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Return of the 3D

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Two years ago, Dell went into the virtual world of Second Life to begin learning about this new environment and to prepare for the 3D web that many say is coming one day. But, a quick look around and you see that 3D is already here!

Rapid Growth of 3D Movies

In 2007, it was anticipated by Slashfilm.com that at least five feature films would be released in 3D in 2008 and that the amount would nearly double in 2009. Those numbers actually came in higher, and it's no wonder when Screen Digest reports that digital 3D cinema is delivering three times the revenue per screen of its 2D counterpart. With a six-year-old of my own, I know many of those movies have been targeted at kids who make it pretty hard to resist paying the extra price 3D commands.

So, when I saw that Robert Rodriguez and Henry Selick were speaking on a panel about 3D at SXSW Film, I slipped away from the Interactive portion of the conference to listen in on it. Robert can take much of the credit for the current revival in 3D movies when he brought it back for "Spy Kids 3D." And Henry has really advanced the use of 3D as more than a gimmick with the way he used it to tell the story of "Coraline."

 Robert Rodriguez at SXSW Film

Robert Rodriguez at SXSW Film courtesy of CC Chapman

This is Not Your 1950s 3D

While "Spy Kids 3D" was Robert's first 3D movie released, it was not the first time he wanted to use the technology. He mentioned in the panel that he actually wanted to make the second half of "From Dusk Til Dawn" in 3D – just imagine all those vampires coming right at you! Unfortunately, at that time, the camera equipment was too large to enable the shots he wanted, so he had to wait for technology to catch up.

And catch up it has done indeed. The steroscopic high-definition 3D that is now offered in digital theaters is nothing like the anaglyph 3D from those 1950s classics like "Creature from the Black Lagoon." Anaglyph can be characterized by the old red/blue glasses you had to wear to see the combination of two images shot from different perspectives that are to be viewed independently by each eye. High-definition 3D is the next generation and Dell is actively contributing to the establishment of format standards for it through our involvement with The Blu-ray Disc Association. While you will still need (much more stylish) glasses to view this format, you could be doing so from the comfort of your home.

3D Gaming Opportunity

Televisions with 3D DLP already exist, and new 3D monitors were showcased at the Game Developers Conference (GDC), along with an interactive tool to measure game quality when played in stereoscopic 3D. Nvidia announced their GeForce3D Vision at the Consumer Electronics Show in January this year to rave reviews for the "much more immersive depth of field than you get from standard 3D games."

Gaming and virtual worlds hold a big opportunity for 3D in the home because nearly all PC games already have built into them depth information needed.  Soon you can even take your 3D virtual world mobile – a company from Tokyo announced last week that they have a new application for the iPhone that allows messaging with Second Life and they're working on a graphical 3D environment for it too.

What the Future Holds

So with all this new 3D popping up everywhere, a logical question someone asked at the SXSW Film panel was whether the directors felt this was all just a fad that would fade out as 3D did after the 1950s.

Henry said he feels that as long as people resist the urge to use it simply as a gimmick, but rather focus on how best to leverage the immersive qualities of it, it should be here to stay for much longer. "'The Wrestler' doesn't need to be made in 3D," he joked.

As more and more movie theaters convert to digital projection, high-definition 3D makes its way into the home and the technology continues to advance, I agree that this return of 3D is here to stay.

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