The all new 3D silence: an indication the third dimension has at last been welcomed by audiences, or merely tacit resignation?

Once upon a time, not so long ago, almost every visit to a film site would have you clicking through endless diatribes of the hotly debated views surrounding 3D cinema. Albeit hovering uncertainly in cinemas on and off since the 50s, it was Avatar in 2009 that essentially detonated the 3D explosion, with director James Cameron bragging that the film had been built from the ground up for over a decade with 3D in mind, and heralding new 3D technology to boot. It smashed box office records and wowed audiences the world over, breathing new life in to a cash cow that would soon have industry executives rubbing their hands with glee. But even after the initial hysteria around the new wave of so-called ‘RealD’ technology, the web remained awash with naysayers. In fact, by the end of 2010, following Avatar’s triumphant release only a year earlier, critics and pundits were already harbingering the decline and inexorable doom of 3D [1][2][3][4], and by the fall of 2012, 3D was widely regarded a dying format [5][6][7][8][9]. Yet here we are, at the close of another year replete with 3D releases, and there is an unsettling, ominous silence. The detractors are mute, the fever has subsided – is it resignation or acceptance?

Back in October 2012, a reader poll in SFX found that 42.25% of respondents “hate” 3D, with a further 28% saying that they “can’t see 3D” or it causes them problems. Only 13.75% responded positively [10]. Albeit a very specific sample and a year ago, the response still seems to bear true now:

Continue reading “The all new 3D silence: an indication the third dimension has at last been welcomed by audiences, or merely tacit resignation?”

As the soul slides from the Xbox, I examine the alternatives

I’ve been an Xbox fanboy (or fanboi to use the colloquial) for the vast majority of my life. Maybe the marketing campaign Microsoft ran throughout the 90s and 00s got me jumpin’ (the very same campaign that they continue to run – “jump in!”); or maybe the flashing green rings around the on button (I didn’t know the red rings denoted ‘Death’ until recently) drew my attention; or could it have been the giant X that was sprawled boldly across the top of the original console (we all know that X is a key letter used to denote so many exciting things…) More likely my obsession could be summed up much more simply than all of the above: HALO.

Yes, Halo reigned supreme among online multiplayer FPS for a long time (I state “online multiplayer” because nothing has ever come close to the Half Life series as a straight FPS franchise). Halo still does reign on Xbox live, even compared to the likes of CoD, although Reach was a step backwards in many ways from Halo 3. However, now that that fantastic world of Humans, Elites, and Floods worse than Brisbane has drawn to a close, or at least reached an optimum peak of player enjoyment, I find myself looking at the alternative gaming options available.

It should go without saying that little challenges the PC for power, graphics etc. It’s still my platform of choice for RPGs (although I deviate for Mass Effect), and for a long time was almost my sole gaming platform whilst I played WoW. I’m not typing that out in full… Also, recently the iPhone has really come into it’s own as a gaming solution. It provides a quick fix that you can score during a toilet break, or while you’re waiting for a bus/ train or other delayed public transport. Initially I was sceptical of the iPhone has a gaming device, but games such as Osmos, Plants Vs Zombies, GeoDefense and Spirit soon changed my mind. It’s just a different style of gaming, and one to be embraced.

Likewise, I was dubious when the Wii, The PS Move and the Kinect for 360 tried to put action, I mean literal, physical action, in to gaming. It has always been a passive hobby. RSI was just an occupational hazard, and hardcore gamers were proud to risk it. This motion gaming tech seemed to trivialise gaming, pitched it to the wrong people. Hardcore gaming was for an elite, the part of society that didn’t want to get involved in the social mix, who were often actually outcast from the social mix anyway. To attract the average consumer to consoles seemed like heresy. It’s still seen as such by an obstinate few. I am not one. As with the iPhone, I see that motion gaming has introduced a different way to experience technology. Indeed, I would say that my Kinect isn’t really about gaming at all at the minute, but is instead a personal trainer – a gym that even I will frequent regularly. That can only be a good thing.

If I’m honest, against Microsoft, who had the might of Bungie at their beck and call, Nintendo and Sony had never even received a second glance from me. I’m afraid Nintendo are now definitely out of the competition (although I am almightily intrigued by their specless 3D), but Sony might just be worming their PS3 up alongside the Xbox 360. Nowadays I have to think practically. That means: value for money vs media solutions vs gaming enjoyment. There are several things to note here:

Online. PS3 is free for online gamers whilst Xbox live is extortionately priced and Microsoft seem to be messing with their pricing all too regularly. Online gaming is essential in this day and age where the majority of video games either provide multiplayer or use it as their primary selling point (Halo being a prime example).

