5 Negative Aspects About 3D

Avatar2 5 Negative Aspects About 3D

I’ve decided I’m a 3D optimist. Ultimately, I think the format is going to improve in the hands of skilled filmmakers and technicians with able hands and keen eyes and will be as much an institution of the moving image as color is today. If the type of people who currently say 3D is a gimmick won the argument back in the day when color film was becoming popular, we’d be watching G.I. Joe in black and white. It seems inevitable that the technology has such tremendous potential that to abandon it because of a few—ok, quite a number of hiccups would be totally shortsighted.

We could think of these drawbacks to 3D movies as growing pains, something the industry needs to work past and improve so that the experience of a 3D image can be enjoyed comfortably and happily and no quite so frequently suck. Because right now, there’s a lot that kind of sucks about 3D, and it gives the skeptics a lot of support for their argument that 3D, as a whole, is a crappy innovation that should go the way of Smell-o-vision.

Here are 5 of the things preventing 3D movies from working as well as 2D movies in all instances. Fix these, and we’ll be well on our way to a new normal that offers a more realistic and immersive cinematic experience, the next stage of motion picture viewing.

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1) Making an audience of people wear glasses is dumb

3D glasses 5 Negative Aspects About 3D

There’s no way around it: right now, the only way to watch movies in 3D is to wear plastic glasses. That’s the way the technology works. I couldn’t explain exactly how this is; I just watch the things. But what I know is that every movie I go to that’s in 3D has those glasses that they hand you on your way in.

This is, to put it mildly, suboptimal. It’s horribly inconvenient for people who already wear prescription eyeglasses to expect them to just be totally cool putting on another pair of glasses over their glasses so they can see through the 3D glasses while they see through their myopia-correcting lenses. They’re cumbersome, get dirty from popcorn grease, often have to be angled perfectly on your face to keep the image from going blurry, and they look ridiculous. They may have improved from those tacky paper ones from the early days of 3D, but they’re still an unfortunate necessity of 3D imaging in its current form. If I had the answer to this, of course, I would be a rich bastard. All that’s in my power is to implore those men and women whose intellect far surpasses mine to please, please come up with something. For the love of all that is right and good in the world. You’re our only hope.

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2) It can make the image appear dimmer

Tron Legacy 5 Negative Aspects About 3D

This is another point that the anti-3D crowd brings up all the time. It’s not without merit. Most of the movies that get shown in 3D have a specific color palette that is designed to meld with the 3D effect, in which the fine lines on the glasses restrict the amount of light that can reach the eyes. As a result they project the movie with greater brightness, but this doesn’t keep us from feeling like we’re being robbed of some image quality when we compare the dimness of the image we’re seeing versus what’s actually placed on the screen.

Of course, this again brings us back to the glasses. They’re designed so that our two eyes see different images to create the 3D effect, but as it stands right now, the design of the glasses also blocks a lot of light. Or at least enough for it to be noticeable. You remove the glasses from the equation, and you can watch the movie as you perceive it to be projected and don’t get the feeling like you’re missing anything. I’m not convinced that the objective experience of the image as we see it is any different in terms of dimness in the two formats, but this is a criticism that people aren’t going to let go of until there’s a fix.

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3) It can be an eyesore

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The most common complaint I hear about 3D movies is the strain people feel on their eyes during and after watching. This is a part of the experience that it seems everyone feels at least for a little while until their eyes adjust, and there are little moments throughout when you feel your eyes working much harder than they do when you’re just observing the real world around you.

Ironically, many chalk this up to the frame rate of the film projection, and there is actually a noticeable difference, and relief, when you watch a movie like The Hobbit in 48 frames per second in 3D. It’s ironic because perhaps the most vilified new innovation in movie projection aside from digital projection and 3D imaging is the higher frame rate that makes the picture seem smoother and gives it that so-called soap opera effect that people also complain new TVs tend to have. Is it possible that these two evils could join forces and indeed be a force for good? The naysayers will scream not a chance, but if it reducing how hard your eyes have to work to enjoy the 3D image, I’m all for it. Of course, the best solution would be to find a way to see a moving image in 3D without your eyes getting exhausted from working so hard. It’s a barrier a lot of people can’t get past, and it keeps them from experiencing the movie the way it is surely meant to be experienced.

