Tuesday, October 30, 2018

"Real"-"D" is better than "3-D"

(Editor's Note:  The following story was written nearly a decade ago, in 2009, when 3-D television was on the horizon and about to take the media landscape by storm.  Alas, it seems that storm was an errant forecast.  But we do have "AI" and "Twitter." ....sigh.)

by Larry Miller

As a 10-year-old kid, I was on the cutting edge of technology. I just didn’t know it.

Scrunched down in row #10 of the Pace Theater in Chadron – bedecked with nifty paper and plastic glasses made for the occasion – I ducked and yowled as a “House of Wax” barker slammed a rubber-ball from the movie screen straight for me and my friends.

The plot of that 1953 Vincent Price movie was a bit thin, but it was enough to satisfy me and my buddies. The highly-touted three-dimensional (3-D) technology was what really grabbed us and left indelible memories imprinted on our youthful minds. But 3-D movies didn’t succeed very well in the marketplace and were gone within a few years.

Fast-forward nearly 70 years and 3-D seems to be making a come-back.

Spurred by the notion of selling lots more new-fangled television sets, giant TV set manufacturers like Samsung, Sony, Vizio, and Panasonic say they’re going to really push 3-D television sales during the coming year. They enjoyed a big surge in the sales of high definition receivers over the past couple of years. They fear sales will soon slump and are looking for something to excite consumers.

Given the enormous strides made in television production technology in recent years, it’ll be fun to see what the set manufacturers can do.

Despite the fact that I worked around television most of my professional life – including the days before even rudimentary “chroma-key” or “green screen” techniques were used – I remain amazed at just how good these new technologies are. I’m still trying to figure out how those innovative rascals manage to show me the “1st and 10” line down on the football field, just like it’s really there….players running over it, obscuring it from sight, as if it were really a part of the field. Wow.

But I’m an early skeptic that 3-D will go far in the television world – at least so long as special eyeglasses are required. Some 3-D units will required battery-powered glasses.

I already have difficulty keeping track of where the various television remote controls are – the TV, the cable box, and the DVD player – so adding another device to the shelf might be a bit tricky. And batteries? Well, Triple-A would be good, since I keep them in stock, but I fear they’ll be using something smaller. Something lighter. Something that’s proprietary. Something costly! Pre-holiday reports indicate that the special glasses will likely cost at least $50.

Of course, making the TV receiver is only one part of the tricky 3-D equation. Local television stations are only now completing their conversion from analog to high definition local programming. Unless there is ample 3-D content available for broadcast, efforts to lure consumers to buy new sets – again -- will be doomed. After all, content is king.

But looking at most television programs these days, I’m not sure the television industry has quite figured that out.

Perhaps we’ll just take a simple stroll outside to enjoy a beautiful sunset – no 3-D glasses required.