Is 3D Sinking or Swimming?

Evan Powell, August 7, 2012

We are now over two years into the third wave of 3D in cinema. The first two waves in the 1950's and 1980's died out as fads, but the new generation 3D is (so far) showing solid staying power.

Two years ago in the summer of 2010 we ran a survey asking our readers how important 3D would be to them when buying a new home theater projector. We ran that same survey again last summer and we've just completed a third run of it now.

The follow table shows the proposition statements from the 2010 and 2012 surveys and the percentage of respondents agreeing with each:

3D Reader Survey: 2010 and 2012

    2010 2012 Change
1. 3D is vital - my next projector will have 3D   20.6% 19.2% -1.4
2. 3D is important - it is a major factor in my next purchase    9.5% 10.5% +1.0
3. 3D is interesting - I will consider it along with picture quality, lamp life, and other factors   17.6% 25.0% +7.4
4. 3D is not mature - I'll wait for a later generation of products before considering 3D   18.8% 11.6% -7.2
5. 3D is not very important - not a big factor in buying a projector   10.5% 13.6% +3.1
6. 3D is of no interest - I don't need it in my home theater   23.0% 20.0% -3.0

What do the 3D survey results tell us?

The first thing to notice is that the number of readers who proclaim that 3D is vital to them has slipped a bit from 20.6% in 2010 to 19.2% today. That is not much of a slip, but it does suggest a slight erosion.

On the other hand, those who picked #2 and said 3D was very important to them increased from 9.5% in 2010 to 10.5% in 2012.

When we combine those two categories it is clear that there is a solid core of about 30% of buyers who claim that 3D is either vital or a major factor in their home theater buying decision. In 2010, 30.1% of readers selected either #1 or #2, and this time around 29.7% did so. That difference is statistically insignificant. The most important take away from those numbers is that there has been no noticeable increase in the percentage of readers who express keen interest in 3D, nor has there been any noticeable erosion of interest over the two year period.

The most significant shift in numbers occurred on propositions #3 and #4. These are the readers who do not think of 3D as vital, but who are interested in it to a meaningful degree. Two years ago almost 19% of readers said 3D technology was not mature and they were not yet ready to consider it. Now that number has dropped to 11.6%. Meanwhile, those who say that 3D is interesting and a factor to consider when buying a projector has grown from 17.6% to 25%. These numbers suggest that as 3D technology has matured and the early bugs have been ironed out, many readers who were initially reticent are becoming more interested.

The last two categories, #5 and #6, represent those who have either no interest or minimal interest in 3D. In 2010, those who selected either #5 or #6 represented 33.5% of respondents. This year those who selected those two categories totaled 33.6%, or statistically identical. In 2010, 23% of respondents said 3D was of no interest at all, and now that number has dropped to 20%.

Conclusion

There has been no major shift in reader interest in 3D over the past two years since the introduction of 3D enabled video products for the home. Two years ago, about 1/3 of respondents said they had little or no interest in 3D technology, and that number has not changed. The remaining 2/3 of readers say that 3D is anywhere from vital to at least something worth waiting for. The only measurable shift in reader perception is that many who used to say 3D technology was not yet ready for prime time now believe it has matured to the point where it is ready to consider.

These survey results indicate that solid 3D performance will continue to be a key factor for the success of any home theater projector. Though about 1/3 of buyers don't care about 3D, the majority of buyers do. From our vantage point in the summer of 2012, the drive for optimum 3D performance will be a major competitive battleground issue in the sale of home theater projectors for the foreseeable future.


Reader Comments(21 comments)

Posted May 29, 2013 10:24:12 PM

By Lance

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I never get used to the feeling of surprise that strikes me when I hear people referring to 3D video as a "fad," in the sense that it will sooner or later be a thing of the past, collecting dust in a crowded bin alongside Pet Rocks and Disco, at a time when we will look at eachother and shake our heads as if to say, "What were we thinking when we grew those Afros together?" It is not. To believe that 3D technology is in a similar vein as these "fads" requires, I am sorry to say, a startling lack of foresight.

