Moviegoers in 2010 were seven times more likely to pay for a film in 3D, but this year a new MORI suggest they are just as likely to go to a 2D screening. This may be attributed to the fact that going to a 3D screening is usually more expensive than a regular one (25% to 30% more according to Fandango), another possible cause is that watching 3D films can produce “3D fatigue”, and a third cause may be that 3D movies have simply lost their novelty.
3D fatigue can cause headache or even migraine; professor Martin Banks of U.C. Berkeley (who coined the term) says that the eyestrain can also produce blurry vision and a tired feeling. This strain is caused because 3D technology tricks the brain to create a 3 dimensional appearance according to the Institute of Physics website.
There are two ways of making a 3D film. The first one is recording footage with a 3D camera, which has two lenses close together to create an “eye like” vision of things. This method is the most realistic 3D effect, also called native 3D. It is the one seen in Academy award winner, James Cameron’s Avatar for example. The other method, called fake 3D by some movie aficionados, consists in filming things with regular cameras and then making a 3D conversion with computer software. Though the headaches, eyestrain and blurry vision can be caused by any 3D movie, the risks of suffering from 3D fatigue increase with movies that are digitally converted to 3D.
A study made at California State University, Dominguez Hills, with a control group of 400 students, showed that the 3D experience does not enhance emotions towards the situation on the screen nor does it make the viewer remember the movie better. Studies like this one make us think if there’s any real benefit to watching 3D movies, or if it’s just a way for movie companies to make more money. All the efforts of making 3D TV into something “hip” seems to be a lost cause. Not only do 3D TVs’ produce the kind of forced 3D that causes 3D fatigue, they also have a limited field of proper view. This means that in order to have a nice 3D experience in your home you need to be at a specific viewing distance, with the screen at the proper level for your eyes, and forget about watching the 3D pop out in the right way if you’re on the periphery or located to the side of the screen.
The 3D experience can be enjoyable to those who don’t suffer 3D fatigue, I don’t fully agree with the results of the study made at CSU, mainly because the movies they used as a guide -How to Train Your Dragon, Alice in Wonderland and Clash of The Titans- are not the best 3D examples. Let me state why: Animated 3D films usually have an unpleasant “I’m going to touch your nose” sort of 3D effect, which is made to attract children. Alice has no special elements to make it a noteworthy 3D experience. Finally, Clash of The Titans has one of the worst fake 3D’s ever seen on the silver screen.
When done properly 3D can be a thrilling experience, such as James Cameron’s Avatar and Walt Disney’s Tron: Legacy. Well-done 3D movies do not feel the same if watched on 3D and 2D. That kind of films define the concept of involving 3D sensation. The 3D stops being just an effect and becomes part of the narrative; it helps you get into the dramatic situation presented on screen. If used only in measured doses, enough of it so you’ll notice the effect, but not too much so you’ll feel every unnecessary movement as an attempt to hit you in the face.
Many movies use fake 3D these days –Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2, Clash of The Titans, Thor, Capt. America, The Green Hornet, The Smurfs, Spy Kids 4, Alice in Wonderland- and the list goes on and on. Apparently studios are more concerned about releasing movies in 3D and selling $15 tickets than they are in making good quality 3D films. Although it’s true that of the upcoming 2012 movies most of them are being shot in native 3D. It may be that someone up there has realized that the 3D fad will go down if they can’t offer a 3D effect worth the price. If 3D does not improve, I for one will be sticking with the regular priced 2D films; which by the way don’t give me a headache.
(Article written for The Habit -Dominican University of California student paper-)