Image: 20th Century Studios

3D TVs never managed to take off in the way that some had hoped, and James Cameron, the legendary director behind Aliens, Titanic, and the original Terminator films, has provided his thoughts on why that might be in a recent talk with IGN regarding the upcoming Avatar re-release.

“I think the jury’s out on that,” the 68-year-old filmmaker told the publication. “I know why all that failed because there was — what they did was they jumped into 3D trying to cash in the boom at theaters and treat it as a feature. So, they did 3D, but they did it with glasses that needed to be recharged and all that. Whereas just over the horizon was glasses-free, large flat screen TVs which actually look pretty good.”

“The imperative to manufacture [glasses-free TVs] and the additional cost required got out of step with the market demand, which was taking a nosedive because people experience 3D in a movie theater very differently than they do in a home,” Cameron explained. “They don’t want anything that distracts them from multi-tasking and/or socializing with other people that are in the room with them and so on.”

“Not everybody is a film geek like I am where you sit down you put the glasses on by yourself and you just watch a whole movie which is more what the theatrical experience is. So, it kind of got out of step.”

But could 3D TVs make a comeback? “I think it could but I can’t say because the home viewing experience is fundamentally different than the theatrical experience,” said Cameron. “I’m perfectly happy if the only place you can really get it is in a movie theater because it speaks to that specialness of the cinematic experience which is obviously what the Avatar re-release is in the first place.”

Avatar remains one of the more popular 3D films of all time. It is heading back to theaters worldwide on September 23, 2022, ahead of Avatar: The Way of Water, which is due on December 16, 2022.

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14 comments

  1. Meh.

    3D is a gimmick, and will always be a gimmick, just like smell-o-vision.

    If they can come up with a reliable way to do it without the need to wear glasses, then maybe it will become viable, but in it's current state it was never going to succeed.
  2. My handle used to be "lost in 3d". I was over the top with the tech. Monitors, TVs, and even a projector. Well, after getting my Sony Z9D 65" I finally started to tire with it altogether, and its IQ is beyond amazing for this. Wearing the glasses was bad enough but even when things may have had 3D cameras on set many things would get post converted as those cameras were merely used for reference imaging and not actual filming of the whole project. You can easily distinguish post conversion from real when it comes to ghosting and lack of depth. I just got tired of the crappy authoring being done on top of wearing glasses. I do hope a glasses-free alternative does happen (basically holovision) but doubt it'll be something properly done in my lifetime.
  3. Lack of content. Lack of content... Im still waiting for my wide spread high quality 4k contents. Yes it is getting better... But my 4k tv is now a relic that has seen most of its life in 1080p contents. 8k will not happen in any meaninful time frame, 3d was dead from the start even if everyone got the hardware at the flip of a switch, there was never going to be meaningful amounts of content.
    Tbh, the leaps from the horrors of crt tvs and vhs to 480p dvds, were so huge you can see why that content was so prevalent, and the impetus was to change. Improved panels made 720 and 1080 quite a leap from 480, no question. 4k, CAN be better, but its a refinement, and it seems a lot has to go in it to make it meaningfully superior to high end well developed 1080p. Whatever it takes for PRODUCERS, to actually produce anything other, above than 1080p will happen ever so soooooo slowly. You can see that with 4k. 3d had a snowball's so does 8k. Don't get me wrong, a superior panel can certainty be a superior panel be led or oled, but it being 8k capable will be meaningless, other than being a good panel, the contents will not show up.
  4. Tbh, the leaps from the horrors of crt tvs and vhs to 480p dvds, were so huge you can see why that content was so prevalent,
    That and the fact that DVD's are pretty cheap to manufacture and a lot more user friendly and durable.
  5. I have multiple 3D TVs, the reason it didn't catch on is convenience. I just couldn't be bothered to use the glasses most of the time, and after about 3 years of owning the TVs the batteries died in the glasses and I never replaced them.
  6. My parents had a Samsung TV that used active-3D glasses (the ones that require a battery). It was kinda okay for CG movies but it gave me eye strain and caused headaches. I also tried using it with the PS3, and that was kinda neat too, but the hit to performance wasn't worth it. Like Wipeout HD on PS3 is full 1080p at 60fps. That sh1t becomes 30fps with the 3D on (and I think lower res too). So no thanks. The batteries never seemed to last very long in those glasses either. I think the battery compartment for my parents' glasses was closed with a tiny screw, so it was a bit too much trouble to take the batteries out every time you were done, and put them back in when you wanted to use the glasses, if you were trying to preserve the battery life.

    A friend had an LG HDTV that used passive 3D (no batteries needed). Apparently those displayed stuff at a lower res (and I'm not sure what other advantages active is supposed to have over passive). The only thing I noticed is that my eye fatigue was greatly reduced with passive. It bothered my eyes way less, I could wear the glasses for longer before my eyes had enough, and I think I recall being able to take in the overall image better too. In the end though, it was much the same to me as active 3D. Just wasn't for me.

