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3D Cinema Doesn't Work and Never Will 436

circletimessquare writes "Walter Murch, one of the most technically knowledgeable film editors and sound designers in the film industry today, argues, via Rogert Ebert's journal in the Chicago Sun-Times, that 3D cinema can't work, ever. Not just today's technology, but even theoretically. Nothing but true holographic images will do. The crux of his argument is simple: 600 million years of evolution has designed eyes that focus and converge in parallel, at the same distance. Look far away at a mountain, and your eyes focus and converge far away, at the same distance. Look closely at a book, and your eyes focus and converge close, at the same distance. But the problem is that 3D cinema technology asks our eyes to converge at one distance, and focus at another, in order for the illusion to work, and this becomes very taxing, if not downright debilitating, and even, for the eyes of the very young, potentially developmentally dangerous. Other problems (but these may be fixable) include the dimness of the image, and the fact that the image tends to 'gather in,' even on Imax screens, ruining the immersive experience."
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3D Cinema Doesn't Work and Never Will

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  • by larry bagina ( 561269 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @08:00PM (#35001422) Journal
    shitty filipino horror movies.
    • but a hologarphic tiyanak or aswang, now that will work.
    • shitty filipino horror movies.

      Prove it.

    • From

      http://www.slate.com/id/2282376/pagenum/all/#p2 [slate.com]

      Two Thumbs, Two Dimensions
      Roger Ebert is done talking about 3-D movies. Thank goodness.
      By Daniel EngberPosted Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011, at 12:00 PM ET

      As far as Roger Ebert is concerned, the discussion about 3-D is over. "The notion that we are asked to pay a premium to witness an inferior and inherently brain-confusing image is outrageous," he wrote in his blog Sunday. "The case is closed."

      If that means Ebert will stop complaining about the medium, so much the better. For years now, the venerable critic has been griping that 3-D cinema is dim, distracting, and useless. And I mean for years: Even at the age of 10, young Ebert turned up his nose at Arch Oboler's stereo jungle adventure, Bwana Devil. (Deeply unmoved, was he, by the hails of spears.) That was back in 1952; more than a half-century later, he's still shaking his fist at the silver screen—I hate 3-D and you should, too! Professional obligations notwithstanding, Ebert doesn't want to see another movie in three dimensions. Ever.

      I've had enough of this persnickety crusade, marching, as it does, under the banner of pseudoscience. "Our ancestors on the prehistoric savannah developed an acute alertness to motion," Ebert writes, in an attempt to explain why movies like Clash of the Titans totally suck:

      But what about rapid movement toward the viewer? Yes, we see a car aiming for us. But it advances by growing larger against its background, not by detaching from it. Nor did we evolve to stand still and regard its advance. To survive, we learned instinctively to turn around, leap aside, run away. We didn't just stand there evolving the ability to enjoy a 3-D movie.

      OK, let's not quibble with the idea that human beings might have evolved to jump away from oncoming automobiles on the prehistoric savannah. I'm more interested in the two notions that follow from this dubious logic. First, that we ought not consume any form of entertainment that doesn't derive from a selected biological trait; and, second, that standard flat-screen cinema is somehow better suited to our genetic makeup—more natural, I guess—than 3-D.

      I wonder if Ebert really believes that the arts should cater to our Darwinian design, or that we're incapable of enjoying anything for which our brain wasn't delicately prewired. But in the event that he does, I'd only point out that such gimmicky and distracting art forms as, say, music, may very well be fiddling with our cortex in ways that have nothing to do with the fight-or-flight demands of a saber-toothed tiger attack.

      It's just as silly to presume that viewing a film in 3-D is any less natural—from an evolutionary perspective or otherwise—than watching it flat. For starters, the human eye did not evolve to see elephants stomping across the Serengeti at 24 frames per second. Nor are we biologically attuned to jump cuts, or focus pulls, or the world seen through a rectangular box the sides of which happen to form a ratio of 1.85 to 1. Nor indeed was man designed to gaze at any image while having no control over which objects are in focus and which are blurry. If all those distinctly unnatural aspects of standard, two-dimensional cinema seem unobtrusive, it's only because we've had 125 years to get used to them.

      According to Ebert, the 3-D effect brings in an "artificial" third dimension, which doesn't serve to make a movie any more realistic. In fact, he says, it makes an image seem less real, since under normal circumstances "we do not perceive parts of our vision dislodging themselves from the rest and leaping at us." Here he appears to be confusing cheesy, pop-out effects (which are used judiciously in the better—and more recent—films) with the medium as a whole. Yes, some 3-D movies do contain these gimmicks, but others do not.

      In any case, it's not clear to me why one depth cue might be deemed artificial and unnecessary, while others are just fine. After all, a regular old 2-D movie carries its own set of visual guidelines for understanding spatial relationships. Objects in the foreground block our vision of what's behind them. Shading and texture tell us about the three-dimensional shape of an object on the screen. Ebert would certainly agree that you don't need to watch the famous sequence from Dial M for Murder in its original 3-D to understand that Anthony Dawson is creeping up behind Grace Kelly, and that he's going to lift a stocking over her head to strangle her. Yet he's apoplectic over the thought of adding one more depth cue into the mix.

