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3D On All Platforms: Is It Worth It?

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.


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.


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”?


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.


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.


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.


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.

21 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “3D On All Platforms: Is It Worth It?”

  1. Terence Chan says:

    Thanks for sharing a very inspiring perspective on the power of 3D across all virtual platforms, James. Are there any good examples to show marketers why this leads to better measurable ROI and aftereffects, given the extra costs involved in producing these 3D experiences vs. conventional “flatties”?

    • James says:

      Terence, there have been some significant ROI bumps from 3D. In Australia, Bird’sEye experienced a 26% sales increase with their 3D cinema campaign. ESPN3D found that 3D spots tested 15-20% higher that the same spot is 2D.

  2. Nice article, thanks for the information.

  3. Marty Shindler says:

    Well done, James.  The retention factor is one that has received a lot of attention.  It applies to the class room and it applies to the way that customers retain the advertisers’ messages.  We plan to discuss this at Digital Hollywood and the 3D panel I am moderating Tuesday, May 1.

    The second panel has a 3D TV connection as well, but is not 3D centric. It is a Wall St. Analysts panel. 

  4. Subhash says:

    Very well written James. You have covered all aspects of the 3D effect. 3D now is majorly used by Gamers but, content retention is something that I have not thought of. It does make a lot of sense, but I am not sure how much effect the content retention factor is going to have on consumers.

  5. Anonymous says:

    3D is expansive and often not done well…but don’t most new technologies begin that way? Everyone said the automobile would be a flash in the pan, as would the CD, as would the PC…

    3D is here to stay (well, for the moment anyway!).

    Thanks for a great article…again.

  6. Marc Ensign says:

    3D is definitely cool and there is a place for it, but I don’t see it becoming the norm in all areas of technology. Movies? Sure. TV, maybe. Phones, computers and tablets? I don’t see it happening. It’s too much strain on your eyes to have to look at that for any length of time. A 2 hour movie is ok but most people leave with a bit of a headache. Imagine staring at your 3D computer for 8 hours like that only to leave work and look at your 3D phone or tablet?  My head hurts thinking about it. 

    • James says:

      I am sorry to hear your eyes don’t like 3D.  Often those who get car sick have the same reaction. it is about 5% or the population.  It has to do with minor disparity in the way your eyes converge and diverge on a subject.  If you look at the touch screen advances of the last few years, coupled with motion tracking, you can see how 3D and motion tracking will move into the mainstream easily. Do we need all screens in 3D all the time? No but we don’t need HD either… but we are getting it.

    • Marc Ensign says:

      I think the problem is that I have scary bad eye sight to begin with which doesn’t help. If you were to put on my glasses with 2/20 vision you would be able to see Mars from your house. I didn’t know that about the car sick thing…I do get car sick but only if I read in the car…worse if I read and drive at the same time (kidding).

  7. Anonymous says:

    I think 3D is slowly becoming a sellout these days. All platforms would like to have a slice of the pie and the time will come 4D arrives and then we’d all be stuck with has beens. What do you think?

    • James says:

      There definitely has been a bandwagon effect going on with 3D at the movies.  We will likely see fewer films but higher quality. When Scorsese says he will only work in 3D from now on, you know 3D is not going away.  As for 4D? Do you mean live effects? Anything is possible. At TED last year, someone printed a human organ live on stage… Do you remember not needing an iPad? I have lost all cynicism for technology. technology waits for nobody.

    • Mitch Gergen says:

      4D? this isn’t the jump from PlayStation 2 to PS3. Or going from your mach 3 turbo with 3 blades to a Gillette proglide with 5 blades. you can only have 3 dimensions on your screen at once. the fourth dimension is time. read a book

  8. Theme-Dutch says:

    I will be straight. I know a lot of people are getting all
    excited and giddy with 3D and eventually 4D, I do not really appreciate it much
    because it usually gives me headaches. I could not stand a 3D movie! But
    definitely it wouldn’t stop companies using the technology for promotions. It’s
    what’s trending, what people are curious about. Using it gives the company the
    attention and even interest they need. Nevertheless, it still all boils down to
    the message. Even the most hi-tech process such as 3D doesn’t work out if the
    message isn’t clear, distinctive, and forceful.

  9. Kristen E. says:

    3D when done correctly (i.e. Avatar) can be amazing. It does seem like everybody is jumping on the 3D wagon, tvs, movies, games, phones, etc. Right now, 3D is not very cost effective in the home as most tvs only work with the glasses that work with the tv specific to the glasses. The glasses are cumbersome and expensive, not like the plastic ones at the movie theater. Games and movies have to be the 3D verisions to go with a 3D tv and ideally the tv should have high resolution HD. 3D in the home is not quite ready to be mainstream.
    However, I believe the more that technology develops, the more platforms with use 3D and it will become more of the norm, similar to blu-ray and HD tv. There are now 3D phones and 3D handheld games that don’t require glasses.   

    • James says:

      The new LG 3D Cinema TVs use circular polarized glasses like the Real D glasses you get in North American cinemas. It is an easier way to let 20 people watch a 3D concert or sporting event. You can take the free cinema glasses home (and load up from the theater’s recycle bin if you need more…)

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  10. Colette24 says:

    3D expands the visual experience as the use of light and other expansive options (color, texture) emphasizing an object that can be easily stored and retrieved in the minds of a reader absorbing words that loose its long-term retention. 

  11. Vender says:

    Keep in mind that there are several different technologies to produce a 3D image all these are capable of POP out video content (Screen size does not matter with the POP 3D image..I tested it on several sizes. Personal screen size is up to the user…as always). With that said you should trend lightly when purchasing you 3D video content why? As stated in other comments it all depend on who producing, recording, and processing the footage. Example: if the original film animated or real life video where produce with 3D imaging processing unit than you can expect great 3D results! (The Ultimate Wave: Tahiti, Imax Hubble …boring but have great 3D effect). Not too many media films have true 3D simply cause of cost. True 3D Animation and movies coding require a 3 dimensional footage for good 3D viewing. When looking at true 3D it’s AWESOME! So why is there none out on market? Hmmmm……(more research is needed) with all this in mind don’t rush to buy anything that say its 3D until you check out the reviews (good ones and the bad ones), because users perception of 3D can be flaw by several factors. 1. They paid for a bad 3D media and won’t admit to its 3D flaws 2. Some never experience real 3D and their viewpoint is being fooled by cheap tricks of reproducing 2D image to 3D image (hence “Why my image not floating off my screen …look like a popup book! ” ) Mostly all current movies are being done this way …Bad 3D! I can only assume that they do not want any law suit filed for making the audience sick or go into some type of seizure attack. Maybe posting warnings before showing 3D footage is best…(Give us back the rights to make that decision!.) The world really want more REAL 3D Content and Yes we are ready for it and not dumb to trickery – no more fake 3D. It is such a wonderful experience to view real 3D and making watching TV a whole lot more fun!..conclusion: Having or buying a 3D TV now is good, but patient is somewhat needed for the best 3D movie they have to offer; and once you have it…you will not regret it!

  12. Dadan Sujana says:

    very nice and good technology, thanks for sharing!

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