Why I Hate 3-D (And You Should Too)
Roger Ebert hates 3D, and in his latest article for Newsweek, he suggests that you should too, calling it ‘a waste of a perfectly good dimension’ and predicts Hollywood’s current crazy stampede toward it as potentially suicidal. 3D adds nothing to the movie going experience, other than an additional charge and the possibility of headaches and nausea.
The problem is, 3-D has not only given Hollywood its biggest payday (US$2.7 billion and counting for Avatar), but a slew of other hits; Alice in Wonderland, How to Train Your Dragon and Clash of the Titans. As such Hollywood can only see one thing; bigger profits. We’re even starting to see some films having their release dates pushed so they can be given the 3D treatment.
Not everyone in Hollywood is happy and some directors, editors, and cinematographers agree with Ebert. But what about you? How do you feel? Have a read of Ebert’s main points below and see if you agree with him, and me, that 3D is something you should hate.
1. IT’S THE WASTE OF A DIMENSION.
When you look at a 2-D movie, it’s already in 3-D as far as your mind is concerned. When you see Lawrence of Arabia growing from a speck as he rides toward you across the desert, are you thinking, “Look how slowly he grows against the horizon” or “I wish this were 3D?”
Our minds use the principle of perspective to provide the third dimension. Adding one artificially can make the illusion less convincing.
2. IT ADDS NOTHING TO THE EXPERIENCE.
Recall the greatest movie going experiences of your lifetime. Did they “need” 3-D? A great film completely engages our imaginations. What would Fargo gain in 3-D? Precious? Casablanca?
3. IT CAN BE A DISTRACTION.
Some 3-D consists of only separating the visual planes, so that some objects float above others, but everything is still in 2-D. We notice this. We shouldn’t. In 2-D, directors have often used a difference in focus to call attention to the foreground or the background. In 3-D the technology itself seems to suggest that the whole depth of field be in sharp focus. I don’t believe this is necessary, and it deprives directors of a tool to guide our focus.
4. IT CAN CREATE NAUSEA AND HEADACHES.
Dr. Deborah Friedman, a professor of ophthalmology and neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, states that in normal vision, each eye sees things at a slightly different angle. “When that gets processed in the brain, that creates the perception of depth. The illusions that you see in three dimensions in the movies are not calibrated the same way that your eyes and your brain are.” In a just-published article, Consumer Reports says about 15 percent of the movie going audience experiences headache and eyestrain during 3-D movies.
5. HAVE YOU NOTICED THAT 3-D SEEMS A LITTLE DIM?
Lenny Lipton is known as the father of the electronic stereoscopic-display industry. He knows how films made with his systems should look. Current digital projectors, he writes, are “intrinsically inefficient. Half the light goes to one eye and half to the other, which immediately results in a 50 percent reduction in illumination.” Then the glasses themselves absorb light. The vast majority of theaters show 3-D at between three and six foot-lamberts (fLs). Film projection provides about 15fLs. The original IMAX format threw 22fLs at the screen. If you don’t know what a foot-lambert is, join the crowd. (In short: it’s the level of light thrown on the screen from a projector with no film in it.)
6. THERE’S MONEY TO BE MADE IN SELLING NEW DIGITAL PROJECTORS.
These projectors are not selling themselves. There was initial opposition from exhibitors to the huge cost of new equipment and infighting about whether studios would help share these expenses. Some studios, concerned with tarnishing the 3-D myth, have told exhibitors that if they don’t show a movie in 3-D, they can’t have it in 2-D. Although there’s room in most projection booths for both kinds of projectors, theaters are encouraged to remove analog projectors as soon as they can. Why so much haste to get rid of them? Are exhibitors being encouraged to burn their bridges by insecure digital manufacturers?
7. THEATERS SLAP ON A SURCHARGE FOR 3-D.
Yet when you see a 2-D film in a 3-D-ready theater, the 3-D projectors are also outfitted for 2-D films: it uses the same projector but doesn’t charge extra. See the Catch-22? Are surcharges here to stay, or will they be dropped after the projectors are paid off? What do you think? I think 3-D is a form of extortion for parents whose children are tutored by advertising and product placement to “want” 3-D.
8. I CANNOT IMAGINE A SERIOUS DRAMA, SUCH AS UP IN THE AIR OR THE HURT LOCKER, IN 3-D.
Neither can directors. Having shot Dial M for Murder in 3-D, Alfred Hitchcock was so displeased by the result that he released it in 2-D at its New York opening. The medium seems suited for children’s films, animation, and films such as James Cameron’s Avatar, which are largely made on computers. Cameron’s film is, of course, the elephant in the room: It’s used as the poster child for 3-D, but Cameron planned his film for 3-D from the ground up and spent $250 million getting it right. Other directors are forced to use 3-D by marketing executives. The elephant in that room is the desire to add a surcharge.
9. WHENEVER HOLLYWOOD HAS FELT THREATENED, IT HAS TURNED TO TECHNOLOGY
In marketing terms, this means offering an experience that can’t be had at home. With the advent of Blu-ray discs, HD cable, and home digital projectors, the gap between the theater and home experiences has been narrowed. 3-D widened it again. Now home 3-D TV sets may narrow that gap as well.
What Hollywood needs is a “premium” experience that is obviously, dramatically better than anything at home, suitable for films aimed at all ages, and worth a surcharge. For years I’ve been praising a process invented by Dean Goodhill called MaxiVision48, which uses existing film technology but shoots at 48 frames per second and provides smooth projection that is absolutely jiggle-free. Modern film is projected at 24 frames per second (fps) because that is the lowest speed that would carry analog sound in the first days of the talkies. Analog sound has largely been replaced by digital sound. MaxiVision48 projects at 48fps, which doubles image quality. The result is dramatically better than existing 2-D. In terms of standard measurements used in the industry, it’s 400 percent better. That is not a misprint. Those who haven’t seen it have no idea how good it is. I’ve seen it, and also a system of some years ago, Douglas Trumbull’s Showscan. These systems are so good that the screen functions like a window into three dimensions. If moviegoers could see it, they would simply forget about 3-D. – newsweek