      With 3-D cinema, we still have occlusion and shading and texture—and we're still missing motion parallax—but now we get the added benefit of binocular disparity. We don't need that extra information to see that Grace Kelly's killer is lurking behind her, but it adds, at the very least, clarity and precision to the scene. Exactly what part of that is "artificial"? As it happens, the 3-D version of Dial M also gives us something more: When Kelly falls across the desk, her hand reaches through the stereo window, as if imploring the audience for help. It doesn't make us jump out of the way like Ebert's Homo habilis. It draws us into the action.

      Which brings me to Ebert's latest post, the one described as his final word on "why 3-D doesn't work and never will." To support this claim, he prints a letter from Walter Murch, a decorated film editor and sound designer most notable in this context for sharing Ebert's curmudgeonly disregard for stereo cinema. Like Ebert, Murch complains that 3-D is too dark, and then adds that it's too "small" on the screen. (I think he's referring to the medium's "puppet-theater effect," which tends to make everything and everyone appear shrunken down to the size of dolls.) These problems could be solved, he concedes, but "the biggest problem with 3-D is the 'convergence/focus issue.' " A stereo film forces the viewers to hold their focus at one plane of depth, even while their eyeballs rotate inwards and outwards to follow the action. "It is like tapping your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time," he goes on. "And 600 million years of evolution has never presented this problem before." (Again with the cavemen )

      This is a reasonable point, and it may represent a real challenge for 3-D filmmakers. I've given my own accounting in Slate: In "The Problem With 3-D," I wondered if the unnatural eye movements provoked by stereo cinema might be the source of the bleary eyes, headache, and nausea that sometimes affect 3-D viewers. This wasn't an original idea, of course—the same concern had been laid out in the Atlantic (to pick just one instance) in 1953, not long after Ebert's dad took him to see Bwana Devil. All these years later, we still don't know whether the "convergence/focus issue" causes 3-D headaches, or if they arise from some other aspect of the experience. Either way, I proposed, the problem of visual discomfort would doom the new batch of digital 3-D films to the same fate as their analog forebears: The bubble will pop.

      Thing is, I've changed my mind since I wrote that piece nearly two years ago. Or maybe 3-D movies changed my brain: After watching 10 or 20 of these films since then, I've grown accustomed to the ocular aerobics, and the same format that gave me splitting headaches back in 2009 hardly bothers me now. Meanwhile, certain technical innovations, especially in animated 3-D, have begun to eliminate some of the medium's most egregious visual quirks. And while, like Murch, I'm still distracted by the puppet-theater effect in live-action 3-D, that "problem," too, may diminish as we all get used to it.

      If I'm right that it takes multiple viewings to understand and appreciate three-dimensional cinema, you might think Roger Ebert would eventually come around. But even before he'd decided the case was closed, Ebert seems to have sworn off any real engagement with the medium. Armed with his evolutionary theory of film, he's content to sit back and hurl the occasional spear of his own. A recent review of The Green Hornet contained only this note at the very bottom: "Yes, it was in 3-D. The more I see of the process, the more I think of it as a way to charge extra for a dim picture." And while he does commend the effect from time to time—it's "useful" in Tron: Legacy and "quite acceptable" in Megamind—he's rarely willing to acknowledge that 3-D might have anything substantive to offer on its own terms, that maybe it's not only a marketing gimmick (it is that, to be sure), but a new kind of filmmaking that brings along both limitations and opportunities.

      Take Toy Story 3: I've gone on record with my admiration for the scene at Daisy's window, where Lotso finds he's been replaced by another toy. There's no sight gag there, no objects hurtling off the screen; instead, the image contorts visual space into a crisscrossing, emotional depth. If the scene were flat, Lotso and Daisy would be right next to each other on the screen; in 3-D, they're spread across a lonely chasm, separated by rain-streaked glass. Is this a fluke, or a sign of what three-dimensional cinema could be? Ebert's not interested. He sums up Pixar's innovative use of stereo with a one-line postscript to his review: "Just don't get me started about the 3-D." Don't get him started; the case is closed. Maybe that's for the best.

      But please... Let us listen to the point of the Luddite.
      While we're at it, let's make all movies monochromatic again. We're half way there already. [blogspot.com]

      • I was skeptical of his point myself, then I started paying closer attention and damned if he wasn't right. Sure it depends upon the film, but ones that are properly filmed give all sorts of interesting things they can do without the extra 3D technology.
        • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @08:43PM (#35001922) Journal

          I was skeptical of his point myself, then I started paying closer attention and damned if he wasn't right.

          Of course he's right. Watching even the best-made 3D movies is tiring and distracting. If you don't believe it, try watching two 3D films back to back.

          And ultimately, even when done well, it feels like a cheap effect. I just don't believe the added value of having a guy riding a dragon seem to zoom over your head (but not convincingly) is not worth the added strain. Worse, in ten years it'll look embarrassing, and every director cares a little bit about how he's going to be perceived in the future. The guys who put all their effort into only putting out 3D movies are going to end up as marginal curiosities.

          So many of the big TV and game console people have sunk so much money into it that there's going to be an effort to push it long after its been rejected, however. It will end up the same way each previous effort to push 3D has ended up. The fact that it's even a matter of disagreement is proof that the current 3D technology will never become mainstream. When 5.1 surround sound came out, I don't remember people saying "it's just not convincing" or "it's not quite there yet" or "it causes fatigue". They just said "Wow. That's cool. I want more of that."

