3DTV or not 3DTV? That is the question.
March 23, 2010 6:20 AM   Subscribe

Why will 3D TVs be successful when 3D PC games weren't?

I'm really lost at all the hype surrounding 3D TVs. In my mind if there was one place where 3D should have worked (if it was going to work anywhere) it would be PC gaming. Sitting fairly close to screen, not worried about wearing funny glasses, and generally not a shared activity. But 3D TV is the opposite of all of these - so why will it work when 3D PC gaming never really took off?
posted by devnull to Technology (15 answers total)
Better technology, companies are even trying to develop 3D without glasses.

Better marketing, the big TV companies and movie studios see this as the next big thing. They will spend vast sums of money on advertising because they stand to make even vaster sums, if they can convince a significant number of people to buy new TVs and repurchase large chunks of their movie collections.
posted by oddman at 6:29 AM on March 23, 2010

I don't know if 3d TV is going to take off, but 3d is certainly fashionable and advancing on all fronts - screens, movies, live-events, televisions. A lot of people stand to make a lot of money off this, and will be willing to SPEND a lot of money to get the message across. The technology is pretty good.

Plus, there was no Avatar of PC 3D gaming.

Interestingly also : it's not on a PC, but I wouldn't write off 3d games just yet.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:42 AM on March 23, 2010

Why will 3D TVs be successful when 3D PC games weren't?

It seems to me a better question is "Why does 3D TV have a better chance of succeeding where 3D PC games failed?"

The answer to that question would be: technological development, a will by companies to invest the time and money in refining the technology, etc.
posted by dfriedman at 6:44 AM on March 23, 2010

Consumers may reject it but it may be part of newer TVs because these TVs can just be set to be a 2D TV. I personally dont expect it to catch on, but I agree with this Ars Technica review that we might be forced to buy them because non-3D TVs will no longer be made:
The bad news for the entire consumer electronics industry—from the makers of Blu-ray players and panels to the broadcasters who are preparing 3D content—is that none of the 3D TVs coming to market this year are so compelling that cash-strapped consumers are going to pay a premium for the tech, much less ditch their current TV and upgrade. The effect just isn't that good—again, at it's very best it's comparable to a 3D movie in theaters. And the fact that you have to wear glasses in your own living room will turn off a ton of people.

But in the end, all of us will eventually buy 3D TV sets, because we won't have a choice.

Because every frame that the active shutter displays push is full-resolution, a 3D TV can be used just like a normal TV with a very fast refresh rate. This simple fact is the key to why 3D TV is such a safe bet for the electronics industry: if consumers dislike anything about the 3D experience, they can just opt not to use it. Eventually, when all of the TV panels produced by the panel-makers are 3D-capable due to economies of scale, you'll have as hard a time finding a non-3D-capable display as you do finding a non-HD display today. So you may or may not choose to don some glasses and watch the big game in 3D, but your TV and your broadcaster will support it.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:44 AM on March 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

The fact that we're currently on the crest of a wave of hype about 3D doesn't necessarily mean it'll be successful. Previous attempts have failed, and it's too early to say whether this one will be any different.

It's just an attempt to create a new market; if the hype convinces us all to buy into that market, businesses make money. If it doesn't, they'll try again in five or ten years when the technology has moved on.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:46 AM on March 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

There are several technologies for 3D, and some of them don't have to add significant additional expense (relative to the cost of the TV). I want to add a follow-up question which perhaps the AV club can answer. (If this is an excessive derail, I apologize.)

Many new TVs are 120Hz refresh rates or higher. This high refresh rate allows one to use LCD alternating-eye-shutters technology for 3D while still maintaining a 60Hz frame rate. Is there a reason no one is manufacturing an external box which syncs with the LCD glasses to make a conventional TV into a 3D TV? It seems like the TV wouldn't really care about the input consisting of interleaved frames dedicated to left and right eyes, so the obvious issue is syncing, but that shouldn't be too hard, right? I could imagine this built directly into a Blu-Ray player, but I've not seen it.

