The Value of 3D

I have an ambiguous relationship with the whole 3D movie/game/tv/whatever trend.  On one hand, I love new gadgets and neat technology, and I like a good spectacle.  On the other hand, it seems like it's becoming an annoying fad and everyone is jumping on the visually appealing bandwagon.  Despite the challenges, despite lousy conversions of 2D films to 3D (Clash of the Titans comes to mind), people are barreling ahead with 3D.  Apparently, there will be a 3D release of "The Last Airbender," which fills me full of dread (taking what appears to be a visually stunning film and running 3D after the fact?  Not good.)

Now, I think 3D is going to be inevitable.  It's approached a fad status, people are interested in visual quality, but I'm expecting 3D to be a very bumpy road for moviemakers, game makers, and hardware people.  The problem is that people don't "get" 3D, they don't ask the question anyone should ask about a new technology, gizmo, process, etc.

Does it add value?  If you don't ask that question you're either ignorant or just trying to jump on the bandwagon.

Let's look at what started this 3D mess – James Cameron's film Avatar.  Now if you've seen it in 3D, as I have, 3D does add value – the film is gorgeous and 3D really makes it quite an experience.  3D in short ads value as it is part of the overall experience – and one planned as part of the filmmaking process.  In short, it looks cool and enhances the experience.

Now the question is, in all of these 3D trends, where does 3D add value?

Converting a 2D film to a lousily-done 3D film?  That may decrease value.

3D for a film that doesn't use 3D for whatever reason (visual effects, to set mood, stunning set pieces)?  There's no value. 

3D televisions?  Well, maybe.  But I'm pretty good with 2D thanks, I'm not sure I need to experience the Weather Channel in 3D.

3D Gaming?  Maybe, but it'd depend on the game.  3D First Person Shooter?  Probably very impressive.  3D Puzzle Game?  Maybe not so much.

You'll notice 3D does not add value directly, but adds value by enhancing the experience for the user.  3D Has to be appropriate to that experience, and appropriately handled, otherwise there's little to no gain, and maybe even a disadvantage.

This is the question people rushing to put 3D on everything have to ask themselves – where's the value?  Are they giving people something worth their time by moving to 3D?  If you're working in media, you may need to ask this question – your career may depend on it in some cases.

3D will come into its own.  You get to decide how bumpy the ride is and how many detours are taken.

– Steven Savage