ARTICLE BY COLIN MCMAHON
While 3D TV is likely dead, 3D cinema need not necessarily follow. HMDs like PSVR have given the medium new life, as one of Sony's latest updates correctly formats 3D within the headset, without the need for any extra glasses.
3D films have gone through several phases - first appearing back in 1922 and currently enjoying a modern resurgence that began in 2003. The most recent period has been marked with few standout achievements (Avatar, How to Train Your Dragon) and many perceived gimmicks (2010's Clash of the Titans).
While consumers have not minded paying for the standouts, rushed 3D conversion jobs have largely been a bust and led the entire industry to a high degree of infamy. People do not wish to spend more on inferior products. To many, 3D has become just another way to jack up the prices.
VR, particularly Sony with its PSVR, is in a position to offer the format new life. PSVR's headset cinematic display works well, creating the illusion that you are in your own private theater. Watching DreamWorks' How to Train Your Dragon 3D in PSVR is as close as anyone will come to recreating the film's original theatrical run.
Another reason why 3D is a good fit is VR's content need. Even VR video, which is in far greater supply than interactive VR experiences, needs a boost. Most current 360-degree video is low quality, which does not look great on HMDs. 3D movies hit a sweet spot. True, they are not 360-degrees, but the 3D images still perfectly showcase VR's heightened sense of immersion.
One potential downside is a lack of material content - not many consumers own 3D Blu-rays. That said, streaming services like Netflix and Amazon are well-positioned (with large installed bases) to circumnavigate that problem. In fact, Netflix already streams 3D film content.
An additional hazard is the lack of a social element. In the past, companies like Netflix found that its users did not want/care about social connectivity. This may change in VR, as it more completely recreates the feel of movie theater. One possibility envisions live-streams of content like Rifftrax or Mystery Science Theater 3000 to a boundless theater of fans. With VR - each user could sit front and center at the same time.
Eventually, 3D 360-degree video will become the norm in VR, but technological/economical limitations still prevent that content from reaching a far audience. That said, traditional 3D cinematic content is ready to go today on VR HMDs. The surge in high quality content can help bring in new users, while offering an intriguing window of what's to come to current HMD owners.
Sony and Netflix would be wise to move on and promote this service. VR finally provides 3D with the perfect, glasses-free venue that it has been looking for.