3-D TV Coming, for Better or Worse

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The Times reports that big manufacturers like LG are rolling out 3-D TVs at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas. The units will cost about $2,000, and require the use of special glasses, just like House of Wax.

One big drawback is that there isn't much 3-D content to feed the giant maw that is TV, but Dreamworks' Jeff Katzenberg claims that "an enormous surge in 3-D content" is coming. Discovery, IMAX, and Sony are collaborating on a 3-D network, and Disney plans a 3-D ESPN channel so you can experience errant football passes flying into your living room -- as early as next season.

Sounds fun! The vendors at CES have certainly hit a sweet spot, with the mammoth success of Avatar spurring new interest in 3-D.

But there are some problems. For one thing, as broadcasters have yet to establish industry standards for 3-D, it will be a while before everyone has the right glasses and sets to properly view all the programming, such as it is.

History Eraser Button is skeptical for a number of good reasons -- including the current parsimony of producers: "For years, the trend toward digital video has meant cheaper TV shows, often with user-submitted content... there's no sign that really expensive television is due for a rebound."

Dreamworks can afford to noodle up some 3-D shows, but since our television overlords discovered viewers will watch crappy reality shows and crime-scene clip-jobs that cost peanuts to make, they will be undermotivated to indulge heightened expectations that would make every new show a large financial gamble.

But the big players -- and, eventually, cheaper systems -- will probably force them into it, albeit slowly and kicking and screaming, as 2-D becomes the black-and-white of the new age. By decade's end we expect the latest version of Tia Tequila will be stripping in our living rooms, and the market for arcane two-dimensional entertainments like Citizen Kane will dwindle to a cult of connoisseurs -- which will further dwindle as enterprising producers trick up the old movies and shows for the new medium. It's a Wonderful Life, colorized and redimensionalized -- own it today on 3DVD! When Clarence hits the water, you'll really feel it!


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