          I would love for there to be a really great way to portray three-dimensional space on a flat screen. I'm not some purist who thinks color movies were never as good as black and white. Hell, I still have an old quadraphonic stereo system down in the basement, collecting dust.

          And I was surprised when I found myself enjoying Avatar more as a cinematic experience watching a good Blu-ray copy on an excellent 1080p screen than I did seeing it with a pair of special glasses at the theater when it first came out. I could enjoy the story and the visuals without trying to convince myself that it "looked almost real with branches flying over my head". And I didn't feel slightly woozy with a headache when it was over watching it in 2D.

          • by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:22PM (#35002318)
            Funny, for everyone unanimously agreeing about how great 5.1 is most people are still using stereo. That's right. 5.1 setups are still unusual. Yes, they are out there, but just as wearing the glasses are not worth it to most people, neither is setting up a 5.1 system, and having to sit in the 'sweet spot' to get the proper effect.

            I'm not sold on 3D any more than I am on 5.1 audio, but just like 5.1 audio, the cost of including it is so small that the manufacturers might as well include it for those that want it. Don't expect 3D TV to go away. The will already run at a frequency that supports it, and including the electronics to transmit a signal to glasses every other frame is trivial. There is no compelling reason for TV manufacturers to leave it out. Add to that the fact that pretty much all video games, and an good many of the computer generated movies are created in 3D and down sampled to 2D, so 3D versions are basically free, 3D is likely here to stay.

            The plus side, is that just like using stereo instead of 5.1, playing media in 2D instead of 3D will be completely available.
          • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:37PM (#35002426)

            have to disagree with 5.1, though.

            I'm an audio guy (realistic one who builds stuff) and I've gone back to 2.1 sound (2 spkrs, left and right plus a subwoofer). I map/downmix multitrack at the player level and then I get that nice clean 2ch open-standards spdif into my nice clean DAC. my whole audio chain, in fact, is based on pcm linear spdif which is really only 2.0. the .1 subwoofer is, of course, entirely derived and NEVER needed a channel of its own (harumph).

            my config demanded I avoid multichannel. why? my audio chain is pure spdif; the htpc puts out spdif, that goes into a EQ that runs dsp code andn its spdif in and out, then into my hardware 3way crossover which, you guessed it, is spdif. only at the end where I get high/mid/low at line level for my amps do I break out of spdif. there is NO WAY to run DTS or dd5.1 into this and stay all digital. can't be done (not affordably, anyway).

            so I downmix to 2.0 and get very high quality 2ch left right and subwoofer from that. I play movies thru that system and have no problem at all picking out the various soundstage entities, fully from left thru center and on to right. note there is NO center spkr - the proper left/right does all you need.

            not only is 3d a bunch of BS, I don't fully buy into multichannel audio AT HOME. typical homes are small. they don't need more than 2.0 or 2.1. large theaters need more spkrs but you are NOT a large theater! your living room or bedroom is fully served with 2 decent l/r spkrs and optionally a sub.

            a clean 2.* system beats even upper mid-grade 5.x and 9.x systems. multichannel is also a 'fad', its just that its easier to 'awe' someone with lotsa spkrs spraying lotsa sound in the room.

            less is morer, folks. 3d/2d and audio 'dimensions', as well. simpler is better. let the story be the primary.

            • I respect the fact that you have experience in the industry, and that you think that it's all a bunch of nonsense. I am not informed enough on the subject to have a proper opinion on that front.

              However, it's a moot point. None of this really matters that much. Even if it is a gimmick and a fad, it's not one that I'm aware of that actually makes the movie experience worse for a significant portion of the population. It doesn't tax the sensory ability of the viewer. It doesn't cause discomfort in many.

            • by ppanon ( 16583 )

              . the .1 subwoofer is, of course, entirely derived and NEVER needed a channel of its own (harumph).

              While that's certainly true from a signal processing/audio point of view, there is something to be said for a separate power amplification circuit for the sub-woofer so that the power draw of driving the larger speaker doesn't affect the power available for driving the smaller higher range speakers. Now whether any "5.1 systems" actually try to isolate that power draw to give you the potential benefits, that'

      • But what about rapid movement toward the viewer? Yes, we see a car aiming for us. But it advances by growing larger against its background, not by detaching from it. Nor did we evolve to stand still and regard its advance. To survive, we learned instinctively to turn around, leap aside, run away. We didn't just stand there evolving the ability to enjoy a 3-D movie."

        1. A car advances toward us by physically moving toward us, not by "growing larger". That movement makes it appear as if the car were "growing

        • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @09:25PM (#35002344) Homepage Journal

          ...people with just one eye will observe the growth effect but not the convergence effect, and they have no depth perception.

          That is factually incorrect. The Wikipedia article on depth perception [wikipedia.org] lists clues used in depth perception, and the vast majority of them are monocular, not binocular.

          The two most important things are convergence and the physical sensation of focus. People with one eye (or with one eye closed) looking around at a scene can tell the difference between close and distant objects quite easily up to a certain distance, and less so the farther out you get. It is this aspect of 3D movies that causes problems. They are projected on a screen at a fixed distance, and as such, one of those depth clues (and arguably the more important one at the distances we're talking about) is missing entirely. You can get get away with using distance to create a perceived difference in size when you're using a camera because you can't physically feel the difference between a camera focusing at twenty feet and focusing at thirty. With a physical room and the human eye, you'll only get away with that illusion for a few seconds before your brain figures out something is wrong.

