Despicable 3D

I know, I know—I'm a little late to the party. I just saw Despicable Me, even though it's been in theaters for three weeks. I rarely see a movie on its opening weekend—I really hate waiting in line only to get a lousy seat right in front of a fidgety kid—but I don't normally wait this long for such a hyped 3D title. So how was it?

The movie itself is wonderful—a classic tale of evil transformed into good by the unconditional love of children (and minions), told in a very creative way with lots of laughs. My favorite part was the Bank of Evil (formerly Lehman Brothers), which extends loans to super-villains for their nefarious plans with the expectation of huge returns. And the loan officer looks exactly like the boss from Dilbert!

However, the 3D was another story. All the promo for Despicable Me says, "In eye-popping RealD 3D!" Okay, that means circular-polarized glasses and a silver screen. (Interestingly, the ArcLight theater in Hollywood, CA, says it's showing the movie in XpanD 3D, which uses active-shutter glasses. I was shocked to hear this—I haven't seen active glasses used in a commercial theater for many years, and then it was Imax.)

I saw the movie at the AMC 16 in Burbank, CA, and it was indeed in RealD. When I looked back at the projection window, I noticed that this presentation was using a Sony 4K projector. Great, this would be the first time I've seen that particular system outside of a demo at Sony Pictures Studios.

How did I know it was a Sony 4K? Because I could see two rectangular filters, one on top of the other. The Sony 4K projector uses one 2K section of its imager for the left eye and another 2K section for the right eye. These two sections are positioned vertically with oppositely polarized filters, so there is no fast alternating between left and right as there is with switching polarizers and Dolby 3D's filter wheel.

Unfortunately, the 3D in this movie left a lot to be desired. For the most part, I thought the use of 3D was largely irrelevant—most scenes didn't even look all that 3D. When there was some obvious depth in the image, it was for totally gratuitous shots, such as the minions trying to bridge the gap between themselves and the audience during the end credits—a clever idea, but gimmicky nonetheless. And as usual, objects placed way out "in front of the screen" were plagued by motion blur and stuttering.

Another problem was the softness of the image—it certainly didn't look as sharp and crisp as other animated 3D I've seen. This could have been a stylistic choice on the part of the filmmakers, or it could have been in the projection system—there's no way to know for sure without seeing it again on a different system.

I highly recommend the movie, but from what I saw, there's no compelling reason to shell out the extra bucks for 3D. And if the softness was a stylistic choice, I don't have much hope that the Blu-ray will be an Ultimate Demo, at least in terms of the video.

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Jarod's picture

Very interesting. My local cinema uses an NEC RealD 3D projector that has the same two rectangular filters, one on top of the other, as you described the Sony 4K projector. When you look back at the projector during a 3D movie it looks as if there is two images coming out of the projector.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Hmm, I didn't know that NEC's setup looks like that. Now I'll have to contact the theater manager and find out for sure. I do know that the Sony 4K is in about 3000 theaters nationwide, including AMC, and about 1000 of them are 3D setups. But I didn't see the projector itself, so now I'll have to verify it. Thanks for the head's up!

Bob N's picture

The setup Jarod describes is RealD's XL Cinema System. It's sort of a light amplifier. DLP projectors with the XL system put more light on the screen than the Sony/RealD setup. If you know what kind of digital projectors your local theaters have, I would suggest seeing 2D movies on a Sony 4K projector (4K masters for 2D movies are becoming more common) and 3D movies on a DLP projector with the XL system. Also I would suggest getting a pair of MicroVision Optical's RealD compatible glasses for $30+. They are much more comfortable than the giveaway glasses and have a better field of view, and of course are more durable.

Jarod's picture

Sure thing Scott! Hey thanks for the info Bob N! I took a closer look at the projector and it indeed says RealD XL.

Jerry's picture

Scott, I'm not a fan of 3-D, for pretty much all of the reasons that have been hashed about in your blog in the past, but I recently read something quite disturbing about it, that has given me real pause about whether or not its actually SAFE for some people. There was a a study done recently on the effect that long term 3-D images have on developing eyes, specifically eyes of children under 7. Children's eye muscles-the ones that focus images-strengthen over time, and below 7 their eyes are much more sensitive to any forces that might disrupt their development. 3-D images require focusing of the eye muscles that isn't normal, and thats where the problems can occur. The end result is a permanent cross-eyed state, called strabismus. In adults it can still cause eyestrain and headaches. I'm surprised that you haven't mentioned this in your blog, although I'm not in any way implying that its intentional. Sony has even admitted that it can cause eyestrain and headaches in people, but h

Jerry's picture

(continued...a bit) ....but hasn't admitted of the more harmful potential of 3-D viewing. Yes, I know this may be a little off-topic, so, sorry in advance.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

No need to apologize, Jerry! You're right on topic, in fact. I haven't addressed this issue because I want to fully research it before writing about it. I've seen that study about kids and 3D as well, and I will include it in any discussion of this point. Thanks for your input!

Jerry's picture

Scott, not only that, but who might the target demographic for 3-D be? Gee whiz...could it possibly be children around the age of seven and under??? We have a P.R. problem!

Kenny Kraly Jr.'s picture

Scott I need a little help here I have a Sony KDF rear projection tv the KDF-55E2000. Which picture settings do I use to get the most out of my tv> I use the custom mode. Any help here whould be great.

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