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This Minute at Runco

The Promise and Problems of 3D

Friday, May 14, 2010

Posted by Jennifer B. Davis

First, I cannot write about 3D without saying that we at Runco are very excited about 3D and how important it will be to the industry in 2011. The only concern I have is this: similar to what has happened every 60 years or so, the industry’s early efforts to commercialize in-home 3D are so poor that they poison the well and keep 3D from catching on the way that it could. The reasons for poor 3D reproduction in the home are many and can range from poor implementation, compatibility problems with the variety of “standards” that are bracing for war in the market, to the lack of real content in the market to take advantage of developments in technology.

I experienced a wild situation recently that illustrates this perfectly as I watched a few friends set up a new 3D television that they had bought from a big box store (their first mistake, I must say). Excited by the prospects of 3D, they bought a television, new Blu-Ray player, and got ready with their glasses. They sent someone to pick up DreamWorks’ “Monsters vs Aliens” in 3D Blu-Ray Disc to play. They had asked the blue shirt (or were they green?) and came back triumphantly carrying a disc labeled boldly as “3D.”

Only one problem: this disc was formatted in anaglyph 3D. The same blue-red glasses that were popularized in the 1950s (the last time the well was poisoned). They were set up to watch anaglyph 3D with LCD active-shutter glasses (or, more accurately, “safety goggles”). The overhead conversation included the following highlights:

“Do you see 3D?”

“Oh, be sure to turn on the glasses. The power button is on the top. Not the top of the TV the top of the glasses.”

“I think I see something.”

“Why is it so blurry?”

“I think something is wrong.”

Wrong indeed. If you visit a big box electronics store, a movie rental store (if your town still has one) or do a quick search on Amazon.com for “3D Blu-Ray” you will find lots of anaglyph titles that you can buy…and are unwatchable on any television and incompatible with other products on the market dubbed “3D.”

While someone else went to get a new Blu-Ray, another hooked up a laptop to see if some 3D games or YouTube videos could be viewed, but, naturally, these all use another, different and incompatible format of 3D.

Well, back to our heroes. That second trip to the store (this time to buy a 3D starter kit that included the only released title and two additional sets of glasses for just less than $400) did the trick. But other problems remained as evidenced by the comments:

“Oh, I see it now. That’s cool, but it’s still blurry. Especially on those door jams or other things that are fixed and straight. Why aren’t those in 3D?”

“Are you supposed to see the glasses flashing? When I move my eyes, I can see them blinking.”

“I still can’t see 3D. Oh, I need to turn the glasses on? How do I do that?”

“I think the on-the-fly 3D [converting 2D to 3D automatically ] looked better than this movie.”

“What happens when my kids lose or sit on these glasses and they break?”

Overall, I was pleased by the mostly positive (albeit brief) reaction to the product, as it reflects the patience that early adopters might give the medium until the best-in-class solutions are released and content is readily available. My experience this past week does illustrate the state of the industry and how easy it will be for consumers to get confused and have a horrible 3D experience.

As always, I advise you talk to your Runco dealer about the roadmap for 3D in your home. I’d advise you to not rush into an incomplete solution, but look forward with us to the Runco approach. Just like we did with CineWide and with light-emitting diode (LED) technology, we’ll be remarkable and uniquely innovative, and you want to be a part of the revolution against bad 3D.

Note: Although I will never tell you where I was when I witnessed this circus show, I can tell you it was NOT at a Runco dealer or showroom. Our dealers know better.

~Jennifer B. Davis is all about technology innovation and is a customer advocate, business executive, mom, and loves her job as Runco’s VP of marketing.

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