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Do S-3D Games Equal S-3D Movies?

I’ve been traveling a lot lately to present at different conferences and for companies interested in stereoscopic 3D technology. In addition to advocating stereoscopic 3D gaming, it’s good to get a beat on what people think of where our industry is headed.

A few nights ago, I was having dinner with some senior executives at a leading Fortune 500 company. Everyone had a personal fascination with 3D, and there was a clear energy in the room to help make the technology work.

After about an hour, one of the dinner guests brought up a very important point. She said “I can’t see 3D being successful if you are forced to wear 3D glasses”.

My kneejerk reaction was to explain that 3D glasses are now comfortable, and that they are better looking than they were before. After hearing this, she adjusted her remark, and said that in gaming, glasses are perfectly acceptable because the player wants to be in tune with the game. However, with a living room television, the whole idea of wearing glasses is crazy and it would never fly.

My response was that if a consumer is going to spend X dollars on an HDTV, and they are aware that their television has a 3D functionality that they like based on movie theater experiences they have had, the eyewear won’t be a barrier. She politely withdrew, but I knew she remained unconvinced of S-3D content outside of gaming.

On the drive to our next town, my wife and I reflected on this dinner meeting, and in her infinite wisdom, she agreed with the naysayer at the table. She said “Imagine walking into a bar and having to put glasses on to watch the game, or having to lie down on the couch in an uncomfortable position because of the glasses – I just can’t see it working.”

Unfortunately, there are a lot of other things that won’t work. In the cinema world, the leading filmmakers are learning the art all over again to put out good stereoscopic 3D movies, but as a colleague at the event said, “I can only help with the technology, not the stories!”

Once the film is produced in S-3D, it then has to be transmitted to the home somehow. Outside of Blu-ray disc, how do you get the content from point A to point B? Has the Blu-Ray 3D standard even been determined yet? Given that Hannah Montana in 3D was released in red/blue anaglyph, the answer is no.

In addition to the concern about S-3D glasses in home entertainment, has the demand for stereoscopic 3D consumer cinema at home been established without a doubt? This is still a work in progress.

Clearly, the S-3D consumer cinema space at home is a touch undercooked, and despite my personal enthusiasm for the technology, these are realities we need to come to terms with so our industry can move ahead with both eyes open and in an efficient manner.

The good news is that while S-3D display technologies will be in the development phase for some time, our path to success is very clear and achievable.

I said it before and I’ll say it again: gamers are first. With the exception of having the means of getting S-3D images from the computer to the screen, our industry has no challenges with distribution like Blu-Ray, encoding, or transmission standards. Thanks to stereoscopic 3D driver developers like iZ3D LLC and NVIDIA, gamers have the ability to use most if not all modern S-3D hardware solutions today. While native S-3D support is always welcome, most games can be run at some level in true 3D because video games are already rendered in volumetric 3D. Hardcore gamers also gravitate towards innovation, and easily qualify as the early adopters of this technology.

So game on! Between the pressures of successful big screen 3D cinema and the virally growing stereoscopic 3D gaming industry, 3D for home consumer cinema will get the leverage it needs to build itself up somewhere in the middle. As long as the content makers, content distributors, and manufacturers can bide their time to get things right, I’m convinced that consumer cinema will find its place.

However, in these challenging times, it’s important to bet on the right horse. Too often consumer S-3D gaming is thought of as a facet of the home entertainment market while 3D cinema is the main attraction. The irony is that S-3D gaming is the life blood of the potential and growth needed for 3D cinema to become the main attraction in the home. Indeed, gaming is the prerequisite of our industry’s success, not the byproduct.

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