Sunday, November 7, 2010
The real third dimension of TV
The rush towards 3D in cinema and television isn’t, I don’t think, driven by the desire of creative artists to show us new and interesting things in new and interesting ways.
It seems more likely that it’s an accidental conspiracy. First you have hardware manufacturers who need a new buzzword to help shift the next generation of TVs. Working alongside them you have content owners (and by this I principally mean movie studios) who want to make the pirating of their wares as non-trivial an operation as possible.
That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a bad thing. Commercial motives drove the development of widescreen cinema, for example. The format soon provided new creative opportunities for the film-makers who had it foisted upon them by their paymasters. In went on to, belatedly, foster the wide screen telly market and the vocabulary of visual comedy as the production team at Holby City hilariously struggled to make any meaningful use of the new aspect ratio.
Now, I’m not sure that 3D is ready to replace mainstream 2D pictures. Maybe it’s just me but nearly everything I see in 3D has the air of a Victorian toy theatre, with flat characters sliding about in a series of discrete planes rather than a continuously three-dimensional field. And, while we’re on it, the screening of Alice In Wonderland that I attended a year or so back left me with a growling headache that still hasn’t quite cleared.
Meanwhile, the quiet innovation that has blossomed from the grassroots to give TV a real added dimension has passed the major channels by almost completely.
Mankind is a social animal. Television watching, ostensibly an indoor, private pleasure, was always enhanced by the so-called watercooler conversation at work the next day. Now, with the near ubiquity of Twitter, the banter that makes us human is as immediate and as thrilling as throwing an empty beer can out of the window and seeing who it hits.
Instant communities quickly accrete around significant TV events, such as Eurovision, the Big Brother final or the tragically predictable Raoul Moat endgame. Really terrible films, and I’m looking at you here Mega Shark versus Giant Octopus, are instantly transformed into kitschy interactive cult experiences. Even the ads between segments of major shows benefit from the rolling ‘directors commentary’ of online wags.
Despite the adage, not everyone has a novel in them. It does, though, appear that everyone has at least one 140 character zinger about Kerry Katona’s diction or Charlie Brooker’s hair.
Perhaps the only downside of the ‘TV plus laptop’ habit is a rather unwelcome heating of the thighs, especially when watching long shows. That’s where I think Apple’s iPad will come into its own. It represents a third space that neither as unwieldy as big tower PCs nor as inimical to future fertility as the blazingly hot MacBook.
I rarely watch TV without a live web feed of some kind nowadays. Even if I’m watching a DVD, I tend to have the IMDB trivia page for the film in question open on my lap. Some might call that nerdy, I call it pleasantly obsessive.
Next time you’re watching TV, especially if it’s something edifying like Come Dine With Me, try it out. Come and find me - @TheMichaelMoran. I promise to pass your best 140 word zingers off as my own work.