There was a breakthrough in visual technology a few years ago that was initially met by many with a similar skepticism, but in that particular case, the skeptics who believed it was a gimmick that would soon fade were incorrect. They were called "Talkies." "How could you be so easily led," they might say, "by this gimmick of adding 'audio' to a film, when written words work just as well?" Reading for pleasure has not yet gone out of fashion (you are doing it right now), so there must be a reason for the success of the Talkie apart from the elimination of text.

Is this comparison unfair? Perhaps it would be fruitful to consider in what important ways 3D technology is similar to Talkies, whether there are other technologies that share these impotant factors, and make an attempt to identify exactly what it is that warrants the discrepancy in opinion that some of these technologies will fail while the others will not.

The single thread of commonality that stands out to me whenever I consider the advances in television and film that really stuck is that, invariably, these advances represented shifts in technology that resulted in film more closely mimicking actual life. Talkies, color television, high definition, 3D.

Reflecting on the advent of color television, I get the impression that it was "bound" to happen - and bound to persist - that if the inventor of color television had died young, someone else would have invented it later. Our world is not black and white. Color television was "bound" to happen. Our world is not pixelated. Higher definition was "bound" to happen - and bound to persist.. Our world is not two-dimensional. Thus, 3D is "bound" to happen - and bound to persist.

If the case is as clear as I insist, and the answer so plainly accessible, then why is there still a debate, when with color and high definition, there is not? In the case of color television, the test of time may be enough, but 1080p is still fairly new. Doomed inventions have lasted longer.

So, in what way are 3D and HD technologies so different that an argument still must be made on behalf of the future of 3D, though the future of HD requires none? In theory, I do not believe there is one. It is only in practice that such a crucial difference exists: virtually everyone enjoys the experience of HD, but many do not enjoy the experience of 3D. That is the key difference between the two, but notice that the extrapolation of the demise of 3D technology from this observation would be misled. Popular opinion can only gives us glues about the survival of extant technology. Thus, the conclusion that should actually be drawn is that HD, in its current state, will endure, while 3D, in its current state, will not. If we wish to make intelligent predictions about the future, principles must inform our predictions. The principle of approaching realism tells us that 3D, in more advanced, more universally tolerable forms, will be a permanent part of our future. Please take care to avoid the temptation to conclude that this line of reasoning defends the future of haptic, gustatory, or even olfactory augmentations to film. All of the aforementioned advances in technology are improvements of the visual sense, except for the addition of audio, which can be reasonably assumed to endure, as was said about color television, by having already withstood the test of time.

Posted Nov 21, 2012 1:20:26 PM

By hcforde

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I have always said the 3D & S3D gaming should be looked at as an added value investment and not a standalone investment. Like anything else content is a great driving force. but inless it really takes no effort on the consumer then only the early adopter types will enjoy what it really has to offer because the early adopters are willing to expend a bit more effort(and $$$) than the general consumer to enjoy the new, imperfect, but exciting technology.

Posted Nov 8, 2012 8:49:03 PM

By Donald

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IMO I think the latest generation of budget 120hz 3d capable DLP projectors are freakin awesome. Blu Ray 3d on a 120 inch screen is pretty impressive. I use the nvidia 3d emitter and arcsoft TMT5. I have 4 pairs of nvidia glasses and everyone in my family seems to enjoy our 3d mini theater room which we use not only for movies but also for 3d gaming. Once you start gaming (Battlefield 3, Crysis 2, Left for dead etc) on a 120 inch 3d screen it is hard to go back. 3d done right on a nice home theater setup is a beautiful thing.

Posted Sep 25, 2012 6:24:18 AM

By McMike

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Dear AV_Integrated comment on 3D.

