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Face It: 3D Sucks Right Now

The 3D fad is ruining our lives. I don’t mean the awkward looking glasses, which, on a four-eyes like myself, gives us like six eyes, nor the way some of my less balanced friends get dizzy after watching it for more than five minutes. Both of those are bad. The issue is how 3D is chipping into the quality of our culture. Let me explain.

First, 3D is actually hurting our 2D viewing experience.  Intrepid Boston Globe critic Ty Burr discovered the con this week:

Why, then, do so many of the movies look so terrible?… The uniting factor is a fleet of 4K digital projectors made by Sony — or, rather, the 3-D lenses that many theater managers have made a practice of leaving on the projectors when playing a 2-D film. Though the issue is widespread, affecting screenings at AMC, National Amusements, and Regal cinemas, executives at all these major movie theater chains, and at the corporate offices of the projector’s manufacturer, have refused to directly acknowledge or comment on how and why it’s happening.

In other words, the lens required to watch Yogi Bear is ruining your viewing of The King’s Speech. And it bleeds into quality control: It’s doubtful that an awful movie like Yogi Bear would have even been released without the assumption that 3D alone brings in viewers. It sucked, but the box office numbers are still higher than they should be. Unfortunately, the premium we pay to watch a 3D film – say, $15 instead of $8 – makes it seem like more people are going to see 3D movies than standard 2D. The 3D audience could seem to be double the same 2D audience, but the only thing double is the pay.

I’m not the biggest theater movie buff – I’m more of a classic ‘70s, Netflix-streaming  cinema guy – but what hits closer to home is the Nintendo 3DS. I had the privilege of handling one really early at the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo. Frankly, I liked it – a lot – and I love the one I have at home now. What I have never liked, however, is the $249 price. Affordability is one of the reasons why Nintendo portables have been so attractive compared to, say, the mortgage-requiring Sony mobiles. In comparison, the Nintendo DSi, the last major revision (skipping the bigger DSXL), cost only $169 when it was released two years ago. Is it worth paying an additional $100 for 3D? The short answer is no. Ditto for the $10-plus premium being put on most 3DS games.

Three-dimensional entertainment can be bad-ass when it works. I recently wrote about the first major 3D porn in China, which broke Avatar’s box office records in Hong Kong. I also have enjoyed some summery blockbusters in 3D, like Tron: Legacy and Thor. And I’m late to the game, but I can’t wait to try some 3D gaming on my PlayStation 3. As it stands, however, 3D is costing us way more than it is delivering. I’d rather put away the hype (and my wallet) until the fad completely passes – and maybe the focus will be put back on the creative process and not on the technology.

Alice In Wonderland 3D director Tim Burton called it a year ago in the New York Post. “We’re surely going to see a lot of bad 3D films in the near future, because Hollywood cannibalizes every recipe for success. That’s how the industry works … It’s a great thing when you use it as a technical tool and not as a wonder weapon.”

[Photo courtesy of Phillie Casablanca // CC 2.0]

 


Damon Brown

Damon writes CBS's Gadget Watch and is the U.S. Editor of Pocket Gamer. He also writes books about music, sex, and tech. Damon's latest is The...

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