With Samsung the first to release a 3D LED TV to market, is this the true beginning of the three dimensional imaging revolution?

The recent Samsung 3D TV advert (includes the making of) marks a milestone release as the first Full HD 3D TV to the UK market. What with Fujifilm’s 3D camera revealed last year and the CES show 2010 going all-out 3D-mad, now seems to be the time when 3D is set to tilt from a trickle to a hearty gush. But is there the right demand for it from us image-makers or, indeed, the general public?

With photography being a two dimensional format depicting a three dimensional original, it’s unsurprising that there’s been a burgeoning desire to reconstruct that third dimension. It’s been a topic touched upon for many years in both stills and motion – be that the not-so-hot red and blue 3D glasses of old or the more recent polarised glasses that many millions of us donned for screenings of Avatar. Now it seems active shutter is the weapon of choice of many electronics manufacturers, each investing significant funds in what is to be ‘the next big thing’. And yet, exciting as the prospect is, will it take off as heartily as the big companies hope?

For me part of the very pleasure in viewing an image or watching a movie is, in fact, its static 2D nature. It allows for lenses far beyond our peripheral view to construct this other place, to frame a world in an entirely different manner to that which we truly see. I don’t doubt that 3D takes as much of this on board, along with the more complex matter of focusing twin lenses for an entirely different final effect. But the long and the short of it is that I don’t really need 3D… well, at least not yet.

Seeing in 3D (and by this I don’t mean everyday life) requires a pair glasses per person (and an apparent two percent of the population won’t get the correct results anyway), which equates to a whole lot of cost. Not only the initial cost of whichever camera, TV, computer console or whatever else, but the ongoing need for the right glasses for each piece of kit. And, of course, each manufacturer is bustling to sell its own kit, which could even bring rise to compatibility issues. Oh, and this is before the very mention of HDMI 1.4 which (apart from a Sky workaround) upgrades the current 1.3 standard to be capable of streaming dual 1080p for 3D or is even capable of realising the 4096 x 2160 ‘4Kx2K’ Ultra-HD resolution at 24Hz. And if that’s not a nod to where things might otherwise go, then I don’t know what is…

Cost aside, there’s the issue of content. With a Fuji 3D camera you can at least create your own content at any moment. For TV and movies it’s much, much thinner on the ground and the apparent market-boosting blockbuster Avatar won’t make it to DVD and Blu-ray in its 3D glory until 2011. By that time we’ll likely be on the second generation of product. To then place said 3D imagery in-situ becomes yet another current misnomer.  There just aren’t the current facilities for 3D to be actively placed throughout our media lives – a shame, I’ll admit, as it’s fun. And fun though it may be, for the time being I’m happy trying to keep some pennies in my wallet and the second pair of glasses away from my already lensed eyes…

The beginning? Absolutely, I don’t doubt it. But the apparent revolution (when it comes) will be ruled by the 3D gamers out there above and beyond the everyday families and film/imaging enthusiasts. And for that to happen there needs to be a whole lot more tech and content to get the ball well and truly rolling. So keep your eyes peeled – it’s on the way, just not as soon or all-encompassingly as we’ve perhaps been led to believe.