Well I remember our first projector. I was a large suitcase and i think it had 150 lumens. Contrast was 400 and yet we were thrilled to have movies playing on a white cotton bed sheet. I also remember my first cell phone, and media player,computer etc. Disney created a dream and our industry does too. 3D is an adventure in technology, and it takes time.

We all are looking forward to no glasses and holographic 3d projection. In the mean time 3d Glasses are not bad for the fun of some great movies.

Why sale across the ocean if the world is flat. All technology has to start some where. If development stay in the lab of ever, who has the dollars in innovate? Release products and grow the technology.

Is this not what we all see with every new projector year?

Well off to watch a new release 3D super hero movie. its not perfect, but it all Fun!

Dreaming of what come next!

McMike

Posted Sep 21, 2012 8:07:05 AM

By AV_Integrated

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3D is as it was before. I don't think that most people's attitudes have changed. By far, the majority are interested in it. Some are interested to the point where they just know they will buy a high end projector which includes 3D.

We still have a long list of people who talk about glasses free 3D - which is completely worthless at this point and nearly impossible until some form of holographic (true 3D!) display is developed. That may be 20 or more years away, if ever.

Some people don't get how it works. In fact, most people don't get in entirely. There are still projectors which don't support all 3D formats. The projector manufacturers absolutely SUCK at advertising 3D. Their version of adverting: "1080p, 3D!" - That tells consumers nothing. The projectors must ALL support top-bottom, side-by-side, frame-packed and all other current versions of 3D and must automatically recognize what is being sent. Some people think that special screens are required, which isn't the case for almost any 3D projector and certainly isn't the case for the cheap projectors. The cheaper (sub $5000) projectors use a standard projection screen unless someone specifically goes for a funky setup. Some also think they are paying 'more' for 3D. The reality is that 3D is free, and is just a feature of the processing chip of 120hz capable projectors. The cost to manufacturers is no more than a few dollars. Most of the real expense for 3D comes with the better imaging chips and optics which gives visual benefits across the board. A better 2D image AND it does 3D. Like cruise control on your car. You may never use it, but it is there and is included with the purchase of the car. Deal with it!

Most of all though, the attitudes are the same. Some people just don't want it. They don't go to theaters and watch 3D films, and won't. Why in the world would these people want a 3D projector? They wouldn't and they don't, and that is very unlikely to change for that group. Some people just want things to work, and they will patiently wait. The first few questions are tough as they are worded (IMO) poorly. 3D is not a must have feature if I lose performance or it costs a ton of extra money. I always review all aspects of projectors before I purchase... but 3D is a important part of that buying decision. If it adds minimal cost, or is 'free' with a really nice projector (like the JVCs, Epson, or Panny models), then absolutely, I will get that projector and the 3D is a nice addition.

3D will continue to occupy a niche market because there isn't a ton of content, and a lot less in the way of good content. It also isn't getting the advertising attention for television shows. Not sure if my cable box does 3D. It doesn't talk about it, there is no '3D' section in my guide. All the HD channels are together, but where are the 3D channels? Are there even any 3D channels? How do I even find out?

The LACK OF INFORMATION about 3D is incredibly destructive to the technology. 3D needs a properly standardized logo for 'FULL 3D' support, and all manufacturers and content creators need to get on board so consumers won't be as confused.

Posted Sep 19, 2012 2:46:25 AM

By Peter

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Very interesting to see that despite the massive advertising and different new products there are no increased interest in 3D.

It probably is understandable when you consider that practically is a hazzle, not only with the glasses but also setting up, as several reviewer states: "the easiest would be to have two screens, one for 3D and one for 2D", not what the majority are interested in doing, I would think!

Thanks for the stats!