Blu-ray. It is a joke that even after a redesign, and re-release, the 360 still lacks this technology that has been available on the competition since the PS3 first hit the shelves. Blu-ray HD technology could do so much for the 360 both in terms of games and films and there is no excuse for it to still lack the facility.

Bluetooth. While we’re on Blu things, yet another lacking feature for the 360 is bluetooth compatibility which has the potential to open up the console to a myriad of new devices and technology.

BBC iPlayer/ ITV Player/ 4oD/ FIVE Demand/ Love Film. Microsoft fairly recently released a statement which used words to the effect that, because iPlayer is free, and the BBC wouldn’t agree to Microsoft only providing access to it to Xbox Live GOLD subscribers, it wouldn’t be available at all. Money-grabbing scum. That alone is enough to make you look elsewhere. The 360 also doesn’t have any of the other TV catchup or rental services mentioned above, aside from Sky on Demand (which costs £10 monthly and sucks. Trust me. Been there, done that, got a big bill).
What should be clear from this post, is that whilst consoles used to be defined as “gaming solutions”, they are now so much more than that. The whole ‘Media Center’ hype that Bill Gates tried to stir up a few years ago has actually taken ahold now, and as they say, the proof is in the pudding. The pudding being that I use my Xbox 360 to watch films and workout as much I watch my blu-ray player, and I would watch it more if it’s media playback was vastly improved. Which is where my sudden interest in the PS3 derives from. The PS3 has Media capabilities that slam the 360 in to the ground. You only need to see a video of each side by side and it’s easy to see which has the slicker interface, and faster, more user friendly compatibility with other home tech devices. If only it was possible to achieve the best of both worlds. Aside from owning both it’s definitely not and won’t be for the foreseeable future. With that in mind, yes, I think I’m adding the PS3 to a very long list of desirable objects that I intend to one day afford and buy, below the iPhone 4, the iPad, some sick Sennheiser Wireless Headphones I’ve been admiring for sometime and a shit load of Blu-ray dvds. Bah, being an attentive consumer is so much effort…

Let’s talk 3D. Because we have to.

3D has been labelled all sorts of things in it’s relatively brief stint at the forefront of cinema. But is it groundbreaking, futuristic, or just a gimmick? Well, I couldn’t possibly answer that in such simplistic terms. But here’s the thing:

In a recent article about Clash of the Titans 2 (I didn’t dig it out, just stumbled upon it while browsing – in fact, I still haven’t seen the first one), I read that the  studios approach to the film would be to make 3D integral, “rather than just slapping it on at the end”. This set off alarm bells.

It’s one thing to offer an alternative viewing solution for audiences in the form of 3D, but there are a great many people, perhaps even a majority, who actually still prefer watching films in their original 2D aspect. Are those people to be spurned in favour of 3D exclusivity?

No doubt studios and directors will deny the suggestion, but if 3D is described as “integral” to the film, doesn’t that by definition mean that to watch it in 2D would be equivalent to somehow watching a lesser product?

There are numerous issues I have with 3D. Not least, I fail to understand why the technology is possible without glasses and yet cinemas still require them. Further, that cinemas charge more for a 3D film and in some venues additionally charge for the glasses to then view that film (Shrewsbury Cineworld for example). Finally, personally I’ve found focusing in 3D to be really difficult with blurring seemingly unavoidable. And it’s been known to give me a headache too.

Given that there has been so much emphasis on crisp, true HD recently one would think that a clear image would be a minimum requirement in a cinema. In fact, while I’m on the topic, is ordinary 2D cinema really showing as pristine an image as could be achieved? I feel sure that in a world where the illusion of another dimension can be created, at least some of the fuzziness could be cleaned up.

Plus, is 3D really 3D or are you essentially just watching layers of 2D with subtle image alterations? ie. Flat images aligned to give the impression of perspective.

Surely somebody else has noticed that while you’re focussing on the objects trying to appear nearby, objects in the distance are out of focus. When I watch a film I want to be able to observe what is going on in the background just as clearly as what is going on in the foreground – it all helps draw me in to the fictional world I’m watching. 3D denies me that option, and if films begin being created with 3D “integral” to their production and viewing, it’s not long before audiences and films will be split in to factions. Those that watch anything, and those that won’t watch 3D. Do studios really want to slim the already dwindling cinema market even more?