Why 3D Doesn`t Work for TV, But Is Great for Gaming

By January 15, 2010Newswires

Why 3D Doesn`t Work for TV, But Is Great for Gaming: Analysis
PM contributing editor Erik Sofge isn`t impressed with 3D television, and isn`t convinced by the 3D in movies (including Avatar). But he argues that the problems with 3D—from the gimmicks to the glasses—just don`t extend to gaming. Here`s why 3D is perfect for video games, and why it will go mainstream soon.
By Erik Sofge

Jimi Hendrix explodes onto the screen in the Central Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. It`s an iconic, well-worn sequence of archival footage from Woodstock, the stuff of retrospective montages and `60s music anthology infomercials. Only now, it`s in 3D. Hendrix seems to pop out from the screen, while the stage and band members are mashed flat behind him. A crowd shot reveals not so much a massed sea of fans, but sliding layers of them. Just before the Sony logo appears, one of those fans flashes the peace sign. It doesn`t look like a three-dimensional hand. It`s more like a cardboard cutout, jutting out into space like a half-finished work of hippie origami.

This breaking up of old footage into somewhat arbitrary layers is the opposite of remastering. And it`s one of many problems with 3D entertainment. Sometimes 3D is eye-popping. But not everyone fell in love with Avatar`s 3D wizardry—with so much groundbreaking digital performance capture and panoramic CGI on display, why suffer through the migraine-inducing view from behind a pair of RealD passive polarized glasses just to experience the occasional moment of vertigo? Even for those who were unabashedly amazed by Avatar, did the magic of its 3D elements really last past the two-hour mark? And sometimes, as in the case of Jimi Hendrix, 3D is just a bewildering parlor trick. In either case, it never manages to be more realistic than 2D, since it can`t copy the way the eye flickers from foreground to background, or mimic the more complex cognitive function of processing depth. In movies and on TV (and with all due respect to Avatar`s $1.3 billion box office) 3D will never be much more than a gimmick. But everything that makes it so wrong for television and movies makes it perfect for video games.

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