          Secondarily, the microscopic motions of your eye are enough to create a limited amount of motion parallax even with just one eye looking at unmoving objects. The natural motion of your head contributes to this. And so on. That, too, is missing from 3D projection.

          Finally, the human eye does not perceive things as a perfectly flat image in the first place. The rods in your eyes are much more sensitive than the cones, which means that they tend to pick up scattered light, whereas the cones basically only detect direct light. This means that a single human eye can perceive a difference in focal distance in a way that cameras cannot. This difference results in subtle fringing around real-world objects of differing depth that can provide further depth clues.

          So is 3D useless? No. Is it likely to fool someone into thinking it is real? Also no. There are too many visual clues that simply cannot be simulated through projection on a flat screen.

    • by Thing 1 ( 178996 )
      I know, right? From a sig that has been changed, I hear there's one being made in NYC.
    • And here I was expecting you to comment on Slashdot's latest, ahem, "improvement".

    • on my computer

      i started editing it. one problem: it sucks

      not story wise or acting wise. but technically. the sound is awful, scratching, wind-blowing, the lighting is obviously amateurish. i used wireless mics and you pick up odd hums and rf ghosts. a nightmare

      so there it will lie, forever, unreleased, until such time that i get over my perhaps too high self-standards about releasing a technically super-crappy movie in my name. but its embarrassing. i just don't want to edit it and release it. too depressing

      someday i may finish editing it, perhaps drunk, to get over the depression of how much it technically sucks, just for laughs. so someday, you will have your laugh at how much i suck at the technical aspects of filmmaking

  • by compwizrd ( 166184 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @08:04PM (#35001464)

    Lack of closed caption support doesn't help either.

    • by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @08:32PM (#35001790) Journal

      Lack of closed caption support doesn't help either.

      Subtitling for foreign languages are done on international 3D cinema distribution - carefully placed by hand for now (see the Nav'i English translations in Avatar, for example).

      There is an expectation that Closed Captions for the hearing impaired will be delivered on 3D optical media with appropriate depth metadata as well.

  • by unity100 ( 970058 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @08:05PM (#35001474) Homepage Journal
    i watched avatar in 3d huge screen, and it worked well enough for me to be impressed by it and not to regret 15 bucks i poured into it. actually, i was thinking of going and seeing it again, but didnt have time due to work and life.

    really, i started to wonder why i am paying to cinema and widescreen, if we are not going to make use of the screen size advantage.
    • by vux984 ( 928602 )

      i watched avatar in 3d huge screen, and it worked well enough for me to be impressed by it and not to regret 15 bucks i poured into it

      Ok. Yeah. It worked well enough for me to impressed and not regret the 15 bucks.

      Although I developed a headache, and my wife developed a migraine. And the plot was complete and utter predictable rubbish. Its basically unwatchable garbage. So stereotypical and cliched to the point that it is painful.

      But, I'll concede the headache inducing 3D was "neat", and I'm glad I saw it.

      • Although I developed a headache, and my wife developed a migraine.

        One man's headache is another man's enjoyment. I watched the film twice and experienced no headaches, pain or fever. On the contrary, I found the 3D so realistic that I didn't even notice the effect of it after the first five minutes -- like the digital effects, it was convincing enough to not disturb my brain at all.

        And the plot was complete and utter predictable rubbish. Its basically unwatchable garbage. So stereotypical and cliched to the point that it is painful.

        Personally, I thought it was a cliched story (with some very two dimensional characters!) but nevertheless a story that I didn't mind hearing told again. Mindless entertainment, sure, but hi

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @08:05PM (#35001478)

    It generates an extra 3 fiddy per ticket. It works perfectly!

  • by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @08:05PM (#35001482) Homepage

    ...in stereoscopy (NOT "3D!): one aspect of parallax is quite wrong - the "doubling" of objects in front of focus plane, of background behind it, etc. Strangely, people hardly realize it's there...maybe because it's so unavoidable.

    They also forget how "3D" had its golden area already, half a century ago (with polarizing filters!)

    Or how the stereoscopic sister of photography is barely younger than its "2D" sibling, at ~160 years. Quite easily done and inexpensive for a long time.

    Now ask yourself this: did you make even one such photo? Know anybody who did?

      • by sznupi ( 719324 )

        Congratulations. Now you can notice how very rare they are / how their compositions are not of average kind.

        • Congratulations. Now you can notice how very rare they are / how their compositions are not of average kind.

          Really? Back when people bought a lot of pictures of places they'd never go to and would never see "moving" (as in "on TV") the stereoscope was quite popular and you can still find a lot of pictures from that day. Viewmasters were quite popular, as well.

          My first contact with non-Viewmaster pictures was when NASA released a book on the moon mission, IIRC, with stereoscopic image pairs and the instr

  • by swschrad ( 312009 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @08:06PM (#35001488) Homepage Journal

    there are a LOT of people with one primary eye, and if the second one works at all, is only used to fill in peripheral data. a LOT of us. it has nothing to do with pinhead 3D glasses with are still as dorky as they were in the 60s. this is a cash grab by the entertainment industry to obsolete and sell-up a bunch of equipment before even the promoters wise up and start looking for the soft-OFF selection in the setup menu.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      there are a LOT of people with one primary eye, and if the second one works at all, is only used to fill in peripheral data. a LOT of us. it has nothing to do with pinhead 3D glasses with are still as dorky as they were in the 60s.

