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Dept. of Un-Asked-For Tech: Would You Watch TV in 3D?

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Running against the entertainment-industry maxim that it is usually better business to take the depth out of television, several media companies are announcing efforts to launch 3D TV channels, the New York Times reports. Discovery, Imax and Sony are partnering on a channel, and ESPN plans to launch ESPN 3D in June. (And is committing to the project for a whole year!)

Seriously, have no companies paid attention to my third-grade technology wish list? I’m going to have to check it again, but I’m pretty sure personal jet packs and bioengineered dinosaurs were much higher on it than 3D television.

As to whether it’s a good idea, I’ll suspend judgment. For someone who watches TV for a living, I’m a pretty late adopter of TV tech (as opposed to computer or quasi-computer tech, which I guess is why I got a TiVo seven years before I bought an HD set). I have always thought 3D is an overrated attraction in the movies—yes, Avatar looked awesome, but the tech couldn’t salvage, say, Monsters vs. Aliens—but I’ll admit that, when paired with the vision and budget of someone like James Cameron, it can be wow-inducing.

For TV, the first question is whether and how the technology will work. (I’m a four-eyes who refuses to get contacts or Lasik, and you better give me a damn good reason to put a second pair of specs on in my own living room. Evidently technologies for yet-to-come sets dispense with the glasses.) The second is what kind of programming it will work for.

Discovery seems like a natural choice to step into the field, since I, like I suspect many people, went straight to Discovery HD Theater when I got my first HDTV set. For a while, I became addicted to the genre I delicately came to term “whatever crap that looks good in HD”: travel, nature and science specials dominated by scenic vistas or things blowing up. No doubt there are ample opportunities to be had in the “whatever crap looks good in 3D format.” Sports too seems like a growth area, though I’m not enough of a fan to say.

I have to wonder about the effect on scripted shows, though. I suspect that one side effect of the growth of HD, and big TV screens generally, was the creation of more cinematic spectacles like Lost and Heroes. Which is fine as far as it goes, but considering broadcast networks are cutting corners on dramas already, I’d rather they just invested in better, maybe cheaper-to-produce, scripts than a few things that blow up real good.

Reality dating shows, though, that’s another story. Just imagine the opportunities for three-dimensional cleavage.

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