    On the Nintendo 3DS, glasses-free 3D was definitely the way to go. Again games tend to take a performance hit, and it still gave me eye fatigue and headaches, but it was nowhere near as bad as with the glasses-based 3D for HDTVs. First-party titles tended to use it the best, and when done well it was very convincing and could even be beneficial for spatial awareness. 3DS is probably the best use of 3D I have seen yet, at least when it comes to video games. That said, I still rarely used it. It was just too much for my eyes to deal with. Most of the time I would turn it on to check out certain scenes or areas of a game, then turn it back off. I almost never spent an entire play session with the 3D on. It was also very annoying to use the 3D, because you had to hold the system still, and your eyes had to be at exactly the right position and distance in front of the screen for the effect to work. You know how annoying that sh1t is to do with a handheld console? The New 3DS hardware refresh with the faster CPU and other upgrades did the 3D much better. It was eye-tracking-based, so the issues with holding the system still and your needing your eye to be in the right position was greatly reduced if not eliminated. The overall 3D effect itself was improved, and it also caused me less eye strain, and was less liable to give me headaches. I don't own a New 3DS, only the old one, but I have friends with New 3DSes so I've been able to briefly check out the 3D on such units a few times. I would be more inclined to use the 3D more if I had a New 3DS, but I'm not sure it would get me to use it all the time. Anyways, I don't know about movies, but when it comes to video games, 3DS had done 3D the best so far.

    Speaking of glasses-free 3D, I do wonder about these:
    It would help 3D catch on if we had full-size monitors and HDTVs that were glasses-free. These smaller displays could be an interesting start though. I'm not so sure people would be willing to pay extra on top of the cost of a regular monitor for one that supports something like this though. Money better spent going towards screen size, resolution, refresh rate, HDR support, and overall image quality than something like 3D.

    As for 3D movies in the movie theater, I've only experienced that a couple times or so, and can barely remember what that was like. I know that the experience was inferior to that of either active or passive 3D HDTVs (on top of movie theater screens already being crap compared to modern HDTVs). I saw that PoS Avatar in IMAX 3D (what an astounding waste of money that was) cuz a friend wanted to check it out, and I also saw Avengers: Endgame cuz the only available showing at the time I wanted to go was in 3D. That was during a period of a couple years where I actually went back to movies theaters just because a theater not too far from me had $5 tickets on Tuesdays or something like that (conclusion at the end of that experiment: f*ck movie theaters still, watching at home is still better). So I checked out a few of the MCU movies in theaters. Back in the older days when I did actually go to movie theaters, I always went on a weekday in the morning, to reduce the chances of annoying people (and people in general) being in the theater. But I guess a lot of people wanted to see Endgame at release. I'm usually a wait-for-BD-rip guy, but I was going with a group of friends and the ticket was cheap so why the f*ck not. Anyways, the movie theater actually forgot to run the 3D version of the movie, so it was just the regular version, and I and my friends were just fine with that. But some dude complained cuz he wanted the 3D, so they did end up turning the 3D on, and yeah I definitely preferred 3D off. I don't even remember what it was like with Avatar, or if I was actually impressed by it. I can't recall if I have seen any other movies in 3D in the theater. Probably not. Usually the 3D tickets cost more than the regular tickets, and I already hated movie theater prices, so there's no way I would choose to pay extra for what I considered an inferior experience.

    But naw, I see how it is Cameron. I'm not a film geek like you, that's why I don't like 3D. I just don't appreciate the visual art that is filmmaking. If I gave even one tiny sliver of a d4mn about films, I would be riding that 3D train hard. Cameron is an artist of the highest caliber (and a great explorer), that's why he knows the truth about 3D. People who hate 3D hate movies, and they hate art.

    Wearing the glasses was bad enough but even when things may have had 3D cameras on set many things would get post converted as those cameras were merely used for reference imaging and not actual filming of the whole project. You can easily distinguish post conversion from real when it comes to ghosting and lack of depth. I just got tired of the crappy authoring being done on top of wearing glasses. I do hope a glasses-free alternative does happen (basically holovision) but doubt it'll be something properly done in my lifetime.
    You had a very interesting history with 3D, and the only person I've heard of who rather enjoyed it, or stuck with it for any real length of time. I didn't even consider the crappy authoring, that was indeed a big issue as well. Most movie makers phoned it in with that sh1t. I too wonder about a good glasses-free solution happening in my lifetime.
  7. I remember glasses-free 3D on the 3DS .. it was neat. Not life changing, but neat. If I turned the effect all the way up it did strain my eyes, but I often played with it on at low levels - it looked just a little bit better than flat 2D without making my eyes go cross. More like a pop-up book than watching bullets fly past your head.

    I don't know that that level of 3D (the pop-up book version that I used on the 3DS) would really change cinema all that much.

    I did watch a couple of movies in 3D IMAX - Avatar may have been one of them, one of the new Disney Star Wars releases. Maybe one other? I wear glasses full time, and having to wear glasses over those sucked, and each time I was like "ok, cool, but I have a headache" and spent more time fidgeting with the glasses than awing at any special effects

    3D audio means much more than 3D video does for me for some reason.
  8. I remember glasses-free 3D on the 3DS .. it was neat. Not life changing, but neat.
    That's a good way to put it.

