Messed Up

I just got back from seeing Disney/Pixar's Up in digital 3D. The movie itself is beautiful, both visually and conceptually. The story is charming yet poignant with lots of laughs, the voice actors—led by Ed Asner as the gruff Carl Fredricksen—are superb, and the animation is stunning. Interestingly, many of the animated items, even most of the dogs, are essentially photorealistic, but the humans are deliberate caricatures. I suspect Pixar goes this route because it's so difficult to animate truly realistic-looking people thanks to the exquisite human sensitivity to facial detail and body language. I have no problem with that, but I was disappointed in the 3D presentation for several reasons.

First of all, the passive, polarized glasses one must wear for a commercial 3D movie substantially reduce the amount of light reaching your retinas, making the image appear quite dim. Also, the color isn't quite the same—it's a bit more muted and dingy. I've seen several 3D movies lately, and they've all had these problems.

Another distraction was motion blur. Mind you, this was a 2K (2048x1080) DLP projector, but objects in motion were seriously fuzzed out, which I suspect is an artifact of the alternating-eye 3D process. Finally, in all the 3D movies I've attended, I've always seen subtle discontinuities, especially in objects close up or far away at the periphery of the image, that break the 3D spell. Apparently, the technology cannot yet surpass the human brain's sensitivity to these cues.

Many studios are starting to pump out 3D animated movies as fast as they can make them—most of the previews before Up were for exactly such titles. And it seems that the entire consumer-electronics industry is abuzz about 3D in the home, with several platforms vying for dominance—can you say "yet another format war"?

From what I've seen of 3D so far, I think the buzz is premature. I walked out of the theater thinking about how much I look forward to the Blu-ray of Up so I can see it in high-def 2D with all of its brightness and colors intact, not to mention less motion blur and no distracting discontinuities. I have no doubt that we will continue to hear a lot about 3D in the months and years ahead, but I think it will be quite some time before a standard platform is adopted and the picture quality improves to match that of a good 2D digital image.

If you have an audio/video question for me, please send it to scott.wilkinson@sorc.com.

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COMMENTS
Ron Johnson's picture

I'm very surprised to hear that a 4:3 projector could be used to show a Digital Cinema source, let alone one in 3D. The digital file almost certainly would comply with DCI at 2048x1080 pixels. Perhaps you were told the wrong Christie projector model... I haven't seen Up, but I'll be quite content to wait for a 2D Blu-ray.

David Vaughn's picture

Scott, I saw Up in 2D and it looked spectacular. It was offered in 3D at my local theater, but I wasn't willing to pay the $2 premium (or $8 for the entire family) to see what I consider an inferior presentation due to the limitations you mention in the blog. It should look spectacular on Blu-ray when it's released later this year (sometime in Nov ember or December). David

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Ron, I got this info from Tom Norton, who asked someone at the theater about the projector and was told it's a Christie DS+6K, which has a resolution of 1400x1050. But when I called the theater to confirm this myself after reading your comment, I was told it's a Christie CP2000-SB, which has a resolution of 2048x1080. I was unable to get anyone on the phone to explain the conflicting stories Tom and I were told, but I tend to believe that it must be a 2K projector, so I'm changing my blog text to reflect that.

Ron Johnson's picture

Scott, I'm NOT surprised that you and Tom were given different information. The CP2000 seems much more likely! I've tried several times to get similar information from different theaters with mixed results. My reasons have been to checkout different technologies, or to find the "best" place to see a particular show. In particular, to see the Metropolitan Opera's Live HD transmissions on Saturday afternoons. So far, no theaters here in Chicago are using DCI grade projectors -- they mostly use pre-show LCD units. I'd be very happy if they used the Christie 1400x1050 DLP.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

I just confirmed with the theater's presentation manager that the projector was indeed the Christie CP2000 with 2048x1080 resolution. He had no idea who might have given Tom the wrong info.

Frank's picture

Sounds like the technology hasn't really changed all that much since I saw my first (and probably last) 3-D flick, Michael Jackson's Captain EO at Disneyland probably 15 or 20 years ago.

Jarod's picture

I am unable to watch 3d movies because I am partially blind in my left eye. But apparently i am not missing much so I don't feel so bad. I saw Up in my local theater in 2D and it looked very good and it was an incredible movie. But one thing that is so irritating is that my local theater uses very,very old projectors. So I am not able to ever see a quality theater presentation unless I travel 150 miles to the closest digital theater. All of you that live near good digital theater should consider yourselves very lucky. As with ever new movie, I can't wait to see Up on Blu-Ray on my Pioneer Kuro and 5.1 surround!

Jorge's picture

I have read that most of the reviewers are not that happy with the latest iteration of 3D. I have a different impression. I think it is definitely progress to what existed before. I thought the 3D effect was not overdone or gimmicky in UP. Overall, I think it is progress. It is not there yet probably, but got better. I particularly enjoyed the movie in 3D and will probably netflix-it on BluRay just to compare. I am sure it will look fantastic on BluRay too. I embrace new technologies and understand that it takes some iterations to perfect challenging tasks and I am willing to try and enjoy for what it is.

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