So we live in what we perceive as a three-dimensional world. It works well enough for us; we can get around from place to place each with three coordinates. We know of a fourth dimension, but cannot actively notice it. Sure, we see its effects, but we cannot travel through it. So we’re stuck with 3 usable dimensions. At least, for material things like your computer, a cat, the ocean, or even tardigrades. For images, we have been stuck with two. Wall paintings, crayon pictures, up to majestic works of art at a museum have all existed with a one-dimensional handicap. Sure, you’d have those red and blue colored glasses, but those were gimmicky and changed the actual color of the picture you were seeing. Electronic images for years had the same hindrance. Only recently have movies come up with a way to keep the color consistent while not sacrificing the trick. But is it good enough? Let’s take a look.
- The Glasses
- The Viewpoint
- The Focus
- The Point
- The Verdict
Ah, the glasses. Those plastic never-the-right-size pieces of overcharge. They’re used to separate the images to each of your eyes. The effect is to make some parts of the screen look closer than others. In this, they succeed. In comfort, they fail. For one thing, they were not made with people who already wear glasses in mind. So either they go with blurry vision or stretched glasses squeezing their face. And the one-size-fits-all approach isn’t the most inclusive for the ‘all’. People with small heads and/or slanted noses have them fall right off their face. The sooner we can be rid of these, the better.
Here’s one of the larger technical obstacles. The image doesn’t adjust to you. So if you were looking at the screen from the end of an aisle, then move to the center to sit down, the image looks exactly the same. Real 3D objects viewed from different angles would create different images. Sure, they expect you to sit in one seat and not jump about, but there would be a difference just by moving your head within a two-foot square. It creates a disconnect between you and the movie, which is part of what 3D is trying to get rid of, right?
There’s another big problem with the camera: the whole thing is in focus. That’s just not how it is in real life. You look at something close, distant objects get blurry. Look at the distant objects, and close thing go blurry. But when the movie tries to persuade you one thing is closer to you than another, they both look neat and sharp. Dock another few points from the connectivity meter there. And then they go and zoom around from shot to shot. To a person sitting in a movie theater feeling no force feedback like that necessary to fly through the air, it can either make a person dizzy or outright sick. Plus, they try to keep the 3D effects on! You want to know how to make someone sick from a movie? Here’s your solution. The benefits get tossed aside as the patron hastily reaches for a barf bag. Then, realizing this is a movie theater and not an airplane, just pukes in their neighbor’s popcorn.
So why do directors and producers keep doing 3D? Well, two main reasons. Initially, 3D was more for the ‘ooooo, look what we can do’ pop-out tricks to make people afraid of things flying at them. To startle, mainly. Nowadays their goal is the one that they most often shoot in the foot: immersion. To suck you into the world they’ve created and make you more invested in the movie than you would be when seeing a flat 2D image. And here they fail. Hard. Just when the plot gets interesting and you’re drawn into the fictional universe, BAM! Whirled around and made sick. Or maybe they’re showing you an impossible image with graphical overlays. Text subtitles ruin 3D shots. Where are we? Oh, look, there’s the floating text kindly letting us know where and when we are. Thanks floating text, that couldn’t have been conveyed more subtly through signs or newspapers or whatnot. Next time I want to know what the date is, I’ll just look outside.
While this entire review has been negative, I strangely will generally choose to watch new movies in 3D. And at and extra $3 each time because they don’t let you keep/reuse the stupid glasses. What does this say? Either I’m foolishly optimistic that maybe this time they’ll get it right, or they’ve marketed the concept really well and I’m a sucker for it. Either way, I don’t seem to come out on top. You win this time, 3D…