Monday, 18 October 2010

Misguided Sales Gimmick

I must be one of the last handful of people in the World to watch James Cameron's Avatar. Finally saw it the other night and found it, as expected, visually spectacular, but lacking storywise and characterwise. The aliens' "philosophy" in particular seemed half-baked. Although they were supposed to revere life, they seemed to go into the battle scenes with gusto and, in the latter part of the film, wipe out humans without a twinge of regret. None of the characters was given any light and shade either, with Stephen Lang's baddie being particularly clichéd and lacking in background and motivation. Sam Worthington looks good but already seems to me an appropriate successor to Russell Crowe - and I'm not a Russell Crowe fan.

Anyway, the real point of this posting is that The People Who Know keep saying that the film is vastly better in 3D. On hearing the recent hype about the new 3D process, I've groaned on more than one occasion. I'm sure it's fine in the cinema, but it really is the last thing we need or want on UK TV.

Why? Putting aside the fact that everyone has been persuaded to buy new flat panel TVs over the past couple of years and, to watch in 3D, would have to buy another new set, the main issue is bandwidth. There just isn't enough of it. The BBC has been widely criticised for dropping both the bitrate and the picture quality on its "flagship" channel, BBC HD, and any person with average vision can see that the average standard definition programme on digital TV, whether received by aerial or satellite dish, suffers badly from compression and "pixellation".

Commercial concerns mean more and more pressure to pack more channels into the same space, and the systems we have in the UK at the moment simply won't support 3D TV at anything like the required quality unless there is a major reorganisation, and more bandwidth is somehow discovered. With the economic "squeeze" only set to tighten further over the next few years, that seems highly unlikely.