Monday, January 24, 2011

3D News

The End of 3D?
Roger Ebert hasn't been a fan of 3D films, so it's perhaps not a surprise that he devotes much of his latest column to a letter he received from film editor Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now)
The biggest problem with 3D, though, is the "convergence/focus" issue. A couple of the other issues -- darkness and "smallness" -- are at least theoretically solvable. But the deeper problem is that the audience must focus their eyes at the plane of the screen -- say it is 80 feet away. This is constant no matter what.

But their eyes must converge at perhaps 10 feet away, then 60 feet, then 120 feet, and so on, depending on what the illusion is. So 3D films require us to focus at one distance and converge at another. And 600 million years of evolution has never presented this problem before. All living things with eyes have always focussed and converged at the same point.
This column has provoked a lot of comments and repostings, and some interesting comments both pro and con:
Walter Murch is a rockstar editor -- not a neurologist. I'm no fan of 3D but let's not overstate his authority here.

Isn't Walter Murch explaining why 3D won't work like Rembrandt explaining why Abstract Expressionism won't work?
Chicago Sun-Times: Why 3D doesn't work and never will. Case closed

3D Makes People Sick
This article from the AP suggests that Murch is correct:
More specifically, our eyes track an approaching object by turning inward, toward our noses. Bring something close enough, and we look cross-eyed. 3D screens also elicit this response when they show something approaching the viewer.

The problem is that as the eyes turn inward, they also expect to focus closer. But a screen isn't moving closer, so the eyes have to curb their hard-wired inclination and focus back out. This mismatch between where the eyes think the focus should be and where the screen actually is forces them to work extra hard.
And while there have been isolated reports of warnings from manufacturers about the effects of watching 3D video, it seems there have been few long-term studies and little official investigation:
A study of 115 South Koreans watching 3D screens close up found that 3D caused more eyestrain than 2D. The research prompted the Korean government to recommend that viewers take a break of up to 15 minutes after an hour of 3D viewing. But that study was based on glasses with red and green lenses rather than the ones used in theaters and with TVs. 3D makes people sick

The 3D Stereo Media conference
Film & Digital Times has posted a short write-up on the 3D Stereo Media conference that was held in Dec. 8-10, 2010.
Film & Digital Times: 3D Stereo Media 2010
3D Media [show website]

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