Posted Sep 7, 2012 4:13:37 AM

By ubhatia

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I have been always fascinated by 3d technology, last year i checked the JVC projector X3 which was pretty good but too huge & price wise costly so i waited for the Panasonic 5000/7000 which was due in august/september & after reading positive reviews on Projector central I immediately bought the same & have been immensely enjoying since last year. I have in my collection more than 50 3d blurays so far. I am of the opinion 3d is here to stay because after watching a movie once in 3d you would never ever like to watch it in normal 2d. Whoever watches 3d movies at my place have just one thing to say its much better than watching in theaters. I do agree that there are some minus points but to watch 3d on a 120" screen in the comfort of your home there's nothing better than that.

Posted Aug 29, 2012 7:14:04 AM

By McMike

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We have been installing home theaters for 20 years. I wonder what disabilities people have that they have difficulties with 3D. Our clients enjoy them as an added bonus to 2D viewing.

Glasses are very light weight, when preset setting are done correctly the light losses is not a problem. Cheat and poke up the lumens. I remember a quote by a lady that found movies to intense. Would rather read a book! Well thats one to add to the survey. Ok so to each his own but, every projector system we do is 3D.

Follow up with our clients is very very positive!

They don't watch 3D all the time but when a movie is filmed right and engineered properly they buy them and enjoy watching them.

A great Canadian once said, " poles are for Dogs. Its funny humor but, surveys are not alway accurate.

We love 3D and so do all our customers.

Smiles

McMike

Posted Aug 15, 2012 8:46:47 AM

By Murray Galbraith

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Here's my dilemma. I'm upgrading my home theater system. Currently i have an older kenwood 7.1 receiver, (component with no HDMI) and a Otpoma HD70. Speakers are good have some killer Paradign speakers.

For receiver I'm going with a Onkyo tx n616 receiver.

Where my dilemma lies is should i go with a full HD projector ( a few great models around our budget of $1300)or spend a couple hundred extra and get a Optoma HD33. Costco has a deal on them for 1500 including 2 glasses. I know i will need to purchase a 3d blu ray.

My thinking is if HD performance and viewing quality is going to be close to the same should i jump in and get a 3d projector?

Right now i've got a devil and angel on each shoulder saying different things.

Posted Aug 11, 2012 6:10:21 AM

By Steve

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I think Evans effort is to be commended, but it targets the wrong people that will ultimately decide the fate of 3D, which is the general public. Yes, those of us that visit this site regularly are a part of that segment, but only a small part. We have educated ourselves on just the right gear for our needs and viewing environment etc. But its the casual TV viewer standing in front of that 55" TV at the big box store that is the largest segment to influence the success or demise of 3D, not those of us tweaking gray scale settings on our projectors in a light controlled environment. But Evan, keep the survey going in future years for interest.

Posted Aug 10, 2012 11:03:13 AM

By Jotham

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3D depends entirely on the content which is pretty iffy nowadays. I've been depending on Amazon reviews to figure out which 3D films to purchase and haven't been disappointed with that approach. Post-production 3D is basically a waste of time because at least with my Optoma HD 33, it's still a slightly disconcerting effect. However with natively filmed 3D movies, it's pretty impressive and intense. For casual viewing, it's overkill. I will say that one of the best movie experiences I had was watching the latest 3D Harold and Kumar while being slightly hammered. The film not only embraced 3D but lampooned it with over the top effects and it fit the mood perfectly.

I would say it's not for everyone. I have a 6.2 setup with twin DIY subwoofers so my setup is not for everyone either.

Lastly, the equipment requirements to handle 3D (new projector, new 3D bluray player and HDMI 1.4 receiver) are a HUGE barrier to entry for most folks.

Posted Aug 10, 2012 9:31:19 AM

By IAN

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I agree most movies are better in 2d minus a few exceptions that are done pretty well..I honestly believe 3d gaming is what 3d is for!! gaming in 3d takes games that you interact with to a whole new level..I am one of the vital people..but only for gaming...not so much for movies..although I agree with another comment that..3d sports is awesome..like the olympics..

