To 3D Or Not To 3D, That Is The Question…

In a Twitter/Facebook post today, I ruminated (fancy word) about whether 3D in the 21st Century is just a repeat of the 50’s fad. My reason for asking is because while there are a lot of 3D films in theaters, and Panasonic and Sony are pushing home 3D monitors, there are still a lot of questions.

I am not a huge proponent of 3D. To me, it is a tech advance that is being put ahead of quality content much of the time. However, while that is my opinion, I still have interest in it.

You have true 3D films, planned for 3D, and with the format as part of the scripting process. A film like AVATAR uses it to enhance the world, to immerse you in it, and to make you forget that you are wearing oversized glasses.

Then there are the retrofitted films, and these are the part of the fad IMHO. A film is shot and planned in 2D and then is reformatted to make things jump out at you. Since it was never a part of the creative process, it simply is a gimmick, not much better than colorization, because it is not natural to the original creative processes, it is an after-thought.

A good example is the new HARRY POTTER film. While a 3D retrofit was attempted, Warners eventually decided to only release it now in 2D. That means two things to me. One, that the film worked without it, and two, that the “wow factor” was not essential to the success of the film.

Warners has announced that “Deathly Hallows Part 2” will have a 3D release.

Studios have embraced the 3D conversion process because they see it as a way to charge a premium price. This in turn inflates box-office totals and makes for a higher gross. I still have to research it, but has it increased actual butts in the theater seats enough to truly say that Hollywood is back?

In addition, are there now consumers who will only choose a 3D film? Was “Clash Of The Titans” or “The Last Airbender” a better film in 3D than in the original form? For the theaters themselves, did it create incremental snack bar sales? Conversely, are there films that were less enjoyable and involving in 2D?

At home, in the last 15 years, consumers have had to absorb the advent and decline of DVD, as well as the War between to DVD off-shoots (Blu-ray and HD-DVD), the push to make the consumer change from DVD to Blu-ray, to convince them that what was once such a great medium is now inferior, to upgrade to HD-TV, with two separate choices, 720P (not fully utilizing true Blu-ray) and 1080P displays (Blu-ray ready).

In the meantime, analog broadcasting went away and digital required modifications of its own.

All of these changes are now joined by the wonderful need to have home 3D-TV. Again, it is flash over creative content. Was there a hue and cry that the general public wanted 3D TV badly, or do they see it as a cool choice, but not essential.

Is AVATAR  a worse film in 2D? That is your decision, but how many films can utilize 3D effectively, and what type of films really need it?

This is Blu-ray Disc and other cautionary tales of the new Black Friday Sales. Preamble

Don’t get excited. I am still writing and editing it to actually make it coherent.


However, if ever there was a technology with so much promise that has been mishandled so badly, I don’t know what it it, unless you include HD Radio.


So, watch this space until tomorrow night, and I’ll have what I hope will be informative and discussion provoking.


Or at least fun to read. And I’ll need your help to join in.


See you tomorrow


Blu-ray Disc: What The Hell Are You, Really (Part 1)

As usual, this is my learned opinion. While I strongly believe in both my viewpoint and in my knowledge that I have accumulated to reach this viewpoint, I do expect others to feel differently and to challenge and enlighten me. I cannot be right unless I can face the possibility of being wrong.

As a lifelong home video maven and almost as long a member of the home video business, I am one who loves the advances that come along in physical video media. Now you are branding me as a “stick in the mud” old head, because I did not use the words “digital” or “downloads” or “VOD” or “watching a big screen film on your fricking phone”.

And maybe I am, but I believe in the thought that you can only own, hold, library, and treasure something that you truly can actually hold. I’ll get into that later, but for now, let’s look at what was to be the next big thing in physical video media.

Blu-ray disc.

Raise your hands, all of you who have had this more than one year.

Now, those of you who specifically bought a Blu-ray player for the Blu-ray

Now, those of you who know what Blu-ray really is.

Now, those of you who know what 720p, 1080i, and 1080p are.

Now, those of you who actually know which of these numbers your HDTV is.

Now, those of you who wonder what is now wrong with DVD that you need to step up.

Those are just a few of the questions that I ask because I believe that the people behind Blu-ray have pretty much screwed up the process.

Now, it isn’t their entire fault. Sony, Warner, and the champions of Blu-ray, spent the first couple of years fighting a battle with other studios who championed a different hi-def disc, HD-DVD.  In other words, instead of spending the launch shouting about how this was the next big improvement on DVD and home entertainment, they spent it telling people they were better than another rival that the consumer needed to be educated about.

So, this set back the ability to please anybody but the early adopters, who took sides and claimed to be the ones who mattered to the success of the format. This was an asinine concept, since any product that wants to be the next big thing needs to interest those who may not be initially interested, not just the early adopters.

Ok, so HD-DVD drops out, and Blu-ray has the field all to themselves. Now, what to do.

I still do not think that they know.

By the time Blu-ray finally “won”, the industry was facing the sea change that is online. Because Blu-ray spent so much time fending off competition, they forgot the general consumer.

A couple of years ago, I talked with one of the Sony execs about programs to better educate the mass market about Blu-ray. My theory rested on the concept that good independent video stores were built on the concept of customer service. They prided themselves on knowing the customer, remembering their likes and needs, and talking with them to help make choices. My stores always loved the conversation as much as the money going into the till. That conversation improved both the customers’ night of entertainment and our ability to serve them in the future.

One concept explored was a reasonable kiosk set up that would promote Blu-ray in an easy to understand way. Well, I guess the concept was good, because after a few conversations, the studio rolled them out to Blockbuster. Well!

Of course, to Blockbuster, they were just another merchandising floor plan, one more space to compete against what theater sized candy earned per square foot.

At the same time, along came the rise of Netflix and Redbox. (I still for the life of me abhor the thought of films being vended like gumballs). Netflix was the smart one, promoting itself as convenience, even though you had to wait a day or two for the DVD.

More on Netflix later.

The other great change was the studios desire to get into streaming and downloading, while the cable giants try to expand their VOD and other offerings. What was basically happening is that the market, which Blu-ray at first hoped would be sales oriented, and then reluctantly gave way to rental thoughts, was no longer the new kid on the block. Now, newer techs, some of them more like rental than sale, were the talk of the town.

Blu-ray has tried some good ideas  that may be too little too late. The best was the Combo Blu-ray/DVD pack, which allowed the consumer to get both formats for one price. Those who had Blu-ray love it, especially for family films, since they may not have Blu-ray on all the TV’s or computers.

However, is it enough to cause a customer to think forward and say to themselves “Gee, someday I may own a Blu-ray player or computer”. In addition, did the combo pack actually do anything to educate and change consumer viewpoints.

Blu-ray is taking a larger share of the DVD pie, but is that because the DVD pie has hit its ceiling?

I have more on this, but this post is long enough, and as I have said, I really want to hear from others, because I can always learn and reevaluate. All I ask is that your comments focus on Blu-ray for now, and wait for me to get to other home video topics to tear me a new digital asshole.

BTW, did you know that if you have an HDTV, if it is 720p, it will upconvert standard DVD nicely, but that it can only upconvert to a max of 1080i, and Blu-ray uses 1080p for full effect?