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4) It’s used as an excuse to charge more for a ticket

Avengers 5 Negative Aspects About 3D

Studios are pumping out post-produced 3D movies at a disturbing rate, trying to give them just enough layering to justify charging an extra $4 a ticket, or more if they can show them on a larger screen like IMAX. It’s the same movie, but you’re getting the premium experience I guess. I’m sort of morally and philosophically opposed to this because I like the idea of movies being a democratic medium, unlike something like theater, where tickets are cheaply priced and there’s not a hierarchy of viewership where the wealthy will get to experience far more than the less economically advantaged among us.

But at the same time, there are so many movies that get released where the 3D adds very little. In some cases, it looks worse than 2D prints would look, because the job they do on the layering is so lazy—I shouldn’t say lazy; they probably just don’t have enough time to do a decent job—that it looks like a pop-up book. You have two layers, often: foreground actors, and background scenery. Usually the background is out of focus, but the 3D just makes the people pop out more. This does not resemble how we view the real world at all. It heightens the artifice of the storytelling, and takes us out of the moment. It looks like crap. But these rush jobs end up bagging the studio millions more, and leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of people who already have sore eyes and red lines on their faces from wearing two pairs of glasses.

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5) It encourages vapid gimmickry

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 5 Negative Aspects About 3D

I don’t mind the use of novelty and gimmickry in movies or any other branch of entertainment. It’s cool. Having something startle you by jumping out at you is fun—for a while. Before long, it can get tired. But what 3D often does for movies is that when it gets added, sometimes late in the shooting process, it makes people feel compelled to throw in some little details that they think the 3D audiences will find funny and affecting, and then the fatcats can justify charging their extra fee because people will want to see the version that has the chainsaw look like it’s actually going to slice their face off. This is done at the expense of keeping audiences engaged in the moment and the action and the characters and the story and it’s not like that’s completely unbeknownst to the producers of a movie but it shows where their priorities lie. And this wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t quite so pervasive. When it’s everywhere, it gets annoying.

These aren’t insurmountable challenges. Film history has plenty of cases of technological advances being hijacked by people looking to make a quick buck only to become incorporated into the process as a legitimate and artistically sound endeavor. Hell, film itself started out as basically a low-class gimmick. It’s easy to forget this, but you’d think film critics and historians would be less pessimistic about something like 3D when the very medium they have devoted their lives to enjoyed years of the same derision they’re heaping upon 3D movies today. Like most of these things, it’s probably best to wait and see where it goes. Constructive criticism of 3D is helpful, and so these complaints are good to voice.

If the smart folks continuing to work to improve 3D can make some reasonable strides in these areas, though, perhaps the immense potential of 3D movies can finally be realized. That’s a prospect worth feeling excited about.

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  • Effect

    I already wear glasses so having to wear a second pair for 3D is annoying. I have only watched one or two movies in 3D and don’t really care for it. I’m defiantly not paying extra for a movie where 3D was never the focal point to enhance it. Avatar is a movie that I wouldn’t have minded paying extra because you knew you were in for an experience, but not like all these movies coming out today.

  • http://www.fatmovieguy.com/ Craig

    I am a 3D optimist too. I go to a lot of advanced screenings so I have the luxury of seeing all the movies for free. I hate the cheap “free” glasses, so i bought a pair of Gunner Optics 3d glasses off ebay for $12. They alleviate the dimming effect to a point, but I have to still agree with all 5 points of your article.

  • Namnoot

    The eyestrain is the killer for me because it takes me out of the movie. Anything that distracts from immersion renders the whole thing a fail. It also encourages people to think about what they’re watching more than they perhaps should. I saw Avatar for the first time in 3D and was so uncomfortable with the 3d and the glasses I ended up being one of those who came away with a veritable catalogue of the many SF stories and other films (including his own) that Cameron, let’s be charitable, borrowed from. I hated the movie as a result. It wasn’t till I saw it in 2D on a beautiful Blu-ray release (which Cameron himself was quoted as saying looked better than the 3D version) that I was able to enjoy the movie as a movie. I’ve also been to a few 3D movies where the 3D effects simply did not show up so there was really no need for 3D at all, such as the GI Joe movie and (except for one example of “vapid gimmickry” involving an arm coming towards the screen) Star Trek Into Darkness. It’s pointless. And there is nothing that 3D can add to the storytelling. We already have sound, we already have color. Adding a faked 3rd dimension adds absolutely nothing to a filmmaker’s ability to tell a story. If he has to rely on gimmicks like 3D to tell a story, he shouldn’t be making movies, full stop.