Software

Stop being duped by the 3D scam

The entertainment and electronics industries keep trying to push 3D on consumers, even though a lot of smart people have caught on to the fact that it's a scam. It's time to stop the madness.

This was originally published on April 23, but we're republishing it at the end of the year since it was one of TechRepublic's most-read articles of 2011. Since this was first published, the 3D movement has indeed begun to lose momentum.

Last Friday, I departed from my normal business technology beat to talk about the geek entertainment event Game of Thrones. This week I'm going to plug into our Geekend theme again, but this time the topic is something more nefarious — the entertainment industry's misguided scam of the public.

The 3D gimmick has sadly infiltrated movies and television and is now threatening to infect video games and smartphones as well. There's only one reason why the entertainment industry keeps relentlessly pushing this at consumers — it's a transparent attempt to bleed more money out of people. And, while a lot of consumers have caught on to the scam, not everyone is doing enough to stop it.

3D is definitely NOT about innovation, as the industry would like you to believe. In fact, adding the current 3D effects to a movie or video of any kind subtracts from the picture. It muddies the colors and unsharpens the images, and it has to slow down the action shots because it makes people sick if things go too fast in 3D. In fact, optometrists estimate that up to 25% of people get headaches or nausea from simply watching 3D at all.

Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/4FR

My first hint at the 3D scam was in October 2009 when Toy Story and Toy Story 2 were re-released in the theaters as 3D movies. My kids were excited to see Toy Story on the big screen for the first time so we gladly ponied up the extra money to see the 3D version of the double feature. We weren't very far into the first movie before I realized that the quality of the colors and images were actually worse in 3D. That was a big disappointment. Even my kids said that the 3D wasn't as exciting as they thought it would be. There went an extra $24 down the drain ($3 extra for 3D for four people for two movies).

Of course, the Toy Story movies were standard 2D movies that were converted to 3D (which is actually the way most "3D" movies are still handled). So, what about movies that are natively shot with special 3D cameras, such as Avatar? I'll admit that when I first saw Avatar in the theaters I was impressed at how well it wove in the 3D effects. But, my admiration wore off once I saw it on Blu-ray on a 240Hz LED TV and quickly realized that all of the colors and action shots suddenly came to life and really popped off the screen. That's when it fully dawned on me what a horrible scam 3D really is. They are making us pay more money for a gimmicky, inferior experience. Sure, there are a few neat moments in most 3D movies, but the novelty wears very off quickly and it's certainly not worth the trade-off in picture quality or action sequences.

I had started to see this coming a little sooner, and I should have pounced on it. Back at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show, I was dazzled by the new LED TVs that Samsung showed off at its big press conference. The images were so sharp and the colors were so bright that the picture almost felt three dimensional. Plus the TV themselves were amazingly thin.

The next year, at CES 2010, I was surprised to see all of the TV manufacturers including Samsung pushing TVs with 3D glasses. I immediately felt like this was a step backward. I didn't want to mess around with watching TV with 3D glasses. I wanted to see more super thin TVs with amazing pictures (at even better prices) like the ones I had seen the year before. After consumers rejected 3D TVs in 2010, the companies tried to come back at CES 2011 and pitch "no glasses" 3D. I wanted to shake my head and do a face-palm every time one of these electronics vendors mentioned 3D.

This is a bad detour for the entertainment and electronics industries, and they stubbornly refuse to let it die. In fact, they keep trying to push 3D on us, since many of these new products have been in planning for a year or two (before consumers started catching on to the 3D scam). The movie industry and movie theaters try to force us to only be able to watch some of their top movies in 3D (and pay extra for it). TV makers are forcing 3D into all of their new top-of-the-line LED TVs (and trying to make us to pay extra for it). Content companies are now making their Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy bundles include 3D discs (and trying to make us pay extra for it). Game companies such as Nintendo are integrating gimmicky 3D into their new systems. Mobile computing vendors such as HTC and LG are even trying to put 3D into their smartphones and tablets.

There's only one way to stop the madness. Avoid 3D whenever possible.

This is a bad experiment that the industry is forcing consumers to subsidize. And since they can't create a better product, they've simply latched on to 3D as a marketing ploy that the entertainment and electronics industries can use to trick people into thinking that they are getting a superior experience. It's only working because just enough people are falling for the scam to keep it alive.

A lot of smart people have already sniffed this out and are avoiding 3D entertainment. It's time for the rest of the public to reject 3D and stop being cheated.

It's not that we don't want innovation in real life imaging. Of course, we do. We just want real innovation, and don't want to pay for badly-overpriced gimmicks and half-baked experiments.

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About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.

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