3D Movies

I think I made fun of the recent 3D movie trend in the past, but I never really devoted an entire post to it. I think it’s time, especially since Thor was the first movie I saw in 3D since like the late 80’s. And you know what? The experience has not changed much. Granted Thor was probably not the best movie to evaluate current state of the technology, since it was not shot in 3D but merely converted in post production. This of course meant that only like 3 scenes in the movie actually had real depth to them, and the rest of the time it was basically just an exercise in inducing eye strain for no reason.

That said, I did watch trailer for Conan, and that looked really, really 3D to the point it made me woozy. I’m not sure if I could handle an entire movie of that sort of thing. The depth effect is kinda cool for the first 5 minutes, but it sort of gets old rather quickly. But then again, maybe that’s me – I’m not easily impressed by visuals. Plus, for the entire movie I felt like the screen was slightly out of focus even though it wasn’t. It’s like my brain knew it was being tricked, and it was working hard to correct the problem, causing my eyes to desperately try to over-focus on the screen. This tiny discomfort is not a deal breaker for me, but it serves as a reminder that you don’t get 3D for free.

Then again, I always wonder why do we really need 3D. I mean it’s not like the third dimension was missing from our films for all this time. Our brains have no problem grasping the illusion of depth in the flat, 2D movies using things like perspective, focus and etc. 3D is basically just a gimmick – neat but completely superfluous.

I’m not saying this because I’m scared of the progress, or afraid of the next step in cinematographic technology. That’s not it at all. I just don’t think it is that serious. I think that the 3D craze is just a fad, and not a new one at that. 3D movies have been around for a while now. In fact, I have seen their popularity rise an then fall into almost complete obscurity within my lifetime. It was a cheap gimmick back then, so why would I think it is going to be any different now.

After all, the technology has not changed much. We are still using the same stereoscopic anaglyphs to fool your eye into perceiving depth. Granted, the hardware we use to produce these is much better these days, and we had years to improve the quality of the anaglyph playback but there is nothing new and revolutionary about current technology and methods.

The main difference between then and now, is who is using it. Back in the day, most 3D movies were made more or less to showcase the technology. Their plot was crafted specifically to maximize the number of things that could be flung directly at the camera in order to impress the audience. More or less it was a niche entertainment format. No big blockbusters were in 3D, but the 3D movies often featured a popular celebrity or two. Of course the novelty quickly wore off and the fad died out, then came back, then died out again.

In the last few years however the situation changed a bit. The 3D scene underwent a complete reversal and through some marketing magic 3D became cool again. I guess enough time passed since the last time we got fed up with it, so most movie goers forgot all about it. So all of a sudden every big budget movie is either shot or post converted into 3D. All the big studios are trying to get in on the gig while it is still hot. But I suspect it is not because the demand – I suspect it is because of Hollywood accounting. Here is the deal: when the office box numbers are published, you just see a sum without some addendum that says whether or not the movie was in 3D or not. But tickets for 3D movies are more expensive, which makes 3D movies appear more successful than 2D movies. Can you see what is going on here? Studios get to inflate their numbers, because movie goers are perfectly willing to pay a few extra bucks for the 3D effects. Of course it does cost more money to shoot a movie in 3D, (though post converting is relatively cheap, all other things considered) so it is not like they are cheating the system. But consider this: if your movie is not in 3D, you may get steam-rolled by a cheaper and worse production just because their movie was, and thus they got to sell their tickets at a premium price. I believe this is the real reason why this fad is so popular.

Question is, whether or not this business model is sustainable. Will audiences continue buying into the 3D hype, or will they wisen up, and refuse to pay extra for unnecessary eye-strain and headaches. It’s hard to say. We might be stuck with it for quite a while this time around. But again, to me 3D is merely a gimmicky fad. It is not revolution, it is not taking the cinematographic art to the next level. It’s superfluous.

I will tell you one thing: this fad is not going to cross over into our living rooms. People are not going to buy these new, expensive 3D TV’s. Well, ok, some people are going to buy them, but I don’t think they will ever become ubiquitous. There will never be a big market for 3D DVD’s or BD’s. Most people are perfectly happy to spend a few more bucks to see some cool effects in the movie theater. Buying an expensive piece of hardware that in some ways is less functional than your current TV (requires glasses, 3D effect only works well if you sit directly in front of the TV, etc…) is a whole other story.

What do you think? Do you like 3D movies? Given a choice do you usually pick the 3D showing over the 2D? What do you think is the future of this fad? Will it peter out, or are we stuck with it for good? Would you ever consider buying a 3D TV for your house?

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9 Responses to 3D Movies

  1. Gothmog UNITED STATES Google Chrome Windows Terminalist says:

    I saw Kung Fu Panda 2 this weekend in 3D with my wife and 5 year old son. $28 bucks for the three of us. Sheesh. I enjoyed the movie, but I noticed the same ‘blurring’ as my cranium strained to keep it all in focus. I can’t help but wonder if it would have been better in 2D.
    I liked the movie just fine- I think the story of the first one was better, but the action of the 2nd was tighter. But still worth a watch.

