Will We See 3D in Live Events?

Over the past several months, the projector manufacturing industry has seen a spate of new products and new partnerships developed around so-called “3D projectors,” which are really just very high-end standard projectors optimized for pairing and synchronization for polarized stereoscopy or capable of receiving multiple processed inputs for shutter-based stereoscopy. Both systems require peripheral equipment (processing, filters, etc.) in order to produce a 3D image, and both require the audience to wear goggles. Regardless, these systems from Barco, Digital Projection, and others are impressive in their power and sophistication.

Will any of these systems ever find their way into theatre or live events? Right now, these products are designed to facilitate the exploding 3D cinema market; these days, it seems almost every animated film—and some live action films—are being presented in 3D versions. Digital 3D projection systems promise to proliferate that even further. We have even seen some recent experiments with 3D television, as in last year’s Super Bowl broadcast.

With the goggles remaining necessary for the foreseeable future, is there a place for these types of projectors acting in concert with live performers? Is it ethically wrong to so forcefully push an actor, singer, or dancer into the background (as the goggles certainly will)? Imagine the recent Sunday in the Park on Broadway taken to the next level. Now you can be in the painting as it moves and grows around you. Is that gain—that space—worth the potential loss of the immediacy of the performance?

It is easy to come up with some exceptions to this trend. How about a stadium concert tour of some amazingly charismatic solo performer where the I-Mag screens are 3D and the image of the singer captured by stereoscopic cameras? Individual scenes in shows particularly suited for this kind of thing might make fantastic use, but potentially what could happen is the growth of a wholly new form. What potential is there for live presentation where anything really is possible?

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