Designer Brands Give 3D Glasses A Makeover

By J. Sperling Reich | November 30, 2010 10:39 pm PST

Sometime last month I tagged a couple of blog posts about designer 3D glasses intending to write about them in the near future. After a Los Angeles Times story covered the subject yesterday, I figured it was about time to aggregate all the information into a post here.

More than a year after RealD announced that they would be teaming up with manufacturers to certify 3D glasses from name brand designers, the first models began hitting the market in October. Making waves first was Oakley, which announced they had created a pair of 3D specs with a proprietary technology named HDO-3D. The company claims their “premium glasses are engineered for unrivaled 3D performance, superior visual clarity and signature Oakley comfort”.

In a smart marketing move, Oakley is teaming up with Disney on the studio upcoming “Tron: Legacy” release by offering a special collectible limited edition “Tron” version of their Gascan 3D glasses which look as if they were take straight out of the sci-fi flick. A regular pair of Oakley 3D glasses will set you back USD $120, while the “Tron: Legacy” model goes for USD $150.

Gucci also began selling a pair of upscale 3D glasses last month for $225 and Marchon Eyewear has licensed their glasses to both Calvin Klein and Nautica who will sell pairs for between USD $95 and USD $150. Meanwhile, Australian based Look3D has been offering stylish RealD certified glasses since late last year.

All of these trendy glasses are significantly more expensive than the USD $1 disposable pairs theatre owners currently offer patrons. Though, at least in North America cinemas won’t be waiving the 3D up-charge for moviegoers bringing their own 3D specs, no matter how good they look or how expensive they may be. (This is not the case in Europe, Australia and parts of Asia).

So who exactly is the market for such high end 3D glasses? David Johnson, the head of Marchon Eyewear’s Marchon3D, told the L.A. Times that the glasses will become a natural part of living in the modern-day:

“You’ve got your smart phone, you’ve got your iPad and now you have another piece of equipment. This is a specialty technology device.”

All of the designer 3D glasses do come with a couple of catches. The Gucci and Oakley models can not double up as sunglasses for everyday use. As well, all the new glasses are meant for systems that require circular polarization, such as RealD, MasterImage and Technicolor. This means none of them will work at theatres showing films using Dolby or Panavision 3D technology which relies on spectral comb filtering. Same goes for Imax.

At a time when the consumer electronics industry is pushing 3D in the home, it would be nice if the new specs could be used with 3D capable televisions. However, a majority of 3D televisions require active shutter glasses like those used by XpanD.

One interesting factoid to come out of the story in the Times had to do with the number of 3D glasses presently sitting in landfills:

At least 300 million pairs of glasses have been used worldwide since the debut of Disney’s “Chicken Little” film in 3-D in 2005. That’s almost one pair for every man, woman and child in the U.S.

J. Sperling Reich