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Are You Ready For The 3D Revolution?

Posted on January 27, 2009 and read 5,408 times

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3D or not 3D. That’s a question I believe the advertising industry needs to begin seriously asking – and answering with an emphatic “yes”. Here’s my top three reasons why:


• 3D technology has come of age
• 3D is the future of movie, television, gaming and mobile device content
• 3D offers the most visually powerful way yet devised to showcase a product

Let’s take them one at a time, starting with the technology.

If your only 3D experience is of some B-movie horror film from decades ago – cut to: a slightly out-of-focus human liver hanging off a spear dangling over the audience – you need to have another look. The clarity and immersive reality of modern 3D is incredible. All thanks the advent of digital technology. Instead of two imprecisely synced projectors rolling 35mm film, there’s a single computer file played through a single, foolproof, digital projector. Instead of comically ineffective red and green glasses, there’s polarized lenses that wouldn’t look out of place on the Men in Black. And a number of companies, including Toronto-based Spatial View, have developed technologies that do away with the need for glasses all together.

And, it’s not just movie screens that are being transformed into 3D playgrounds. TV’s, gaming monitors, laptops, and mobile devices including cell phones and iPods can, and will soon, support 3D playback. The electronics giant Samsung, amongst others, has already sold over 2 million 3D-ready televisions. All of which brings us to the second reason to start looking seriously at 3D as the next advertising medium – it’s where movie and, ultimately television content is headed. (After all, we live in a 3D world, why shouldn’t we watch in 3D as well?)

Hollywood has been experimenting with 3D since 1920’s – experiencing a “Golden Era” in the early 1950’s with a series of horror films, starting with Bwana Devil, followed by a number of horror and soft-porn driven revivals in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. The Stewardesses, circa 1970, still lays claim to being the most profitable 3D film ever. Every one of these periods, however, ended their run within a few years, closed down, more often than not, by technological constraints (see Reason Number One!).

With those problems solved, and audience response to a range of recent 3D releases – from concert films like U2 3D and Hannah Montana 3D to live action films like Journey to the Centre of the Earth and animated films like Bolt 3D – the movie industry is ramping up 3D production like never before. In fact, they’re banking their future on the third dimension.

I recently attended the first 3DX Film and Entertainment Technology Festival in Singapore, and every major studio laid out its commitment to, and plans for, 3D production. Walt Disney Studios is planning to release 17 3D movies in the next three years. Dreamworks Animation declared that all its animated movies will be produced in 3D. And, in his keynote presentation, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Chief Executive of Dreamworks, went so far as to claim that in “five to seven years, all films, regardless of budgets or types, will be made in 3D”.

One obstacle is the limited number of 3D-ready movie theatres. Right now, only about 2,500 screens in the U.S. can support 3D; and maybe 700 more in the rest of the world (including 41 here in Canada). As the studios produce more and more 3D content, that equation will change rapidly and, in turn drive, more 3D production. In fact, it’s already happening. Cineplex has ordered 175 3D screens. The North American total is projected to be 3,000 3D screens for the launch of Dreamworks’ Monster vs Aliens in March 2009, and 6000 screens by the time Jim Cameron’s Avatar hits the market in December.

Once again, it’s not just the studios getting in on the act. There are already 3D video games on the market; BS 11, a television station in Japan currently broadcasts in 3D part-time; and, at the beginning of December, the NFL broadcast their first football game in 3D albeit at a private screenings for NFL owners and select guests. Then on January 8, the BCS Football Championship was broadcast – that’s live action in real time! – to 80 cinemas. Most of the people in the industry believe that 3D sports broadcasts will be the killer application behind 3D TV. I’m one of them. Having personally seen NBA basketball, boxing, and NASCAR in 3D, I can tell you there is no viewing experience that is more intimate or exciting. It is better than being there in the front row. You literally feel like you are part of the action. Reacting to the visual scene around you – dodging a punch, or reaching out to grab a pass. Once you’ve seen it, there’s definitely no going back to 2D. That’s like living with one eye closed.

With movies and television headed into the world of 3D it only makes sense for advertisers to follow. Think about it. Better yet, visualize it. The potential of pulling an object – say, a mobile device – off the screen and putting it ‘virtually’ in the lap of your target audience. Equally, if not more powerful, immersing people in the environment you’re trying to promote – behind the wheel of an automobile, or on the beach of some exotic travel location. Also, from a production point of view, 3D content can still be played in 2D. So why not produce in 3D and launch the campaign in both formats – getting the “wow factor” of 3D and the penetration of 2D? 3D is the new HD. Embrace it or watch someone else get there first.

At the 3D Entertainment Summit in Los Angeles this December, I had the opportunity to lead a panel discussion attended by a contingent of reps from the world of advertising. When I canvassed the crowd, not one company had seriously considered 3D – seriously thought about having 3D creative on the big screen before the coming rush of major studio films. At one point, I held up a prototype of the world’s first 3D iPhone – it turned some heads, if not opened some eyes. It’s on. PS3 3D, 3D Blu-ray, and glasses free 3D TV are all coming down the pike.

So, if my first three reasons for embracing 3D in creative executions haven’t convinced you, how about a fourth – you could be one of the first out of the gate. If you decide to make the move, here’s a few things to keep in mind. While 3D opens up a new world of creative possibilities, it also requires some new, or at least, different approaches to creative and production. For example, deciding how much you want to enter people’s personal space, or how to effectively and emotionally immerse them in a scene. 3D also alters the grammar of visual communication which in turn impacts how you go about designing each shot. And there’s the technical issues surrounding the need to shoot with two cameras –replicating the view of our left and right eyes. I’d be happy to share my experiences in Digital 3D with anyone who is interested.

To close this out, I’ll ask the question I asked at the start: 3D or not 3D? I hope I’ve helped you to decide to begin investigating it. Because 3D is coming. It will be as revolutionary as the move from silent films to “talkies”. As game changing as the evolution from stereo to surround sound. Now is the time to get on board and help write the next chapter in the history of advertising creative.


0 1206 Are You Ready For The 3D Revolution?James Stewart
Producer/Director and Owner
Geneva Film Co.






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