    I think all this 3D mumbo-jumbo will be a fad up until you don’t need peripherals (read: glasses) to make it work reliably. I suppose we’ll see.

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  2. Eric UNITED STATES Google Chrome Windows says:

    People will buy 3d televisions. When they go to purchase a replacement for their current television 3d will be included by default. They won’t really have a choice. Will thy actually use it? That is a different question.

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  3. Steve CANADA Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I hate 3D movies. They are usually terrible to watch. I don’t think I would ever go for 3D TVs. Bad for the eyes – especially the eyes, and brains, of children.

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  4. yes, it sucks
    yes, noone likes it really
    and yes: it will catch on for the next 2-3 years.

    Of course noone want’s to spend 100€ on glases per person watching, but they will pay without recieving anything worthwile. Why? Because there are movies that use it! You wouldn’t wan’t to miss _the_ big new technology, would you?

    Other way round: what big technological change should tv-manufacturers sell to you instead (and because of Kaizen, they have to sell something new)? Bigger screens? Been there! More resolution? Done that!
    Nothing makes sense, so you will get something that makes even less sense, but is at least new.

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  5. jambarama UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I saw Avatar in 3d. It was good enough I forgot I was watching 3d after a little while. My wife swatted at some of the ash from the movie. I’ve also seen other movies in 3d they did after the fact.

    When done well, I don’t think it is distracting, but I don’t think it improves anything. When poorly done, it is distracting, and makes the movie more pricey and worse.

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  6. I am glad so many other people agree with me. This 3D hype is just dumb. I get HDTV, it makes sense… I would prefer a more unified system of rumble support. Where you can hookup rumble packs to your chairs and they will shake with the movie. That I find interesting, and makes you feel more involved in the movie…
    3-D just seems like a gimmic. They add a few effects that make you go “wow, that scene had no point in the movie other than to show off the 3D effects”.

    That being said, I am interested to see when the Porn Industry goes 3D :P

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  7. xWittaker UNITED STATES Google Chrome Windows says:

    My dad recently got a tv with 3d support so I got a chance to see how this worked out in the living room. The way I see it, the major problems are:

    1. Price. TV is more expensive. 3d Movies are more expensive (Tron Legacy is $28 for 3d, $20 for basic blu ray). Glasses also cost some money.
    2. Display brightness. When watching tron legacy during the day, wearing the glasses severly dimmed the picture which was an issue since my dad’s living room has quiet a bit of ambient light from windows. Ended up having to close all the windows.
    3. Varying quality. Some movies are shot in the 3d, some have it added in postprocessing which produces an inferior effect. Trying to sell someone on a sub-par experience is unlikely to succeed.
    4. Everyone needs glasses. If only half the people watching the movie has glasses, the people without glasses will see a blurred image (not horrifically blurred, but enough to get annoying).

    So to sum it up, I don’t think the 3D effect isn’t worth it for movies. It rarely adds to the movie; just mixes stuff up a bit. However, I’m still on the fence about it for videogames. Mortal Kombat in 3D was pretty cool and I really want to see what Dirt 3 looks like before I render a verdict.

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  8. Sam Slade UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I predict ‘simulated’ 3D will be the next proper step forward in TV/Monitor technology. This tech would require a camera or retina tracking sensor to be embedded in the TV itself, which adjusts the perscetive of the image to simulate real depth… i.e. if there was a brick wall on the right hand side of the screen, and you moved your head to the left, you’d actually be able to see what’s around the wall. It’s easily conceivable that films might be recorded with say 24 different cameras, and the spaces imbetween those cameras could be averaged/smoothed out with CGI to create a seamless flexible field of view.

    Yes this technology would only be noticable when you moved your head about, but in it’s favor it doesn’t require silly glasses, it doesn’t cause headaches, and I think there’d be loads of great applications for horror movies/games if, by searching about a bit you could reveal a killer clown hiding under a table or something. You’d actually have to lower your head to look under the table…. That’d be cool in my book. The TV/monitor might even detect that you’ve looked under the table, and so play a different senario whereby the killer clown doesn’t stab you (in the case of a game) or the hero (in the case of a movie) in the foot.

    The posibillities are huge, and the only hardware upgrades it requires is a camera/retina sensor to be embedded in the TV/monitor, and for the media to be generated using multiple cameras. The rest is just creating the right software. Unless of course you want a film to have multiple endings like a roleplay fantasy book, in which case the movie would have to be filmed with loads of extra scenes… so this might apply better in videogames, as CGI content can probably be modified more easily that filmed content. But a movie could perhaps have 2 different endings, depending on whether you side with the hero or the arch villian at the end… by nodding or shaking your head or something.

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  9. Jed AUSTRALIA Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I’ve seen about 5 or so movies in 3D at the cinema, and I barely noticed the difference in most of them, other than the blurriness/eye strain and given the option, I’ll always go for 2D.
    In fact, my partner got a packet of 10 free movie tickets for her birthday, and even without money as an issue, when we went to see Stranger Tides, we opted for the 2D version.

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