Can we finally declare 3D a dud?

ADAM TURNER
Last updated 12:52 09/07/2013
Doctor Who
BBC

LAST ADVENTURE IN TIME AND SPACE: The Doctor Who 50th anniversary special will be one of the last programs the BBC broadcasts in 3D.

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OPINION: As the BBC ditches 3D TV, how long must we keep pretending this gimmick is worth the hassle?

After two years of 3D trials, the UK's BBC has declared that November's Doctor Who anniversary special will one of the final shows it broadcasts in 3D.

Audiences find 3D "quite hassly", according to Kim Shillinglaw - BBC's head of 3D. To put it more eloquently, 3D simply doesn't add enough to the viewing experience to justify the expense of a new TV and the hassle of wearing special glasses.

The BBC isn't alone in turning its back on 3D, with US sports network ESPN recently deciding to scrap its 3D channel at the end of the year.

That could come as a major blow to Australian broadcaster Foxtel, which sources much of its 3D sports content from ESPN. In light of the ESPN move, FIFA is reportedly considering dropping 3D coverage for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

It's three years since 3D kicked off in Australia with televisions like the Panasonic Viera TH-P50VT20A.

After all this time, there's still not a lot worth watching. Australia's free-to-air broadcasters have barely broadcast anything in 3D since the 2010 World Cup and State of Origin matches.

The Nine Network dabbled in 3D at the 2012 London Olympics, but only screened a few hours worth of 3D highlights during the day.

Network Ten has the rights to next year's Winter Olympics, but I haven't seen any talk of 3D broadcasting at this stage.

You might think 3D is better suited to movies but, after all the hype around Avatar, you'll still only find a handful of 3D Blu-ray movies in the stores.

The 3D Blu-ray shelf at my local JB HiFi is now a whopping three feet wide, offering a few dozen mostly forgettable 3D titles. I picked up a 3D copy of The Hobbit on the weekend to test with the Samsung F8000 3D LED TV I've got on loan for review.

A few months ago the 3D version of The Hobbit was around $50 but now it's $20, which is rather telling. At least The Hobbit was shot with 3D in mind, some cheap and nasty movies have 3D tacked on as an afterthought.

I'll admit the first few minutes of The Hobbit look great and Samsung's active 3D glasses are a lot lighter and cheaper than those bulky first-gen Panasonic glasses.

But I can't say I've got any interest in watching the entire three-hour saga wearing them - at home or at the cinema.

I didn't see The Hobbit in 3D at the movies, but I've recently been rather underwhelmed by the 3D versions of Star Trek: Into Darkness and Man of Steel at IMAX.

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It's got to the point where I'm avoiding 3D and looking for the 2D sessions. I took my kids to see Despicable Me 2 on the weekend and I don't think the movie was any less enjoyable because we watched it in 2D.

In theory you're not just reliant on 3D Blu-rays and broadcasts, because this Samsung TV lets you convert any 2D content into 3D. Unfortunately the results with free-to-air broadcasts are hit and miss.

Switching to 3D can look a little murky and it tends to introduce motion judder.

I've also noticed that watching 2D to 3D conversions makes my eyes hurt even though watching native 3D content doesn't.

I still think gaming is where 3D shows the most potential, because the immersiveness of the content helps override the awkwardness of the technology.

I fired up the PlayStation 3 and was disappointed to notice some 3D cross-talk or "ghosting" when playing Wipeout HD, ghosting I don't remember seeing when playing on the Panasonic 3D TV.

The ghosting is even worse on Gran Turismo 5, particularly when you change the driver's view so you can see all the instruments on the dashboard.

I'll need to tweak a few settings to see if I can sort this out, but even then I don't think I'd bother handing out the glasses and switching to 3D mode every time I played a game.

The sad fact is that 3D is simply a gimmick designed to get people back into the cinema and sell new televisions.

It seems that broadcasters are finally getting the message that people just don't care about 3D.

It remains to be seen whether Hollywood will get the message, but a look at the school holidays line-up at my local Hoyts isn't promising.

Do you think 3D is more than a fad? When does it work best?

Adam Turner is an award-winning Australian freelance technology journalist with a passion for gadgets and the "digital lounge room".

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