3D: What’s the big deal?

I was informed today by both of my brothers that they were off to see Toy Story 3. An excellent film, which I watched last week and thoroughly enjoyed. However, sibling protests arose due to the fact that I had forgone the option to watch it in ‘3D’. I instead chose to save 20% off the ticket price and avoid having to wear some silly glasses for 2 hours. As you may have guessed, I’m not a fan of 3D.

My first experience with the 3D, along with millions of others, was watching James Camerons titanic film, Avatar. I thought the film itself was OK, a pretty average script and a tad too long, but amazing visuals. However, the aesthetics were hampered somewhat due to the effort to present them in 3D. As far as I can tell, a large part of producing a 3D film is making the ‘3D’ object bright and clear, whilst putting the background image out of focus. This meant that if you were to casually look at something else in the shot, apart from the babbling blue lizard-smurf who was trying to ‘save the trees’, you would be greeted with a grainy, wobbly mess. After spending years trying to perfect as clear an image as possible, it seems to me somewhat perverse to allow this image degradation to happen in the name of making a good film look like a cheap party trick.
The same line of thought was shared by Christopher Nolan, who chose not to film his new picture Inception in 3D. He claims that 3D is a real step backward in terms of image quality, saying that “…I find the dimness of the image extremely alienating.” According to The Wrap, image dimness could be a major factor behind the declining revenues generated by 3D blockbusters, as shown in the graph above. 3D films are at least 50% dimmer than their 2D counterparts. As Ebert argues in Newsweek, 3D technology is clearly a desperate attempt by the movie industry to resurrect flailing ticket sales as piracy is rife, an attempt which I would usually have no qualms with. Piracy is a real problem and the industry needs to add value to the cinema experience. As Ebert points out, the introduction of technology to resurrect the movie industry is by no means a new phenomena; take stereo, widescreen, colour, etc. However, the difference between these technologies and 3D is that they have dramatically improved image quality, as opposed to offering a cheap, marketable gimmick.
So go and see Toy Story 3, if only to see this short clip below. But make sure it’s in 2D.
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