Guest post by James Stewart, Director at Geneva Film Co
The debate surrounding 3D’s viability across all platforms continues to rage. Nay-sayers maintain that 3D is merely a “flash in the pan”… a “fad”… soon to fade into technological obscurity. Yet visionary artists and innovators continue to drive 3D technology deeper into the very fabric of our screen-based culture. For brands, agencies, and content creators, is it worth it? In a word: YES.
THE 3D REVOLUTION
James Cameron’s Avatar set the stage for 3D’s emergence in 2009 by showcasing, to a global audience, the true potential of this immersive technology. From that time, a 3D revolution has been slowly changing the media landscape, project by project, day by day, year after year. Once considered a hollow gimmick, 3D has matured into a full-blown phenomenon. In fact, of the 10 movies that have ever crossed the $1 Billion mark, 6 are 3D films with Avatar topping the list. And there is little sign of this trend slowing down. 2012 will see blockbusters like The Hobbit, Men In Black, The Amazing Spiderman, and Ridley Scott’s Prometheus hitting theatres in three dimensions. The format continues to gain greater acceptance by audiences and critics alike. The epic 3D adventure Hugo by cinematic master Martin Scorsese is a prime example, topping this year’s Oscar nominations with 11, winning 5.
One Wall Street analyst decried 3D to be “over” in 2010 when only 38% of the $1Billion grossing Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides box office could be attributed to 3D (down from the standard 55% – 80%). If 38% of your customers were demanding a 3D feature would you consider it dead, especially if that feature was selling at a 15% premium? Hugo’s opening box-office was 75% from 3D screenings. The latest box office hit is another 3D re-release: James Cameron’s Titanic. The 3D reboot debuted in China and earned the second-highest opening day ever in the country, selling approximately $11.6 million worth of tickets. It’s a hit across the UK and U.S. as well.
3D COMES HOME
The 3D revolution is no longer being waged on the sliver-screen alone. The real in-roads are being blazed by the growing list of 3D-capable devices that allow consumers to experience the brands they love in 3D, anytime and virtually anywhere. This is no accident. The success of any technological innovation can always be traced back to the moment it found its way affordably into the hands of the consumer– from the personal computer, to High Definition TV, and now 3D. At the center of this surge is the 3D TV market, which showed promising growth in the 4th quarter of 2011, and is tracking for even larger gains through 2012. According to Research and Markets, the global 3D TV market size is expected to exceed $100 Billion by the end of 2014. Which begs the question: in what industry would a product worth $100 Billion in sales be considered “a passing fad”?
3D GOES MOBILE
2011 saw the launch of several “glasses-free” 3D mobile devices, including the LG Optimus 3D Max, the HTC EVO 3D (both of which offer the ability to record and take photos in 3D using dual cameras) and more recently, the Gadmei 8” 3D Tablet. These relatively inexpensive devices offer consumers the full 3D experience in the palm of their hand. This evolution of 3D technology has opened the door for a wide variety of 3D creative needs, from mobile games, to applications, to advertising geared toward the mobile 3D market. The stage is set for brands and their agencies to leap off the screen and into the hearts and minds of the customers in ways never thought possible before. My company, Geneva Film Co., has produced 3D spots for Lexus, Sprint and others, bringing global brands into this next dimension. These projects– produced mainly for cinema– will next find their way to 3D TV and mobile platforms. As the popular YouTube 3D channel has shown, mobile user-generated 3D content can be an immersive experience with huge “viral” potential. In fact, YouTube not only allows stereoscopic 3D footage to be uploaded online, but also offers users a chance to convert their 2D HD footage to 3D with a click of a button online. It’s almost too easy.
3D CONTENT = RETENTION
Another exciting avenue currently being explored is 3D content in the classroom. Several schools across Europe have already started utilizing 3D projection. Astudy conducted on behalf of Texas Instruments showed a 17% increase in test results for those students who viewed 3D content as part of their normal curriculum. It also found attention-levels soared, with 92% of the class paying attention, versus 46% in the traditional 2D learning environment.
This type of 3D retention and engagement is not limited to the classroom. A similar study also conducted by Texas Instruments showed that viewers presented with 3D advertising content were as much as 20% more likely to retain that information than those who saw a 2D counterpart. These promising statistics bode well for Brands who develop 3D content as part of their marketing activities, as well as for agencies and content creators who offer this type of 3D impact to their clients.
3D’s GOT GAME
On the front lines of the 3D revolution are the Gamers: fearless consumers who are always ready to embrace new technology to elevate their gaming experience to a more immersive level. The Nintendo 3DS has sold over 15 million units worldwide and continues to gain traction in the US market thanks to a price cut that saw sales numbers soar. 3D-ready game consoles like Sony’s PS3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 now feature franchise titles like Grand Turismo and Call of Duty in immersive 3D splendor. This in turn propels 3D TV sales as gamers scramble to update their home systems to be 3D ready. By its very nature, gaming and 3D technologies are a match made in heaven, tapping into the very essence of what makes 3D so exciting: it just feels real.
3D CONTENT IS KING
Ultimately, content is still king. Like the HD revolution that preceded it, 3D now has the platforms to support widespread use in every aspect of daily life. However, without content to bring these devices to life, consumers will have little reason to buy. As a presenter at both TED, and Cannes Lions, my experience has been that the enthusiasm for 3D has been palpable. Despite initial trepidation by production companies and agencies, overall 3D content continues to expand. 24/7 3D channels like ESPN3D, 3net and Sky Channel are paving the way. 2012 will see the London Olympics broadcast in 3D, with the opening and closing ceremonies, men’s 100m dash, gymnastics, swimming, basketball promising 3D action. Hollywood is also offering more Blu-Ray 3D movies than ever. As more and more content enters the market, giving a greater number of consumers a reason to introduce the growing list of 3D devices into their daily routine, 3D will quickly become a primary format for content across all media platforms. For the brands and agencies bold enough to lead the way, the sky is the limit. Is it worth it? Let’s just say we won’t have the Star Trek holodeck without 3D.
When not directing “flatties” James Stewart is knee deep in the next dimension of advertising and art speaking at events like Cannes Lions and TED. Follow him on Twitter.