    If I turned the effect all the way up it did strain my eyes, but I often played with it on at low levels - it looked just a little bit better than flat 2D without making my eyes go cross.
    Yeah there was a sweet spot somewhere between the two extremes. It was slightly different for every person, but yeah turning the slider all the way up made it just too dang strong. It worked better with a weaker level, it was more subtle, didn't push your eyes as hard. But for me, even at lower levels, it still ended up being too much for my eyes.

    More like a pop-up book than watching bullets fly past your head.
    It gave the rendered scene more depth, rather than having stuff come "out of the screen" at you. Although that still happened on occasion in some games (like the remake StarFox 64 3D, where for example if the camera went close to an Arwing's wings, it looked like the wings were coming out of the screen).

    I wear glasses full time, and having to wear glasses over those sucked, and each time I was like "ok, cool, but I have a headache" and spent more time fidgeting with the glasses than awing at any special effects
    Ah yes, that's the other thing. I had to be wearing my contact lenses if I wanted to use glasses-based 3D. Putting glasses over my glasses is just a really dang annoying way to watch video. Also I noticed that with the 3DS, I could see the 3D effect better if I used my contact lenses.

    3D audio means much more than 3D video does for me for some reason.
    Well sh1t man, that's cuz 3D audio is actually very useful. In games it can help you tell what direction sh1it is coming from, and in movies it adds to the immersion.
  9. Anyone remember the wired ASUS VR glasses? They released it in the TNT era, but didn't last very long, now that was a real headache inducing experience. Mostly due to the low FPS and refresh rate. You needed a 120Hz monitor as a minimum, which was not common even in the CRT era. And it still looked like a 60hz monitor with the glasses. Plus imagine a TNT or TNT2 having to render two perspectives simultaneously. But it was compatible with most games as the perspective shift was done through the driver, meaning the game didn't even have to support it.

    We also had workstations with passive glasses where I worked in 2006, that was much less eye strain at the time.
  10. I remember glasses-free 3D on the 3DS .. it was neat. Not life changing, but neat. If I turned the effect all the way up it did strain my eyes,
    Around 10 years ago I had read about LCD glasses-free TVs in China being released and many had the same complaint which ultimately prevented me from trying to get one.

    3D audio means much more than 3D video does for me for some reason.
    that's cuz 3D audio is actually very useful. In games it can help you tell what direction sh1it is coming from, and in movies it adds to the immersion.
    I've been telling people that for years. I hopped onto 6.1 and then 7.1 early on and Atmos has improved on it but just having a full surround setup helps. I'm telling ya, that playing the RE games with Atmos or 7.1 setups is an amazing experience in the right room. Our living room is pretty big with high ceilings but the cave is better imho. To actually hear things creeping up from a particular direction does add to the scare. It's also fun with Metro Exodus.
    Speaking of glasses-free 3D, I do wonder about these:
    Yep, I'm keeping an eye (pun intended) out for these. From what I can gather it seems like their somehow using NVs old 3D profiles along with some new ones. The only reason I say that is because their compatible/optimized games list (any game will work but they have a list for the best ones) are mostly games I remember being 3D certified from NV. The recommended hardware specs are about on par with what I know that NVs 3D used to need as well. I used to tell people that gaming in 3D at 1080p/1440p was as demanding as 4K. I've been checking the site but still haven't seen them up for sale. I'm waiting for reviews but definitely interested.
  11. oh and just a breakdown of all the 3D tech I've had:

    Epson 1080p 3D projector -active IR
    Toshiba 16.4"(?) Qosmio 3D laptop -active IR
    Asus 27" 1080p and 1440p 3D monitors -active IR
    LG 47" 1080p 3D -passive
    LG 55" 4K 3D -passive
    Sony 65" Z9D 4K 3D -active BT
  12. Anyone remember the wired ASUS VR glasses? They released it in the TNT era, but didn't last very long, now that was a real headache inducing experience. Mostly due to the low FPS and refresh rate. You needed a 120Hz monitor as a minimum, which was not common even in the CRT era. And it still looked like a 60hz monitor with the glasses. Plus imagine a TNT or TNT2 having to render two perspectives simultaneously. But it was compatible with most games as the perspective shift was done through the driver, meaning the game didn't even have to support it.

    We also had workstations with passive glasses where I worked in 2006, that was much less eye strain at the time.
    Oh dang, I actually don't remember those ASUS glasses.
  13. You don't know what you missed.

    e0a723db-d65f-4fd2-8d11-7a58e2d85fe3.jpg

    It actually came out in 1999, came bundled with the V3800 Deluxe (ASUS's TNT2 card), or could be bought separately if you didn't get the bundle. I had a V3800 VIVO, so I had to buy the glasses separate. The ASUS cards had the sync port, but there was also a stand alone add in board for older cards that didn't have the VSYNC out port.

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