      I'm nearly blind in one eye, and as a result am really dominant in the other eye. I never could use the dorky 60's red/blue glasses, but the new 3D technology works really well for me. I'm disappointed to see how many people complain about it, because I really like it.

    • And WTF do you care about how "dorky" they are when you're supposed to be looking that the screen and NOT each other?! Jesus! It's amazing how shallow people are regarding what they have to wear for two hours in a darkened room!
    • I think it's less about upselling than about giving people a new reason to go to the theater. I can rent a blu-ray from RedBox for a buckfiddy and watch it on my 1080p dispay and 5.1 audio system. (Yeah, I'm way behind on the audio.) But 3D would require both a new display and a new player and I'm not likely to do that until the current units break or wear out. So that's the new hook. If I want to see it in 3D, I have to go to the theater.

      • hey, you two. its both a floor wax AND a desert topping.

        (god, I'm old..)

        its both, a cash grab on the home front (new bd player, new discs/movies, new tv and new glasses TIMES the # of concurrent viewers! whee!!); and its also to get people out to theaters when we all were tired of the bullshit (overall) and wanted to build our own home theaters.

        those that run out and re-buy their tv/etc are doing it. I watch the various 'coupons' sites (for entertainment value, btw) and I can see that its a certain segme

  • by ZuchinniOne ( 1617763 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @08:08PM (#35001514)

    Is that in the past movies have used tricks like focusing in a particular screen element in order to get you to pay attention to it. With 3D movies you should be allowed to focus on any element you want, yet film-makers (including for Avatar) have persisted in using 2D film tricks like this.

    The only solution would be to film with a very wide field of view so that your focus point is essentially infinity.

    This could also mediate the focus problem mentioned in the article ... but movie theaters would need to change the seating so that there were no seats anywhere near the screen.

    • by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @08:16PM (#35001616) Homepage

      Deep focus while filming won't change how your eyes must maintain "focus lock" on the screen while spatial and convergence hints scream "refocus!" (and they are there, that's the whole point of "3D" - objects apparently in front or behind screen)

      As a side note, many scenes in those stereoscopic toys (disk with ~dozen photos) that I've seen had very deep focus ... IMHO it makes the whole scene, paradoxically, very flat. Yes, there is "depth" of course - but feels non-gradual, like several backgrounds in old SNES platformers.

      • by Thing 1 ( 178996 )
        Yeah, I remember the "parallax, not".
        • by sznupi ( 719324 )

          I really wonder why and how people can miss the lack of real parallax and its effects ... and even more than lack of it, actually: in "2D" images the parallax is simply nonexistent - but in stereoscopy it's wrong.

          Are we so used to seeing doubled translucent objects in front and behind of our momentary focus depth, recombining / etc. when we change focus, that we don't realize consciously their absence - only at most "oh this looks unusual"?

    • I found this incredibly annoying, and confusing during Avatar...I was practically confused for the first 30 minutes because of it!
  • Always thinking that the ultimate aim/goal of the media industry is 'to debilitate'.

    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      "Always thinking that the ultimate aim/goal of the media industry is 'to debilitate'."

      If, by "debilitate," you mean separating you from your money, you're correct.
      • by foobsr ( 693224 )
        separating you from your money

        Well, that is also 'weakening', but I was imagining 'making stupid'.

  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @08:12PM (#35001550)

    ...if you like excessive nudity and bouncing breasts in your horror movies. There was some movie out recently where one of the female actresses ran around naked for something like five minutes, and the whole spectacle was recorded in titillating detail in 3d. For those who want the most sex in cinema, 3d could work quite well. The depth of field is short, the actual on-screen duration for the needed 3d is short relative to the whole picture, and the content will mesmerize those individuals most likely to pay for the privilege enough to keep it viable.

    On a more serious note, if 3d is applied to much narrower field depths then the audience might not get nearly as many headaches, as their eyes won't be straining opposite instincts nearly to the degree that they do when the effects go off to infinity. Trouble is, those aren't the kinds of films where 3d will be appreciated, unless, again, porn or on-screen nudity are primary applications.

    • Now you understand why I changed my sig to what I did. Porn does not always do it first, but they find out amazing iterations and then somehow, magically, others follow the porn industry. Well, that is my excuse for following the porn industry
  • by h00manist ( 800926 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @08:12PM (#35001554) Journal
    This 3D stuff is doing great getting people to buy stuff. Yes we know it's snake oil, we don't give a damn, it sells. If we could just sell snake oil for this much money that would be great, but people won't pay $800 for a "full snake oil kit", unless you call it "full 3d graphics and video setup kit", you just don't sell as much. Now take your science mumbo jumbo elsewhere and let us get to work, we have people to fool and orders to fill, ok?
  • Theory vs. Reality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @08:13PM (#35001566)

    Walter Murch, one of the most technically knowledgeable film editors and sound designers in the film industry today, argues, via Rogert Ebert's journal in the Chicago Sun-Times, that 3D cinema can't work, ever. Not just today's technology, but even theoretically.

    Since 3D cinema pretty clearly empirically does "work" for most reasonable definitions of the word "work", arguments that it theoretically cannot work are obviously evidence of either bad theory or pointless misuses of language, or both.

    Other problems (but these may be fixable) include the dimness of the image, and the fact that the image tends to 'gather in,' even on Imax screens, ruining the immersive experience.

