written by - Manoj Dawarwadikar
Last 10 years have seen around 30-70 3D movies released every year – average one movie per week. Most of them are big budget and big grossers. Especially animation movies are released only in the 3D format in some cases. Though 3D movie production is still centered in Hollywood, India and China have grown substantially in the last few years as consumer markets. China has around 25000 3D screens, and India is growing its 3D screens every year, which stands at about 2000 for now. The special effects in 3D are driving moviegoers to 3D cinemas. But unlike 2D movies, the content is not coming to their home – either on their TV sets or smartphones. 3D TVs are actively sold for last 10 years but never became mainstream alternate to 3D movie experience of multiplexes despite having so much content available. The content creation-distribution-consumption chain for 3D TVs is broken. 3D movies were produced with stereoscopic 3D and TVs supported them with 3D goggles. But distribution channels such as set-top boxes or IPTV infra never upgraded. So, 3D TVs always remained a fancy gadget without much of a use. The usual 3D TV makers such as Samsung and LG are also moving their focus on 8K or Smart features instead of pushing 3D as a feature in TVs. CES 2020 had almost no buzz about 3D TVs There is a stark contrast where 3D movies are on the rise, but they are restricted only to multiplexes low shelf-life. OTT players like Netflix and Amazon Prime are bringing the latest movies as well as old-is-gold content to consumers on TV as well as smartphones. But now such avenue for 3D movies.
Virtual Reality can solve this. Virtual Reality rings a bell in the ears of most people as - complicated technology - that requires a huge headgear - to play some interactive games - which might make you vomit. Though VR has been around for 5 years now, there is a lot of variety in the usage of VR, and that makes it difficult to understand and use VR. There is a broad range of VR hardware available from Inexpensive google cardboard viewers with smartphones to high-cost Oculus Rift headset. And the first generation of those headsets is already dead. Google Cardboard, Google Daydream and Samsung Gear VR headsets were officially stopped in 2019. Primary reason? People were not sure what to expect from these headsets. Those who were looking for high-end games could not get the experience they wanted from these headsets. People looking for simple experiences like watching YoutubeVR of NatGeoVR videos found them too expensive for the usage. And one problem everyone faced was limited time usage of these headsets due to its weight and design. Imagine watching a 2 hr movie with a half a kilo goggle sitting on your nose. So, stopping these headsets marks a new era of use-cases and a new approach to design for new use-cases. Oculus declared that most used app on Oculus platforms in 2019 was “YouTube VR”. VR users spent the highest amount of time on non-interactive apps such as Netflix VR or BigScreen VR. The primary reason for this trend is, watching movies in VR headset, especially 3D movies, is a great experience. It combines the best of both worlds – grand picture/sound effects and personalized viewing. VR headsets offer what 3D TVs can’t. They support stereoscopic 3D, and the distribution of 3D content is simplified over the internet. Especially when 5G becomes mainstream, it’ll even further be simplified. VR headsets are well-positioned to push the 3D movie watching at home once the weight and design problems are solved. We see several steps in that direction. Panasonic has announced VR goggles in CES 2020 mainly targeting these use-cases. They look like regular goggles and designed for longer usage time. Of course, they do not support a lot of interactivity that is required by games. Still, the most common user will not need a lot of interactivity. Bose [most popular speaker company] has also launched Augmented reality glasses, which offer audio effects based on the direction of your head and ear. It is very similar to the surround sound that we experience in multiplexes. All these developments will push users to watch their favorite 3D movies in multiplex like setting, sitting at the comfort of their couch.
So, 3D TVs are dead and probably never going to come back unless reinvented but 3D movies are on the rise, and there’ll be new ways to consume them through VR goggles. Specialized VR goggles offer the special effects, convenience and personalization that users are looking for. The moment the weight and cost challenges are solved [which are actively being solved], we might see the explosion of 3D content targeted towards VR users. Before we know, there’ll be a Netflix original or Amazon Original series in 3D made only for VR users.