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Now browsing: Hometown News > Computer/Technology > Geekspeak

This Week | Archive

It pains me to say this but 3-D just ain't what it's cracked up to be
Rating: 4.11 / 5 (18 votes)  
Posted: 2012 Jun 15 - 02:53

If you have been to the movies or shopped for a new TV lately, you know the big upgrade everyone is pushing is 3-D.

The latest craze started with James Cameron's groundbreaking 2009 movie "Avatar," which became the highest grossing move of all time. Hollywood and the TV manufacturers have been trying to cash in, with varying degrees of success, ever since.

Nearly every big movie that hits the screen these days is available in 3-D, a big boon to the theaters since they can charge more for the tickets. Ditto for the makers of 3-D TVs. Those sets cost more than their non-3-D counterparts, although the price disparity is less than it once was.

But here's the problem, in my view. The whole 3-D thing is really nothing more than a gimmick - one that usually does not warrant the increased cost.

It pains me to say that because usually I am a big fan of new technology. And certainly, the 3-D process we see today in most movies is a vast improvement over some earlier versions, especially the one which required the viewer to wear those awful glasses with one red and one blue lens.

Still, today's 3-D is not that much of an improvement over the 3-D movies they used to show at the old Kodak pavilion at Epcot 20 years ago. What we see today is pretty much the same, at least from the audience perspective. Same polarized 3-D glasses for the most part. Same gimmicky 3-D visuals in the movies.

That's fine for a 20-minute film in a theme park. But today's 3-D movies can run for more than two hours. And I find that long before the halfway point, I tend to just get numb to the 3-D process. I really don't even notice it anymore. If I do notice, it's usually because the process is so badly done.

Why pay more for a movie that - in a best case scenario - only wows you for a few minutes. Especially if you have to wear those goofy glasses the whole time?

But it gets worse. On the movie front, the biggest problem is movie studios that do 3-D on the cheap, shooting in 2D and then converting to 3-D for the higher ticket prices. Sadly, this seems the rule rather than the exception because shooting in 3-D is expensive and difficult. "Avatar" was conceived and shot in 3-D and still stands out as the best example of the art form. But it took years to produce.

The converted movies looked converted, with foregrounds and backgrounds artificially pulled apart. That detracts from the viewing experience instead of adding to it. And that defeats the purpose.

Other problems with 3-D movies: Some complain they often look muddy because of the dark glasses viewers must wear. And some glasses - mainly the powered LCD models that rapidly open and close each eyepiece - give some viewers severe headaches.

The whole 3-D TV thing is an even bigger loser. This is partly because there is so little - imagine buying a color TV and only two shows a week were in color - and partly because the content that is available is not very good. Never mind that you must pay more for the 3-D TV and the 3-D content.

Also, like the movies, the wow factor fades quickly with time. So those first few minutes of a 3-D football game are lot more compelling than the second or third hours.

The industry is well aware of these problems but it's not clear whether a fix is possible.

Some industry leaders maintain the technology is still new and will improve in time, providing a better viewing experience for audiences. TV makers, for example, are already exploring a new process that will produce 3-D images without the need for the viewer to wear special glasses.

That would be a step forward but won't help if the content isn't any good.

I've tried to like 3-D - willingly paid more to see several alleged blockbusters over the years in hopes it would add a new dimension to the movie-going experience. But it isn't working for me.

From now on, it's 2D only for me.

Tony Briggs has been a technology columnist in the Daytona Beach area for more than 20 years.

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