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The past, present and future of 3D entertainment

Posted by Joe McNamara on 31st October 2013

If you think back to 2011, you’ll remember being told quite comprehensively that 3D was the future of entertainment and that was the end of it.

Fast-forward a year and, as so often happens in this oh so fickle industry of ours, 3D was dead in the water. It had failed us and we would just settle for HD mobile devices and 4K films instead, like sulking teenagers settling for second best.

Despite the shortcomings of 3D technology, early adopters swallowed every possible gimmick under the sun. Obligated to pay a premium to get ‘the full 3D experience’ for films that had absolutely no reason to be shot in 3D, all made worse by those foul and easily misplaced 3D lab-goggles.

Now, however, 3D is making something of a tentative return. It also appears to have got better.

3D: wanted dead or alive

A recent article in the Independent captures the current 3D situation extremely well. In this boom or bust landscape nobody is allowed to be indifferent about anything. Even though 3D supposedly died last year, recent box office hit Gravity has restored some faith in 3D with 80% of viewers being prepared to pay the premium of between $3 and $5.

Similarly, the gaming industry has had ups and downs when it comes to 3D gaming. As early as 2011 warning shots were being fired. A poll of 1,000 gamers by found that over half of the respondents weren’t interested in 3D being a part of next-generation consoles.

Despite this, there have been successful attempts at delivering 3D gaming. The Alienware M17x, for example, was greeted with rave reviews by industry commentators. More recently, the Oculus Rift has made great strides in opening up innovation for a 3D experience of sorts.

This is a different kind of 3D though. Far from wearing a pair of glasses and having a few things pop out at you every now and then, the future of 3D is immersion.

I want to be immersed

The Oculus Rift is a ground-breaking piece of hardware that bridges the gap between 3D gaming and virtual reality – another one of those in and out of form technologies. It’s designed to give the user an immersive gaming experience where they feel as if they are actually in the game.

It’s opened up the floodgates for all types of back-engineering and innovation, not least from one of our own clients, Plextek Consulting, which has been on the case of bringing immersive reality to the world of video communications using the Oculus Rift.

That brings us full circle as the filming industry looks set to realise the immersion revolution too. Korean technology firm, ScreenX has introduced a new concept of immersive cinema that has taken Seoul by storm. By essentially encasing the audience with three huge screens, viewers feel heavily involved in the action as if they are right there in the thick of it.

Hopefully, the immersion trend will make technology companies realise that 3D is a long-term trend and not an overnight fad. Simply making everything 3D will not guarantee you popularity with consumers.

In fact, due to innovations such as the Oculus Rift and ScreenX, we may be reaching a point where gimmicky 3D features and unnecessary 3D films are laughed out of the room. As we see so often with new technologies, early attempts may not register the impact they are touted to, but innovators will crack the code in time.

Image credit: Matt Neale

Joe McNamara