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A Potential Battle Looms: Cinema 3D versus Living Room 3D
By Terence Ang - on 29 Mar 2010, 12:33pm

If you plan on watching a 3D movie in the cinemas today, you will be given the option to choose between a 2D version and a 3D version. The rationale behind this is simple, the 2D version is not only cheaper but it is also an alternative if you do not want to wear stereoscopic 3D glasses and yet still be able to enjoy the storytelling magic without the dimensional extras. 

On the living room end of the spectrum, we have 3D Blu-ray players accompanying 3D-TVs. In fact, we should be seeing a few in the market pretty soon. While saying that a "To-3D-or-not-to-3D?" tug-of-war between the 3D cinema and 3DTV would be entirely premature, the behavioral patterns of discerning moviegoers might offer us some hint.

While AVATAR was envisioned as a stereoscopic 3D movie from the ground up, recent 3D movie efforts like Alice in Wonderland weren't. Tim Burton's Alice was originally shot in 2D and then converted to 3D in post. This results in a more digitally processed spatial effect compared to spatially shooting the real thing in 3D. And when you've shot something in 2D, but want to expand it to 3D in post, you will definitely face up to making some poor post-processing decisions.

Most of the 3D movies we're seeing (including the upcoming Clash of the Titans) are converted in post. Purists prefer a pure 3D film, shot entirely on a 3D platform, but 2D/3D endeavors are basically cost-tied and studios straddle both platforms to attract both sets of audiences.

When the 3DTV and 3D Blu-ray ecosystem matures in the living room and studios release 3D Blu-ray movies by the shelf-load, movie audiences may take pause and decide that perhaps it would be better to watch the 2D version of these movies in the cinema and enjoy the 3D versions with family and friends at home (since they've already spent $$$ on their 3D home setups).

Or, they may prefer to watch the 3D versions in the cinema (due to the larger screen size), and decide later if a 2D or 3D version of the movie would make a good home collection. Some audiences may calculate the marginal gain of catching a movie in 2D first, before watching it multiple times in 3D at home, versus paying more to watch a movie in 3D at the cinemas before catching it again in 2D form at home.

Like all previous platforms, the living room is continually playing catch-up to the cinema. But give it a few years and it might change. If film directors and studios continue to bank on 2D-to-3D movie conversion efforts to keep production costs low, we might eventually see 3D aficionados banking on 3D Blu-ray home releases rather than going to the cinemas to catch them. 

It happened with DVD home movies. It can definitely happen to 3D films in the near future. 

Terence Ang

Terence Ang / Former Supervising Editor for HWM, HardwareZone.com & GameAxis

Terence Ang used to be the Supervising Editor for the New Media division in Singapore, where he worked with the editorial teams behind HardwareZone.com and HWM the magazine. In that role, he looked at ways the teams in Singapore can collaborate with the Editors in Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. Terence is currently the Product Manager but contributes to the blog section whenever he can (or finds something interesting to talk about).