For the alternating-eye approach, does the TV matter much at all?
posted by JMOZ at 6:59 AM on March 23, 2010

A couple other reasons....PC gaming at the end of the day just isn't that large of market, especially compared to a TV market that can play games (xbox, ps3, etc), watch movies and sports.

Also, 3D PC gaming required the installation of a 3d graphics card. Most computers do/did not support 3D out of the box.
posted by travis08 at 7:25 AM on March 23, 2010

The content now exists. The new range of 3d movies now have a foot hold in the movie theaters. I have personally been very impressed. The ability to see these movies at home will drive the market. This gets the kids. The world cup and other sports jumping on the band wagon will drive the adults.

As opposed to the hype in the past, I think this time it might just catch on - mostly due to the comments provided above - higher quality tech, simple add on to a suitable 2d tv, availability of 3d content...
posted by NoDef at 7:49 AM on March 23, 2010

3D PC gaming failed?

You can buy a kit with a monitor for under $500 that runs most modern games in 3D if you have an Nvidia card. If you want 3D, you can get it.

Personally, it makes my eyes tired if I watch for long periods of time, but that's the same for me as the 3D movies.
posted by demiurge at 7:54 AM on March 23, 2010

You may think 3d gaming has failed, but this looks pretty hot to me.
posted by MesoFilter at 8:03 AM on March 23, 2010

At some level, 3D PC gaming failed because PC gaming itself failed. Or rather, it got replaced by the XBox 360 and the PS3. I would not be surprised that 3D TV also come with a resurgence of 3D gaming on the consoles.
posted by smackfu at 8:07 AM on March 23, 2010

3D TV is a long way from succeeding, and may not go anywhere. The fact that the TV manufacturers are pushing 3D hard is more about the market they want to grow rather than an existing market. With the exception of Avatar, there haven't been any 3D movies that did well because they were 3D. Most TV content isn't really something you want to watch in 3D (CSI in 3D? Oprah in 3D?). Cartoons and action movies may benefit, commercials would love it, some sports would probably adapt to it. So Fox, ESPN, Cartoon Network and the Disney Channel would be natural fits for 3D but that leaves a lot of content that has no use for it. TV watching is also a much more casual pursuit than watching a movie in a theater. Wearing glasses and sitting only in the sweet spot are not compatible with the way people watch TV.
The other aspect is financial, 3D requires that you buy a new TV and glasses for every viewer. That's a lot of money. Consider how many people still haven't migrated to BlueRay or have just bought their first LCD TV. The cost of making 3D content is not negligible either. For CGI stuff it's cheap but for live action is not cheap and hard to do correctly. Adding 3D in post (like Alice in W) is less expensive but not as interesting.
If there is a big driver for 3D TV I think it will be 3D games via the next gen game consoles, but that could still be a niche market and those consoles are not due for a rev in the near future.
posted by doctor_negative at 9:30 AM on March 23, 2010

3D TV is being pushed hard because Sony et al really enjoy all the cash they've gotten from selling people HDTVs, and now that that market is drying up a bit, they *need* to push some new fancy technology that everyone must have RIGHT NOW.

I don't think 3DTV will succeed, because it doesn't have the noticeable benefit to regular programming that HD does. Friends looks noticeably sharper in HD. But do I really need tables and chairs popping out at me from sitcoms? I doubt it.
posted by graventy at 9:52 AM on March 23, 2010

In my mind if there was one place where 3D should have worked (if it was going to work anywhere) it would be PC gaming [...] 3D PC gaming never really took off?

Well, consumer 3D offerings such as those from nVidia have only been around since about 2009, and require that users have special LCD displays (with 120Hz refresh rates), a recent high-end graphics card, and things like that.

I would say it's too early to write such products off as failed; they're just only owned by 'early adopters'.

not worried about wearing funny glasses

Things like iPod headphones and the right brand of sunglasses show that special-function headgear doesn't have to look geeky.
posted by Mike1024 at 10:51 AM on March 23, 2010

3D gaming is more niche - more people still watch TV, so a larger market to appeal to.

But still, until they develop a TV that offers 3D without the need for glasses, its doomed to failure. Too expensive to make custom content for the few who'll invest in the equipment.
posted by Unsomnambulist at 10:07 PM on March 23, 2010

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