    Experience, including experience of immersion, is subjective. If a sufficient number of people didn't find 3D using existing, non-holographic technology, to increase immersion when executed well, it wouldn't be a successful selling point.

    Some people don't like it, and it doesn't work well for some people (just like all the non-movie, non-holographic 3D tricks -- all of them work well for some people, and for any one of them they aren't comfortable for other people.) And, for that matter, things like shaky camera work -- for some people, that induces nausea and breaks immersion, for some people, it increases immersion and the sense of reality.

    Movies rely on lots of tricks of the eye -- whether 2D or 3D -- and the experience of movies is subjective. Arguing that something you don't like that lots of people demonstrably do somehow can't work even in theory is rather pointless.

    • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @08:24PM (#35001698) Journal

      By "works" he means "replace 2D as the primary way movies are made".

      3D Cinema is a gimmick with novelty appeal. It will die when the novelty wears off just like it did the last n times it was tried. TFA suggests this will always be the case: that 3D Cinema can't be made into more than a novelty gimmick, unless we get something like holography instead of funny goggles.

      • by Chyeld ( 713439 )

        I wonder if they said the same thing about surround sound, stereo sound, color, mono sound, and moving pictures.

        Oh, yes. Yes it was! Hmmm...

      • By "works" he means "replace 2D as the primary way movies are made".

        Nothing in the actual article supports that interpretation.

        3D Cinema is a gimmick with novelty appeal.

        Yes, clearly that's his claim.

        It will die when the novelty wears off just like it did the last n times it was tried.

        It never died off, its been fairly regularly used, though not on everything. Its become more popular as new techniques have reduced the increased cost associated with producing and showing 3D films. Will it completely displace 2D? Probably not, any more than CGI will completely displace live action. Heck, color -- while dominant -- hasn't completely displaced black and white.

        But I suspect that it will continue, over tim

    • Since 3D cinema pretty clearly empirically does "work" for most reasonable definitions of the word "work", arguments that it theoretically cannot work are obviously evidence of either bad theory or pointless misuses of language, or both.

      It seems to me to be more of trying to find an excuse to justify why they don't like it and to try to convince others not to like it. (Hell, it roped in Ebert, didn't it?) Personally, I love 3D. I don't get the headaches or nausea, even with red/blue 3D. 3D does work ... for me. So, coming out and saying that it does not work is bullshit. Simple, opinionated bullshit used by someone trying to mask his clear dislike with scientific theory.

    • > Since 3D cinema pretty clearly empirically does "work" for most reasonable definitions of the word "work", arguments that it theoretically cannot work are obviously evidence of either bad theory or pointless misuses of language, or both.

      My first thought on reading the headline is "I saw Green Hornet last weekend in 3D and I'm pretty sure it was working." Admittedly virtually everything about the experience sucked but there was definitely a 3D effect of sorts.

      I suspect he's using "work" in a diffe

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      So have I.

      They often don't work.

      A movie needs to benefit from the tech and it needs to be used competently in the creation of the film.

      Otherwise it's just a pointless waste of money and looking silly in those glasses.

  • If only holograms work, then we will just watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTXO7KGHtjI&feature=player_embedded [youtube.com] What really works about 3-D is that people will pay $20 for a movie ticket.
  • by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @08:18PM (#35001626) Journal

    From this reference [etcenter.org]:

    According to Prof. Martin Banks, Professor of Optometry and Vision Science at U.C. Berkeley, the vergence-accommodation conflict should be kept at less than ½ to 1/3 diopters for the majority of a 3D viewing experience to avoid discomfort and fatigue.

    Which means if you are sitting ~16 feet from the screen, things can come ~10 feet out of the screen without you having any discomfort or fatigue. That is plenty of depth budget for most 3D movies. Thus, focus/vergence mismatch is not a real problem for stereoscopic 3D cinema.

    Now if you are ~20 inches from the screen, things can only come out ~3 inches out of the screen before potential discomfort or fatigue, so vergence/focus mismatch is a real problem for small screens. Thus personal gaming devices, computers, and televisions will need careful depth budgeting in stereoscopic 3D.

    "Super multiview" [kist.re.kr] non-glasses 3D displays (generally with >32 views) where more than one parallax image is projected into your pupil at a time can force you to focus on the virtual 3D image where your eyes converge (this is how a hologram or the real world works, only they have nearly infinite number of parallax views).

  • or something, to adjust our eyes to commercial 3D. Probably it will become obligatory at some point, done shortly after birth. We all should support our entertainment industry, shouldn't we?

  • Obligatory

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnQZlq9Q2M4 [youtube.com]

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEnCKEfSgUM [youtube.com]

    You telling me that doesn't work?

  • sounds like the interviewed editor is just butthurt. you can't say something will never work when it has obviously been working, avatar came out in 3D, then plenty of movies have followed suit, like avatar these have mostly been shallow eye candy movies (Tron), but Alice in Wonderland was available in 3D and had a solid story to go with the visuals.
  • Sure, it's not *perfect*. I'll give you that.
    There's ghosting on occasion.
    You can't always look at what you want to and have it be in focus on the screen (cause lord knows they *never* intentionally obscure background by having it out of focus in a 2D movie).
    After extended viewing sometimes your eyes hurt. (Again its not like my eyes ever hurt after walking out of a dark theater into a bright parking lot after watching a 2D movie, right?)