Posted Aug 9, 2012 12:17:05 PM

By PatB

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Inadvertantly I'm evolving into being a 3D expert. My 720 2D projector needs to be replace, I have chosen the 1080 3D Acer 9500. But alas there are a couple bugs in that machine which are just about to be fixed by an eprom upgrade. So I waited. In the meantime I bought a Sony 3D helmet. This is a device for people with small heads. I have bought two bike helmets to use to modify it for a better fit.

Last week the workmen broke my projector so I needed an interim TV. My Man-Cave is wired HDMI so I couldn't just pick up an old CRT TV from Craig's List. I bought a new 32" flat screen TV. I chose a 3D model. It was only about $50 more.

So now I will have all three 3D technologies - active (from the DLP projector), passive (from the LCD TV), and OLED (from the Sony helmet). I just stumbled into this. It was not planned.

The other night I rented "John Carter" from Comcast Cable in 3D. It was in Top over Bottom format. Last night I watched one of the latest "Pirates" movie from Starz (free for subscribers). It was in Side by Side format. I had watched the latest "Underwold" movie from a rented 3D Blu-ray.

Observations: The helmet was so tight it tore the skin on my nose when I put it on. This won't do. If my home made modifications don't fix that I'll never wear it again. The Blu-ray picture however looked great. The pain level was too high for a more detailed analysis.

The 3D movies from cable however were a complete success. Both of these big special effects movies were more enjoyable in 3D. This is now my preferred was to watch such fare. Most movies on Netflix or Comcast or Amazon are $3.99 for SD, $4.99 for HD, and $6.99 for 3D. IMHO 3D is worth it. I should mention here that I probably watch more B&W movies from the thirties and the forties than I watch 3D blockbusters.

However I think there is another factor which I haven't seen mentioned before. All things being equal I think you need a bigger picture for 3D than for 2D. That's why I'm going to buy the projector. 3D needs a screen big enough to be emersive. What you get with 3D on a 32" TV is the drama playing out in what looks like a fish tank. It's little like watching a live play from above the first row.

A 2D screen is just a convention. That's not waht the real world looks like. A 3D screen is another but different convention. Neither are exactly reality. I like the 3D experience at least for certain material. I'm eager to see some 3D sports.

Posted Aug 9, 2012 10:45:22 AM

By Peter

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3D (stereoscopic 3D) is what is it. Not exactly "a fad" but almost. It's exactly the same it's always been for (yes) almost 100 years and have been tried and "failed" over and over. Like it's been said, today is "better than ever" 'cos technology has progressed to the point that high resolution, nice brightness, etc is "free" and so are high frame rates, patterned retarders, interference filters, etc.

10% of the people just love 3D. Why? Who knows. They always have and they always will. They are fascinated and think it's the greatest thing since rap music.

Another 10% of the people just "hates 3D" (or can't properly see it due to visual medical issues) and think it's the worst and most torturous entertainment experience since jazz music :)

For the rest of the 80% general population, 3D is "cool" for a while, then the interest fades quickly and the drawbacks (a little ghosting? Wearing glasses? Darker picture? A little headache from accomodation breakdown?? Silver screen??? A little flicker??? etc) start to make it less and less attractive to the point the don't bother with it. The small advantage and "coolness" of 3D doesn't even outweight the small technical sacrifices in confort/quality of the image. It's a toss and most people don't care enough about 3D so 2D wins.

Today's "push for 3D" is what it is. An "upsale" to the higher end models and software which, of course, is "worth to have it" just in case you ever need it etc.

But for most people is NOT something they are (really) planning on using much, just something they don't wanna miss having if they are gonna sink $1000+ in a new a/v setup ...

And considering the way 3D is done today, both active and passive, is basically free to implement for manufacturers, so they should just put it in all their products and get it over with. The demand is not really there and if they try to charge too much of a premium the adoption rate will be even less. They need to start quickly going to 4K, large sizes, flexible/rollable displays and other paradigm shifts 'cos the old "thin flat panel" or "4.000 lumens 2 years/lamp HD 3D projector" is almost the same thing that has been sold for years now.

