emptied my wallet on another new gadget.

Don’t get me wrong, when 3D works, it works beautifully. Cirque du Soleil, Premier League Football and Super Mario Bros. all work better in 3D than normal. However in most cases, 3D fails the very basic rule of good programming, it doesn’t help tell the story. There are too many examples where 3D is a distraction, is the whole spectacle, is the end in itself.

If 3D doesn’t help the story, then why did the movie industry, TV manufacturers, get so exercised? Because it was a chance to force the technology upgrade cycle early, to get consumers to buy the next more expensive TV before they were ready to do so. Consumers didn’t react well to the avarice, and voted with their wallets. For this reason, 3D ($D?) may well be seen as the moment the industry jumped the shark.

I need to stop laughing, because the next big advance in consumer tech will be Ultra HD or 4k resolution. Again, I’ve seen this work beautifully; a simple scene of people crossing a busy downtown Tokyo intersection was mesmerising. The story was in the detail. And again, this advance promises to empty my wallet and bring joy to TV manufacturers . I can’t help myself, oh yes please, I want.

And that’s the point of advancing technology. There’s always be the next great thing which geeks like me will want. It’s just that sometimes, the next great thing will be entirely different from the next big thing that everyone, not just a geek, wants. To be successful, the trick is knowing the difference between the two.

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