More and more movies are being released in the 3D format. It’s more expensive to see a movie in 3D and it can be a big hassle having to wear glasses or glasses over your glasses for the experience. Question: is it worth the extra expense to see movies in 3D?
Shot in 3D or Converted Into 3D
First question, what are the differences in movies shot native in the 3D format, meaning filled using 3D cameras or movies converted into 3d? If you asked me two years ago, I would have told you that movies shot in 3D are var superior and the example I would have given you was The Last Airbender, aside from being a horrible movie, the 3D decreased the quality of the movie. There was a loss in clarity and a significant loss in brightness.
Today, I honestly can’t tell the difference between a movie shot native or in post-production. Men in Black 3 is a good example of this. Fun movie and great visual effects that exploited the 3D format. All done in post. One would argue the movies converted into 3D are better from an artistic standpoint.
When Barry Sonnenfeld appear on Geektime to promote Men in Black 3, he preferred the conversion process because it gave him freedom to play with the depth of field after the fact. The decision of the placement of 3D items can be tinkered with until its perfect. When you shoot in native 3D, you lose this freedom.
Cheap 3D Tricks
3D became a big thing about 4 years ago. Disney began releasing Pixar movies in 3D beginning with the Toy Story movies. Soon all computer generated movies where being released in 3D since it was the easiest to produce compter animated film in that format. Soon live action movies got the same treatment with Thor and Captain America.
When movies started coming out in 3D the fear was that filmmakers would distract us with cheap 3D tricks to exploit the new format. Tricks like objects floating in front of our faces and objects being thrown out of the screen and into our laps.
Filmmakers obliged and refused to pander to the technology with cheap tricks. The solution soon became the problem. I found that 20 minutes into watching a 3D movie, I forgot that I was watching a 3D movie. I no longer felt I was immersed into the world of the movie, but I was simply watching the movie as I always had. The only difference was I paid more and had to wear glasses on my face.
The problem with most 3D movies is that without the cheap tricks, there’s no point in the 3D. If I forget 20 minutes into a movie that it’s in 3D then why should I bother to watch in 3D. Otherwise it’s just a waste of a format and my money.
It’s an Economics Problem
For the most part, when I go to a 3D movie, there are usually 2 to 3 moments when the 3D is worth it. Those moments tend to be wide panoramic shots, such as the Rainbow Bridge in Thor and city of Asgard. It gives you that immersive feeling of being there.
The other moment tends to be one of flight, magic and depth. For example, a floating object that comes out of the screen. Men in Black 3 had a few moments like that. They often serve as that reminder that you’re watching this in 3D.
If you’re only getting 2 or 3 brief moments, where the 3D is amazing, then is worth the extra $7 to $10 you pay on top of an already expensive movie ticket. Honestly it depends on the film and you have to ask yourself if you think the 3D is worth it.
I saw only two movies in 2012 that was worth the extra expense of 3D and that was the Amazing Spider-Man and the Hobbit. The 3D in any scene that Spidey used webbing was great. Swinging across the city was also fantastic. The battle scenes in the Hobbit was perfect in 3D, but the jury is still out on the High Frame Rate feature.
On the other hand, Marvel’s the Avengers was fun in 3D but I didn’t really need to pay the extra. The only scene I noticed the 3D was Iron Man flying across New York.
What is the Criteria?
Here are some factors I consider whether or not to spend extra on 3D.
Clarity. Is the movie an animated feature or relies heavily on green screen? 3D relies on superb image clarity in order to see the depth of field properly. The Hobbit is the perfect example. Everything was shot on set an on green screen and that helped give the immersive feeling.
Artistic Backdrop. Movies should also be visually amazing. Thor and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is my example of this and I suspect Oz The Great and Powerful will also look amazing in 3D. Bright, colorful visuals make the experience all worth it. The drab backdrops of Captain America did not help the 3D at all.
All this to say is that I no longer just see a movie in 3D because it’s offered. I actually have to think through consider if a movie will be worth seeing in 3D. Making smart choices is the key. What do you think? What movies have you seen that exploit the 3D format.