3D: Threat or Menace?
Everyone seems to have a “for” or “against” position on 3D. In my last Blog most who chimed in were against. Very against. But what I’m wondering is, when people say they don’t like 3D, are they referring to the artistic merit of 3D or the technical limitations of many 3D presentations?
While the 3D now seen in digital cinemas and at home with the active shutter glasses is unequivocally superior to any of the primitive forms of 3D that have come before, there is a weakness. 3D is dim. Digital Cinema targets for 2D call for 12-14 ftL of light output off the screen. 3D for digital cinema’s target is closer to 4.5 ftL with the glasses on, which is very dim at roughly a third the light output of a 2D presentation. While 3D effects can be impressive, to be frank, this sucks. Both Up and even Monsters vs. Aliens suffered from excessive dimness theatrically. I recall being blown away by seeing these movies on Blu-ray in my home theater in 2D, where I could finally see all the rich detail in the character animation. But again, this is a complaint against the presentation not the merit of 3D per se. And really, as picky as I am about image quality, it’s not like I don’t always have nits to pick with 2D theatrical. And Monsters Vs. Aliens has looked spectacular in 3D flat panel and front projection home theater demos I’ve seen.
I do have to note the IMAX exception for 3D theatrical presentation. If I’m compelled to see a 3D movie theatrically I cough up the dough and get in the car and drive to a theater with a dual-projector Digital IMAX 3D presentation (and I mean it- I have a 10-screen all digital cinema 10 minutes away, but IMAX is at least 45 minutes away in either direction). The IMAX digital projection setup solves the light output issues and delivers the pop. 3D in Digital IMAX theaters is amazing. Avatar and How to Train Your Dragon were marvelous presentations that earned the extra bucks and time I spent.
3D at home with flat panel TVs, with the active shutter glasses is also dimmer than 2D. But even then with the flat panels we’re testing we’re seeing 10ftL or so off the screen measuring through the glasses. That’s lower than the 25-30fL we’re seeing with 2D we’re seeing with 2D on the same sets, but still acceptable with good control over room light. And that’s still twice as much light as you’ll see from most 3D D-Cinema showings. And the 3D effects are every bit as good as in the theater or better.
So, my question this week is for the haters. Do you dislike 3D on artistic grounds, or because of the current technical limitations of the presentations as related to dimness, nausea, or something else I haven’t thought of? Are you burnt because you just bought a new HDTV, and don’t want to upgrade?
PS- don’t tell me you don’t like 3D if the demo material you’ve seen hasn’t included clips from the best feature film Blu-ray 3D material like Coraline, Monsters vs. Aliens and A Christmas Carol. Some of the 3D demo material out there looks awful. Some early Blu-ray Disc demos weren’t good enough to move equipment either. Same as it ever was.