If Avatar had flopped, this wouldn’t have happened. But now the flood gates are open; George Lucas is threatening to reboot all six Star Wars films – that’s the two and a half good ones from the first set and the rest – all in 3D, even though it appears that converted 2D films don’t work as well as specially shot 3D films.
The question remains; how will 3D fare in the long run? Tests for 3D TV sports were disappointing – long-shots of the field flattened out the action, and only the team’s arrival on the pitch and the penalties really worked. There’s a problem with content; there’s not enough of it. And who wants to wear glasses at home?
Here’s the crunch-problem. 3D without glasses – the Holy Grail of television – is years away, because lenticular vision (fragmented images shown through a layer of prism) loses light with each successive layer. Current HD TV is simply not bright enough to make it work.The amount of illumination put into pixels must be at least 400% over what it is now. So, for the next few years TV is stuck with glasses. This suits theatrical distributors just fine. They’ve been wanting properties that play uniquely in cinemas for decades, and it looks like they now have it.
New TVs will be 2D and 3D compatible, but it will be a high-end gimmick, in the same way that most people aren’t fussed about having 5.1 Dolby at home. I recently watched Avatar in 2D and 3D, and the film in now way suffers from being flat. In fact, I was aware of a great many details I had missed in the 3D experience. But seeing the hairs in Jar Jar Binks’ ears is going to be a step too far.