    You know what though? I've been playing CoD: Black Ops in 3D,
  • Reminds me of this YouTube video -- Eye-Tracking To Improve Camera Motion And Depth-Of-Field. [youtube.com]

    I can see the limitations in a theater -- only one setting can be used by all people. But in a single person's experience, it has been made to work -- you can focus dynamically based on what the person is looking at.

  • Green Hornet sucked. 3D just made it suck harder.

  • David20321 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by David20321 ( 961635 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @08:43PM (#35001918)

    Looks like Ebert is really set in his curmudgeonly "new forms of media are trash and always will be" pattern. Guess what -- 2D cinema already violates many of the visual absolutes that our ancestors took for granted. This article complains that 3D separates focus and convergence, but 2D cinema already separated those from visual perspective, something that never happens in nature. We also evolved to have control over the plane that we are focusing on, which 2D cinema takes away. Even aside from depth cues, our ancestors only needed to perceive motion when they themselves were moving, there was no idea of sitting still and watching from a moving camera. I guess this "motion picture" thing will never catch on. It will always make some people motion sick from camera movement or give them headaches from the brightness and flickering.

    What is with the timing of this article anyway? The most successful film of all time, Avatar, is a flagship of 3D cinema. Maybe his next article should be "why the cell phone can't work, ever" because calls sometimes drop. Or maybe "why flat TVs will never catch on" because they don't have as deep blacks as CRT.

    • by sznupi ( 719324 )

      2D cinema already separated those from visual perspective, something that never happens in nature

      Of course it does happen, for very distant sceneries (think mountain range a few dozen km from you, for example); they are for all intents and purposes a flat background - as far as focus, convergence, parallax are concerned. But we see their spatial structure, visual perspective works.

      Watching "2D" cinema like that is effortless (especially since physically the eyes can settle in quite usual, relaxed mode)

      Avatar could be as well a huge success because of who made it ... I don't know, did the guy had some w

  • Works for me (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cowtamer ( 311087 )

    There is a certain percentage of people for whom stereoscopic 3D (as implemented today) will just not work. These people need to stop writing editorials and go do something more productive. The solutions to the issues of vergence and accommodation (focus) are possible, but will take a little while to become commercial.

    By the way, I've seen Captain EO (the ONE 3D movie edited by Murch, on whose letter Ebert bases his opinion) and I was NOT impressed...

    3D will _never_ work for the following people:

    • I wish I had mod points for you.

      I've been using the built-in red/blue 3D from nVidia with a number of my games, and for the most part it works great. Try flying through a mountain range or a bank of clouds in Microsoft Flight Simulator X with 3D turned on. Or watch IMAX Space Station 3D, which is phenomenally good even in red/blue. 3D WORKS! I sat completely mesmerized with the 3D of "Space Station 3D" Blu-ray 3D converted to red/blue with PowerDVD 9. My wife, who doesn't care for red/blue, watched
  • Murch is right in his analysis of the problem, and that's why the stereoscopic process in use now so closely resembles what you see in a ViewMaster, but does not look like what your eyes see in real life. Whether he's right about a possible solution with holography remains to be seen. It may yield a workable solution for a small audience, but it may also be unworkable in even today's small cinema spaces.

    The industry has already learned the reality of Murch's analysis; I've attended engineering presentations

  • there is a saying that says, "you have to listen to experts, they will tell you what is not possible, with wonderful theories about why... then you should just go and do it" :)

    I am sure he's got a pretty logical argument... the same way I have heard years ago there was no way you would never ever get more than 64K out of a phone line... then there was DSL

    some limits (like this one) are made to be broken :)

  • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @10:14PM (#35002650) Homepage

    Another problem with any fake 3D (i.e. dual images projected on a flat surface with binocular separation) is the fact that the parallax is fixed. When you view a truly 3D scene, your head doesn't stay still; it moves, even if just a little. You're not just sampling the scene from two angles, but from multiple angles. If you want a better look at a background object, you move your head to one side, and the image shifts a little. That's part of how your perception of depth works. Its much the same as why you need more than two speakers to create a realistically 3D soundscape (because we judge the direction of a sound in part by moving our heads imperceptibly). Even the most perfect flat-3D projection system cannot simulate that.

    This doesn't mean that 3D "doesn't work", of course. It simulates an approximation of a scene, just as 24fps 2D images approximate it, and B&W 2D images approximate it less realistically, etc. But it will always fall sort of a true three-dimensional viewing experience. And kind of like a CGI rendering that doesn't quite look real (the Uncanny Valley), it'll always fall sort of satisfying.

    Until we get real 3D projections. :)

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @10:53PM (#35002844)

    Replacing good script, good acting, good plot and good characters with flashy effects.

    With a lot of the latest THREE DEEE Movies I get the idea that they add a dimension to the movie to make us forget that the characters are at best one dimensional.

  • by JimboFBX ( 1097277 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @11:04PM (#35002912)

    If the only 3d I was exposed to was what I saw in theaters I would think 3d is inherently something that hurts your eyes. There's actually a couple things at play here:

    1. A lot of movie theaters have bad technology that results in unwatchable motion blur. Hey tards, for starters lets get both eyes IN SYNC. I suppose asking a minimum wage earning employee to make sure this is correct is out of the question, they can't even get their sound levels to be balanced half the time. Here's another fun fact: I get the same problem on my DLP TV when I watch a 3d movie on my PS3; I have to enable "movie mode" to get the motion blur to go away. I'm not sure if this is a TV problem or if they really recorded the blu-ray disk with one frame for one eye and the next frame for the other eye but I doubt anyone who isn't as tech savvy as me would figure this little thing out. It's subtle for one, no one wants to spend a bunch of money on a TV and PS3 and 3D movie then say out lout do everyone around them "hey does that look blurry to you when it moves?"

