Self Defense

I get lots of thoughtful, intelligent e-mail from our readers, which I greatly appreciate, even—sometimes especially—when they disagree with my positions. But once in a while, a real doozy arrives in my inbox. Normally, I ignore these rants, but I recently received one that I'd like to share, along with my responses. The original is mostly one very long, convoluted paragraph regarding my blog about Roger Ebert's hatred of 3D. I will break it up here and respond to each point in turn, and I'll edit for clarity, doing my best to retain the writer's intended meaning.

The way you use your considerable intelligence to rationalize your defense of 3D needs to be addressed.

Thanks for calling my intelligence "considerable," but my comments were absolutely not a wholesale defense of 3D. I like certain things about the technology, and I dislike other things about it, which is exactly what I wrote.

3D is often of little artistic merit and often (arguably, usually or even always) detracts in irrevocable ways.

What technology ever reached a peak of artistic merit in its early stages? Granted, 3D has been around for a long time, but it's been relatively dormant until very recently. So in terms of current developments, it's very new, and I look forward to its evolution as filmmakers learn how to use it most effectively. Of course, you're entitled to your opinion, as I am to mine.

I have met so many women from all walks of life who can see immediately that everything HD gives, 3D takes away and actively degrades. (This is no doubt because of the greater emotional and intuitive sophistication of the female psyche.) Saturated colors, textures, overall resolution, etc. There is no such thing as even "trueish" white, let alone a genuinely bright scene, ever. Computer animation is absolutely and always required to get whatever there is to get.

First of all, I reject your stereotyped premise that the female psyche is inherently more emotionally and intuitively sophisticated than the male. My feminist-activist wife agrees here—the variation in mental abilities of each gender is far too wide for your generalization to have any meaning. And what in the world does this have to do with 3D?

As for the picture-quality parameters you mention, Tom Norton and I were able to calibrate the white point of the Samsung UN46C8000 3D TV quite close to D65 across the brightness range in 3D mode, so the white was true. Also, the color points were no less saturated in 3D mode than they were in 2D mode. We had no 3D resolution test pattern, so we couldn't objectively measure that, but with active shutter glasses, the TV displays 1920x1080 for each eye. I do agree that the amount of light reaching the viewer's eyes through the glasses is significantly reduced, which is a problem in commercial theaters, but LCD TVs can compensate for that by increasing the backlight.

Finally, I disagree that computer animation is "absolutely and always required to get whatever there is to get." Yes, computer animation is a great way to create 3D, but that doesn't mean live action can't also work well.

There are minimal standards of integrity for journalists. In pretending you barely see any of this (to any important degree), you are not meeting them.

Do you think that journalistic integrity means agreeing with you? Now that would be a ridiculous standard! My fundamental responsibilities as a journalist are to report technological details accurately and to clearly distinguish such reporting from my opinions about technologies and consumer issues. I hope most readers appreciate this.

Citing that you've met people who thought Avatar was the best moviegoing experience of their life is simply squalid journalism.

What?! I'm simply reporting what others have told me and representing it as such. Again, you don't seem to understand that someone can disagree with you and still have integrity.

Do you remember or understand how people reacted to 2001: A Space Odyssey? It was vastly more affecting in its time, stimulating deep, unconscious feelings that Avatar doesn't go near. The titillation that Avatar provides is utterly charming, but the emotional and artistic depth hardly comes close to 2001 and so many other classics that moved us in ways Avatar cannot begin to reach.

I remember seeing 2001 when it was first presented in 1968, and I agree it was a deeply moving film. I also agree that Avatar wasn't nearly as moving for me, but I'm not arrogant enough to suppose that it couldn't be for anyone else.

Citing unsophisticated people who were wowed by the novelty does not put you in good company.

The people I was thinking of in that citation—including a few women!—were not merely wowed by the novelty of Avatar, they were profoundly moved by the entire experience. Judging them to be unsophisticated because of this is beyond arrogance.

As a responsible journalist, I pay attention to many points of view. This often puts me in the company of people with whom I disagree (such as yourself), and I wouldn't have it any other way.

None of this is opinion but straightforward, demonstrated fact.

This is the most ridiculous statement you've made so far. Your entire screed is nothing but opinion, to which you're entitled, of course. However, insisting that your opinion is the only truth and that disagreements are false by definition is a deeper problem than that posed by any technology.

Groups of people are not going to huddle around the TV with their 3D glasses in numbers sufficient to make this a success. Get out in front of this while you still can.

I agree that having to wear glasses is a big deterrent to widespread acceptance of 3D, and I said as much in my blog. As for "getting out in front of this," I'm waiting to see what happens rather than jumping to conclusions.

How can you be "unsure" that the film industry introduces new formats when it feels threatened? It's a completely undisputed historical fact that many (most) of them were introduced because they were so threatened by the popularity of television.

I will concede that most of the items in his list could have been reactions to the threat of television, at least in part. However, I do not blindly accept this as "completely undisputed historical fact," especially without doing my own independent research, which is why I simply said I was unsure about Ebert's statement.

In any event, the last item in his list, "now 3D again," can hardly be considered a reaction to the threat of television, since the current wave of theatrical 3D is nearly coincident with the introduction of 3D in the home, which the studios wholeheartedly support. If 3D is supposed to lure people to commercial theaters by offering something that TV can't, why would the studios support 3D at home just as it's ramping up in theaters?

If you worked for a trade journal, being a clever apologist for the industry would be more or less acceptable. The objectivity you go out of your way to reference and then degrade does not do a man of your talent or the reputation of your associated websites any credit. Ebert is a true journalist. Can you say the same?

Ebert has spent his estimable career reviewing films on the basis of their content and artistry. I'm a tech guy with a different point of view. Why can't you tolerate a divergence of opinion here?

I categorically reject your assertion that I'm an apologist for the industry. I call 'em as I see 'em, pointing out what I like and don't like with equal attention. My intent is to cover the industry in as balanced a manner as I can, which does my readers a much greater service than simply ranting about how horrible—or wonderful—3D is.