For me, my new projector is gonna have to be 4K and something like 10.000 lumens out of a laser/LED/Idontcare source as long as I don't have to replace or service the lamp module for 5-6 years (depending on the price) of heavy use. Until then, my 4.000 lumens 2D HD DLP projector and 55" LED 3D display will do fine, thanks.

Posted Aug 9, 2012 9:44:33 AM

By Simon Spriggs

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I am one of the people who jumped on the bandwagon early, bought a hd33 when it came out. My feelings so far has been slightly underwhelming, not because 3D is poor, I actually think when done properly it can be amazing, but there have been alot of cash in conversions and not alot of quality title's, hopefully this is changing, looking forward to prometheus, avengers but still not many great films out there, for me though Hugo, Avatar, and Tron legacy were how 3d can add to a film. one more thing the panasonic deal with avatar is a joke, even though i got hold of a copy, the fact its still not released in 3d for those that havn,t is terrible.

Posted Aug 8, 2012 7:59:46 AM

By Rob

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The current 3D is a fad, and the proof is in the content. It detracts from movies that ought to be 2D (eg: green hornet),or as my 13 year old son put it: "If your movie doesn't have talking animals, it shouldn't be in 3D". Just check the 3D shelf at your local best buy and you'll see what I mean. That's why fixed panel 3D sells mainly to those who buy into gimmicks, especially those desperate to keep little kids entertained, or because like me, you bought high-end and it happened to be included whether you wanted it or not. That first group of buyers will continue to dissipate along with the lack of compelling 3D content. Projectors, however, attract more videophiles, and this affects the analysis of #3. I find 3D interesting for my next projector, and I am considering it along with other factors not because it is mature, but for the increased processing power it promises for a marginal increase in price, event thought I am only interested in better rendering of 2D content. It will be very interesting to see this survey again in another couple of years, especially if we ask why people are interested in 3D.

Posted Aug 8, 2012 5:52:46 AM

By Martin Feldman

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3D has a future in theatrical motion pictures and live sports if it is done correctly. The greatest detriment to the growth of 3D has been poor planning and execution. Directors and Directors of Photography are still developing the skill set needed to make 3D more than just another special effect. I see 3D maturing just as convincing computer graphics has over the yaers. On the presentation side, 3D without glasses is definitely on the way. The M.I.T. Media Lab has an interesting approach using multiple sandwiched, backlit LCD screens. No doubt, 3D without the need for the wearing of glasses will hasten acceptance.

Posted Aug 7, 2012 8:13:27 PM

By HAL

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I think the challenge now is adequate 3D content in the rental channel. I'm a Netflix mail subscriber and 3D versions of movies don't seem to be available yet. Nevertheless I did buy a 3D capable projector a few months ago and a pair of glasses (sold separately) but it seems until I actually buy a 3D movie disk, the capability will be unused.

Posted Aug 7, 2012 3:27:14 PM

By KentM

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I especially agree with the last statement of your conclusion: "From our vantage point in the summer of 2012, the drive for optimum 3D performance will be a major competitive battleground issue in the sale of home theater projectors for the foreseeable future." The only reason I have yet to purchase a 3D projector is that no one company has yet to produce a product that will correctly and accurately cover ALL aspects of 2D and 3D viewing. To date, some companies have come close, but no one has quite hit a home run (IMHO). So...my fingers are crossed for CEDIA next month and the new crop of 2012/2013 projectors!!! :-)

Posted Aug 7, 2012 3:18:33 PM

By Mike

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3D technology is a joke. Until you don't need glasses it will never be taken seriously. It is being pushed hard by the manufacturers and studios but there is actually very little consumer driven interest. It's doing OK because it's basically a freebie / give away if you buy the higher end model TV or projector. This is my empirical observation as the owner of a high end AV integration company in Southern California.

Posted Aug 7, 2012 3:09:58 PM

By Anthony

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Great. Higher priced projectors for a feature that I don't care about. Head shake. :(

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