3D TV Comeback?

By now, maybe most people have upgraded their TV sets from HD to 4K; I finally did last summer. So to get consumers to buy more TVs, maybe the industry wants to try 3D again? Recently, Wired published a piece reasoning 3D could return but this time succeed. My take? I doubt it. Seriously. Though the tech looks cool, is it really? Here are some reasons why I don’t think so.

The simplest reason is that people don’t like covering their face. Unless you’re already accustomed to wearing glasses, donning thick goggles to watch a movie is inconvenient and a bit uncomfortable. 3D effects look cool, but are they impressive enough to mask half your face for a couple hours?

Another reason is that while immersive, 3D depth doesn’t really help tell a story. Eye candy and the thrill factor are fun and can draw viewers in on some level, but the story is what’s most compelling in a good movie. In fact, the medium of cinema altogether, whether 2D or 3D, is arguably inferior to good storytelling, as it’s generally true that “the book is better than the movie” in most cases. That’s to say, a good book is oft regarded as better than its movie counterpart. (Though in the case of The Martian, starring Matt Damon, I enjoyed the movie at least as much as the book.)

A good writer can create characters with real depth that a movie goer connects with. But if a hero or villain is flat, no amount of 3D visual effects will make the story better. Rarely are subjects popping out from the background powerful enough to overcome weak writing or directing.

One rare example of where 3D is daftly used in a movie to convey the story is Tron: Legacy. It consists of the real world and a computer generated digital world. The real world is always shown in 2D while the digital world is 3D. Such implementation makes sense in that film due to the story. But again, though a 3D spectacle can be enthralling, the story and characters are what truly grip audiences most on an emotional level.

Let me add that not only do I think 3D video effects are not worth the extra cost and equipment in my home, I also gave up on 3D audio effects — surround sound. Long ago, I was into Dolby Pro Logic and set up a home theater system with 5.1 channel audio. It was cool. But for years now, I’ve preferred the more simple and affordable 2.1 channel setup. Just stereo and a bass-y subwoofer is all I need to enjoy a movie at home. Don’t forget some popcorn.

Now, the final reason I doubt 3D will make a comeback: it already had its chance and failed to catch on. People voted with their wallets. While some folks bought 3D TVs and 3D disc players, it seems that most people didn’t. James Cameron’s megahit, Avatar, wowed the world, caused many to run out and buy 3D home theaters, and then…nevermind, it’s all about 4K UHD!

3D came and went. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. So no, I don’t think 3D movies and TV will pop back into the market and succeed.

Do you think 3D TVs will make a comeback, why or why not?