    2. The brain wants to control things when its in 3D. Despite having a lot of experience with 3D, being able to see stereograms without effort, and being able to play 3d games for hours on end, I don't feel that comfortable watching someone else play a 3D game. I get motion sick, I get eye strain, I feel things are blurrier or out of focus more often. I can't give a good explanation - maybe different parts of the brain are used when I play a game versus watching it.

    3. If you hear someone bitch about 3D then they probably wear glasses or contacts. Seriously, I'm not kidding. As a non-glasses wearer I can only venture a guess that the cause is that people's brains are actually compensating for something at all times without them realizing it. For example, on 3d previews the text floats about a foot in front of the screen. My mom couldn't focus on it. Given how often 3d floats that far in front of the screen I'd imagine I wouldn't enjoy 3d either.

    4. 3d is awesome for first person games. It is simply where it absolutely shines. There's no motion blur. You can set the depth to whatever you want. You are in control of the view so it feels natural. Real time strategy games can be kind of cool as well since it's like you have a bunch of toys in front of you fighting it out, but getting the depth to where it gives that neat effect without hampering gameplay is sometimes impossible if the game isn't already 3d ready.

  • by nigeljw ( 1968314 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @11:08PM (#35002934)

    Depth perception is not viewing in three dimensions. If you want three dimensions go develop a light field display (http://gl.ict.usc.edu/Research/3DDisplay/ [usc.edu]). Stereopsis is achieved perfectly using two displaced cameras to view the image. Parallax is not perfect unless head tracking is used to transform the view frustum dynamically. Its like static depth perception without it. Everyone knows that dynamic is always better unless it is typing (this is a funny truth/joke, I hope someone gets it).

    There is a huge difference between the 2D to 3D conversion process to produce films and using a stereoscopic camera with dual cameras. Cameron used stereoscopic cameras to film Avatar, though I am sure he used some tricks to accentuate some scenes. Chronicles of Narnia used the conversion process, so all the characters are flat (I mean in regards to video, and not plot development), but the computer generated backgrounds have depth perception.

    Somebody else mentioned that depth perception is past its prime. I agree with him/her. This is the same technology of the 60s. Until head tracking is combined with depth perception, all of the binocular cues are not active. Convergence can be achieved with future technology. The only problem with the current technology is that sometimes bad editors overlay foreground scenes (from a green screen) and backgrounds with different depths of field. This produces a wonky image that our brain has trouble processing. The Gestalt principles should be law when editing 3D video.

    Nintendo DS does not use stereopsis (two images). It uses big object detection with a computer vision library to detect the position of your large head. It does not produce two separate images for each eye to view. It then transforms the viewing frame to account for the position of your head. So if you are looking out a window, you can poke your head around and see around the interior of the edges of the screen.

    I can't believe I had to read this article so I could comment on it.

    3D films remind the audience that they are in a certain "perspective" relationship to the image. It is almost a Brechtian trick.

    What nonsense, this is only because its feels weird wearing those glasses. And the glasses tend to be less translucent around the edges which causes a dream like effect similar to the blurred borders in scenes used in 90s TV to evoke a dream state, and in some bad movies.

    The shifting of convergence he is talking about due to the strobing from horizontal motion would be greatly reduced using head tracking (with depth perception) to perfect the parallax, but it is kindof difficult unless everybody has their own display with a camera on it. A side angle camera is required to perfect this technology, as using the size of your head does not really determine you head z position. The dynamic/instantaneous position of your head is important.

  • by Dan667 ( 564390 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @11:21PM (#35003026)
    this is what happens when you let marketing people run wild with sales charts chasing things nobody wants.
  • Theatre (Score:3, Informative)

    by sb98052 ( 857171 ) on Tuesday January 25, 2011 @11:50PM (#35003204)
    has been in 3D for centuries.
  • The crux of his argument is simple: 600 million years of evolution has designed eyes that focus and converge in parallel, at the same distance.

    That same 600 million years of evolution has designed humans that frequently focus at different depths to focus upon points of interest. Both 2D and 3D films fail to allow us to focus anywhere but on the screen.

    By this logic, 2D movies don't "work and will never work"; By this logic, the ONLY visual entertainment that can work is live: Plays, Opera, Concerts, etc. Unfortunately, it's not economical or practical to produce real time special effects and have actors deliver perfect performances with the same frequency that movies are played...

    Once again, by the flim critics' own line of logic, I have once again arrived at the conclusion I always arrive at when critics speak: There is no need for film critics.

    (...It would be awesome to have my own playhouse & players that could immediately put on any of the plays I want on demand; Sadly, a childhood incident involving a lost balloon, molten cheese and a bear's crotch has left petrified of those creepy animatronics. [youtube.com])

  • by Pedrito ( 94783 ) on Wednesday January 26, 2011 @08:15AM (#35007038)
    Yeah, 3D cinema will never work. Look at Avatar. It was a complete disaster. Nobody went to see it because the 3D experience just didn't work at all.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"