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So you think “3D sucks”? It actually doesn’t, and here’s why.

May 14, 2012

There’s an old saying that the great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.


The following article popped up the morning after our 3D Panel discussion last week, initially covered in a prior post:

3D problems at ‘Avengers’ screening irk press – Variety.

It reinforced a point that Eric Deren (Dzignlight Studios) made during the discussion that even the best 3D content is not going to look good if its displayed incorrectly. To illustrate this, he recalled his experience screening “Gnomeo and Juliet” in 3D (Eric was lead stereographer) at several different cinemas worldwide and how on more than one occasion it wasn’t being projected correctly, thus significantly degrading the experience.

Eric further mentioned going to see an IMAX 3D film that he previously worked on at an IMAX theater that projected the left eye / right eye view out of sync by two frames(!). Since IMAX controls its content format, distribution and exhibition, the logic would go that there should not be any room for error. Well, apparently the projectionist was not onsite, so whoever set up the projector did so incorrectly.

As I’ve learned, 3D films are typically produced in a specific format for a specific sized screen, but masters still have to be created for theaters that have incompatible projection standards (e.g. Dolby 3D, RealD, MasterImage 3D, Xpand, etc.) and screen sizes (e.g. 47′ x 24′, 58′ x 28′, 74′ x 46′, etc). Add the complexity of dealing with today’s highly technical digital projection systems, and it’s not a giant leap of faith to see that a lot can go wrong when responsibility is not left to a highly skilled professional who knows how to check, for example, if the left and right eye frames are reversed.

So how do these kinds of issues manifest themselves in the public domain? Through negative comments and articles complaining that “3D sucks!”, “3D gives me a headache!”, “I can’t see the 3D!”

That said, there is a good chance that a consumer’s negative 3D experience was actually due to projection issues, or even unaddressed personal vision problems (for more on this, see Barry Sandrew’s great post here). But these and similar negative experiences in aggregate contribute to a growing chorus of skeptical – and often uninformed – critics who are quick to dismiss 3D as gimmicky and faddish.

Regardless, it’s a problem that the 3D industry must take ownership of and address through education, innovation and perhaps…fewer “standards.”

What do you think? What else can or should be done?

Next up – how does this impact mobile 3D?


  1. Brad permalink

    My issue with 3d is that we are paying the same price for a 2d conversion as an actual 3d movie. We should be told when we purchase the ticket if it was actually shot in 3d or if it was converted to 3d, because there’s a huge difference. The ticket price should reflect that too.
    My favorite 3d movie so far was Monsters Vs Aliens. The guy on the jet-pack looked like he was 10 feet in front of the screen. I’ve seen converted movies, like Alice in Wonderland and Clash of the Titans and the 3d was horrendous because many scenes were not shot with 3d in mind, plus the conversion was completely wrong in some scenes.

  2. Hi Brad – Thank you very much for your comment. That’s certainly an interesting idea, and your point is well taken. I do agree that the jury is still out on 2D-to-3D conversions overall, but I will say that when a conversion is done well it’s very difficult to tell the difference (at least in my experience!).

  3. Benjamin von Cramon permalink

    There may have been projection issues with the theater I attended showing The Avengers, but hard to tell, even with glasses off, you could see a rather normal looking film, that is, the stereo budget was tame to the point of lame. Granted, my eyes may be better stereo wired than your average Joe from my work, but folks with me also noted how pointless the 3D seemed (with the exception of a few nice 3D moments). Critics are quick to call out “overdone”, so is the case with “underdone”.

    • Hi Benjamin – Thank you for your feedback. As I’m still waiting to see The Avengers, I can’t comment on the stereo budget (and I’m not nearly as qualified as you are to even render a meaningful opinion!).

      At a high level though, considering the amazing box office performance of the film, I’d certainly chalk this production up as a “net positive” for the 3D industry.

      Would you agree?

      • Benjamin Von Cramon permalink

        I suppose 3D might be getting a free ride in The Avengers, due to viewers unable to differentiate what they like from the 3D, but not necessarily. A friend who viewed The Avengers with me, non-technical, remarked how he didn’t get why that film had to be done in 3D, it didn’t add much of anything.

        I’m confident Prometheus will dish up a powerful creative through and through, including the stereo. Riddley Scott has embraced 3D as nicely as Scorcese, and he’s to film tools as Rembrandt was to oils.

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