Will 3D make a comeback when the sequel to Avatar comes out two years from now?
James Cameron's Avatar is the most successful film of all time, grossing over $2.7 billion since its 2009 release. The movie gets a lot of credit for pushing 3D into the mainstream; thanks to Avatar, 3D was among the most-hyped features on new TVs and projectors for a few years. The problem is that reality didn't live up to the hype.
Skip forward to 2014, and you'd think the post-Avatar push to popularize 3D was nothing but a fluke. After all, past attempts at promoting 3D fizzled when the novelty wore off. Why would the 3D frenzy that followed Avatar be any different? One possible explanation resides in a concept called the Gartner Hype Cycle
. It consists of five phases: the technology trigger, the peak of inflated expectations, the trough of disillusionment, the slope of enlightenment, and the plateau of productivity.
"The Hype Cycle is a branded graphical tool... for representing the maturity, adoption and social application of specific technologies." - wikipedia
Undoubtedly, Avatar was the technology trigger that gave 3D the momentum it needed to make the leap from commercial cinemas to home theaters and ultimately into people's living rooms. Prior to Avatar's premiere, 3D was a cyclical fad that appeared every few decades, only to recede. The technology was waiting for a trigger, and James Cameron provided it. The enthusiastic initial reception to Avatar created a peak of inflated expectations for the format; ESPN launched a network dedicated to 3D sports, and studios rushed to post-convert movies into 3D. The result was a glut of headache-inducing pseudo-3D that soured the public on the format’s potential. The hype bubble burst, and 3D went from the peak of inflated expectations to the trough of disillusionment in no time.
Now, there are signs that the disillusionment phase is close to finished. The slope of enlightenment awaits and Avatar's sequel is likely to be the catalyst that makes it happen. Cameron is committed to making three more Avatar films, and this time around there are a lot more 3D-equipped commercial cinemas, home theaters, and TVs than there were when the original Avatar came out. Plus, when it comes to blockbuster movies, no other director has Cameron's record of accomplishment: Avatar and Titanic are the number one and number two top-grossing films—ever.
If Avatar 2 manages to renew the general public's interest in 3D, viewers will find a sizable selection of 3D titles on Blu-ray as well as 3D streaming via services like Netflix, YouTube, and Vudu. Furthermore, playback technology continues to improve, thanks to innovations such as passive-3D UHDTVs that can play 1080p 3D Blu-ray without any loss of detail, unlike their 1080p counterparts. These days, the home 3D experience can rival a commercial cinema, thanks to larger screen sizes and higher resolutions. By the time Avatar 2 comes out, it's possible that glasses-free 3D TVs will be on store shelves, and I would not be surprised if there will be a version of the film designed for viewing with virtual-reality goggles.
The three forthcoming Avatar sequels will undoubtedly be 3D spectaculars and are sure to secure Cameron another spot or two on the top movie-moneymaker list. More importantly, the Avatar sequels are bound to be a showcase for the most advanced 3D filming techniques. That's the key to the slope of enlightenment; each Avatar sequel needs to raise the stakes in terms of what you can do with the medium, instead of leaving everybody hanging. Are you looking forward to a 3D renaissance?
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