Once sneered at by serious film fans, 3D cinema is now gathering momentum. "In five to seven years, all films, regardless of budgets or type, will be made in 3D," Dreamworks Animation's chief executive, Jeffrey Katzenberg, told the Singapore 3DX Film and Entertainment Technology Festival last November. It's a vision shared by some of Hollywood's biggest players, from Disney and Pixar to Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg and James Cameron. The latter's new film, Avatar, is undoubtedly this year's biggest cinematic event, and the film with the potential to push cinema into a new 'third age' of 'stereoscopic' film making. And should that happen, the effects will trickle down into the home cinema and entertainment experiences that you and I enjoy in the future. Look at our reports of the annual Consumer Electronics Show, and it's clear that what is happening in the cinema now will eventually come back to the living room, which is why we wanted to talk about it in some depth with a two-part guide. This first part focuses on the development and future of 3D in the movies. Later on, we'll take a closer look at the technologies that could one day make 3D the next big thing in home entertainment - the HD of the next decade, if you will.
In his keynote address to 3DX, Katzenberg described the move to 3D as a revolutionary event, its only precedents being the move from silent cinema to synchronised sound in the 1920s, and from black and white to colour in the 1930s. Producer Jon Landau, working with James Cameron on Avatar, has said that 3D could do for cinema what the arrival of stereo did for the audio industry. Yet we've had 3D before and it has yet to be anything more than a gimmick. Why should things be different this time?