How Long Will 3D Last This Time?

In mainstream media, 3-D technology has become synonymous to the movie viewing experience and has even started crossing over to the small screen.

This technology that promises an impressive experience to movie goers actually reached its peak in popularity over half a century ago. It resurfaced occasionally in the larger scope of the “cinema of attractions” with the rise of Imax high-end theaters and Disney venues. Most recently, and perhaps due in part to the unprecedented success of James Cameron’s Avatar (2009), Hollywood has renewed its interest in 3-D technology in an effort to stimulate sales at the box office.

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However, the 3-D format risks becoming a passing fad because of studio’s uncontrollable use of it, rushed post-production work of films shot in 2-D, and health risks related to vision. If exploited correctly by directors and paired up with a great story line 3-D does promise an innovative movie experience, but the problem it currently faces is that studios are attaching this “revolutionary” technology to films that don’t need it and in the process they are sacrificing the narrative for the sake of the spectacle. Because the success of a film in a 3-D format, or any film for that matter, relies on its ability to suture in the audience the more an audience is fully aware of a 3-D film’s depth illusion and the more mental effort is required of them to be invested in the effects the less attached they become to the narrative. James Cameron’s Avatar was the catalyst to the 3-D craze because it was conceptualized as a 3-D film as opposed to being converted into the format during post production; this puts it in a different category from other 3-D films. An example of how studio’s misguided use of this technology has negatively affected a film’s final output is Clash of the Titans (2010). One can clearly see this Warner Bros.

production was not originally slated as a 3-D release, but when studio executives realized the monetary gains of the premium tacked onto tickets they made a last minute conversion (Brew). The end result is a poorly done translation where the cuts are too fast for the 3-D effects to be immersing, much less work without appearing cheap. Another issue in regards to the viewing of 3-D films is health risks that have surfaced include individuals complaining of motion sickness and nausea. According to an interview Roger Ebert conducted of two leading ophthalmologists at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, 3-D causes a “muscle imbalance” due to the “unfamiliar visual experience” (Ebert). This is what leads viewers to suffer from headaches and eyestrain from prolonged exposure.

If just two hours of exposure cause these kinds of effects to at least “15 percent of movie goers”, then problems are sure to appear in 3-D television (Ebert). It is likely the crossover of 3-D into home entertainment, which may not even require glasses, will extend its popularity for a while longer. If viewed as a way to enhance a film’s quality rather than a means to extra cash, then 3-D should be considered an option in production. However, with the over-saturation of 3-D films and increased inflation of tickets in the future Hollywood can’t expect a continued interest in 3-D: if studio executives don’t recognize 3-D as a passing fad then all they will be left with are films struggling in terms of content and presentation.