TV Cartoons in 3-D: It Would Be Awesome.

I’ve made my thoughts known on 3-D before, but that is in relation to movies, not TV. I’ve come to relize that three is a huge difference between the two. Whereas one is a waste of money, the other can be a tru benefit to audiences.

To begin with, 3-D in the movies is something that has been traditionally wheeled out to give people a reason to go to the cinema rather than stay at home on the couch. With the growth of HD TVs and home theatre setups that, when done right, can give a proper cinema a serious run for the money, Hollywood needed something that TV couldn’t offer. That was 3-D, a gimmick introduced in the 1950s that didn’t particularly work then and it doesn’t work now.

The reason? Higher ticket prices for one. Does the extra couple of bucks on top of a regular ticket price done justice by the added dimension? Not really, in my opinion, the market is still very much in the growth stage. That means we will continue to see growth in the market for the forseeable future but it will eventually level out. Don’t expect every screen in a cinema to be 3-D for at least 5 more years, and maybe longer.

So if 3-D doesn’t really work for cinema, why can it work for TV, specifically cartoons?

TV is the archetypical model for entertainment consumption. It’s 24 hours, 500+ channels (if you aren’t a tightwad like myself) and more hours of entertainment in a day than you could handle in a year. Since people watch so much TV, it makes much more sense from an economic standpoint to introduce 3-D technology in order to boost demand.

However, much the same as HD, it will take a long time for the technology to become widespread. Firstly, people who just dumped $1,000+ for a HD set are not about to go and buy a 3-D one soon. With about ~60% market penetration in the US, that’s a lot of people who probably aren’t in the market for a new TV in the next 5 years or so. Besides that, it has taken 13 years for HD to get to this point, so, at the dawn of 3-D, expect a similar timeline.

Enough beating about the bush, why could cartoons benefit the most? My one and only experience with 3-D cartoons (not CGI movies, BTW) was a 10 minute Spongebob Squarepants experience at Kings Dominion in Virginia a couple of years ago. It was fun and obviously geared up to throw as much 3-D at the audience as possible but it was tolerable for the most part.

Animation, and TV cartoons in particular, with their relatively simple lines would be ideal for 3-D. The technology is already there. I’m pretty sure ToonBoom can tweak their software to allow for dual camera positions of something like that. Seeing as their software already creates a virtual 3-D environment, this wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

The best part? Imagine an anvil or something like that shooting our of the screen at you. Squash and stretch will never be the same again! Again, the nature of animation lends itself perfectly to 3-D compared to live-action. Personally, live-action faces an uphill struggle if only because to make things truly stand out, there is a reliance on SFX and the like.

The future is bright for cartoons at the dawn of the 3-D TV age. Only two things can upset the apple cart. Firstly, the fact that everything produced until this point is in 2-D and thus renders the new TVs useless. Secondly, people have a dislike for wearing the glasses. There are two camps, those that never wear glasses and hate wearing them and those of use that do use glasses and have a hard time putting 3-D glasses over out regular ones. Perhaps someday someone will come up with a solution, until then, cartoons will have to remain in 2-D.

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