Tech: 3D is a technology without vision

Is 3D a waste of time?
Is 3D a waste of time?

In a previous column, I mentioned that I believe 3D remains largely a waste of time. This is a purposefully different statement from 'I think 3D is rubbish', of course, and I thought I would explain why.

In short, I don't believe the people who create content for 3D have established a reason why it needs to be in 3D.

The studios were so preoccupied with whether they could, that they didn't stop to think if they should (to paraphrase a Steven Spielberg film ... yes, give yourself a point for spotting which one).

There are probably few people who know as much about cinema as film critic Mark Kermode. He's always been pointedly forthright on the 3D subject. As he said back in 2010: '3D has never been the future of cinema. It is, was, and always will be the past.' (

His view (and one I subscribe to) is that to movie studios, 3D isn't seen as a solution to a storytelling problem (how do we make this story more compelling for the audience?), but to a piracy one (how do we stop people filming this on smartphones?).

Yet the knock-on effect of a surfeit of 3D film content is that we see a lot of home-entertainment equipment now shipping with 3D built in, the assumption being that if there are lots of things to watch in 3D, then people will buy 3D TVs to watch them on.

This is a fairly shaky assumption to make, and one that's coming back to haunt the industry. Whereas 3D at last year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was the marquee product for most TV manufacturers, this year it passed with barely a whimper. It has become a background feature, not worth a mention, a passing standard that will be quietly removed from future models as engineers strip out unnecessary cost.

Here's the kicker, though: taken together, 3D in the cinema and the home means there are now a lot of 3D opportunities (media inventory) available; media owners want to sell it, agencies want to explore it. Yet, creating ads in 3D is not the solution to any definable brand problem.

Search for press releases on a 3D ad, and you'll find banal statements along the lines of 'we always want this brand to push boundaries, so taking it 3D seemed like a no-brainer'. If by 'no-brainer' you mean the decision has had absolutely no rigorous thought applied to it, then you're probably right.

It goes without saying that this latest, modern version of 3D is an impressive technological feat. However, until producers understand how to use it in ways that improve the things people want to watch, using it for ads people don't want to watch is a waste of time and money. Hopefully that's one thing brands will see clearly in 2013.

John V Willshire is the founder of Smithery, an innovation works for marketing and product development. Follow him on Twitter @willsh or at


  • Great video of film critic Mark Kermode going through some proand anti-3D views from the debate of how cinema is creatively adapting to 3D (or failing to) -
  • Kevin Kelly on HFR (high frame-rate) video - 'In the end, we tend to crave the realism - when it has been mastered - and will make our home in it.' -


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