3D – How and when it works

There's been many types of 3D films, but recently they've become more sophisticated

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 2 years, you’d have noticed a massive boom in the rise of 3D movies and games. There’s a lot of criticism out there about it – It doesn’t really work, it’s a gimmick being pushed down our throats, it’s simply not good enough, etc… Well, I prefer to take a more constructive approach when it comes to film criticism, so here I’m going to list both when it works and how it should be done.

The thing you should think about is what advantage it has over traditional 2D views. Things like getting a sense of scale, or perspective – where gauging space is needed. If you don’t need things like this, then 3D for the most part is an extra expense that you don’t really need. It can look kinda cool, but 3D is not exactly unique now – you can’t get away with it just for the sake of it.

If a film does utilise depth, then please, carry on.

Now, if you think about it, what’s 3D designed to do? Trick the brain into being closer to yourself than the screen is. So anything that you want in the extreme foreground can justify in 3D. An example would be something coming towards you, such as a bullet or car or something. Obviously, this has implications of what genres can utilise 3D the best. For the horror factor, horror films can be good with it. Likewise, action flicks designed to get the adrenaline going can utilise it. Romantic comedies? Not so much.

One pet peeve I have with 3D is that it looks like it’s layered rather than a proper 3D image. What do I mean? Well, it’s like you’ve separated the foreground and the background and have just moved the foreground closer to you. What about the objects that stretch from the foreground to somewhere in the background? I’ll give you an example:

Notice on the top set (how 3d Currently works) - The building to the right is simply positioned more to the right, meanwhile the picture below have the building at a slightly different angle (looking down it)

So, what does this mean? It means that for 3D pictures to work, it NEEDS 2 cameras (or a 3D camera at least). It simply doesn’t work right creating it from a single picture.

My second pet peeve about 3D is that you need to keep an eye on the depth of field. It looks unnatural for both the foreground and the background to be in focus together. The camera is meant to be simulating the eye for the 3D to be effective, and the depth of field (or at least the equivalent of it for eyes) is far greater than many 3D films have actually shown. Not to mention the effect we get when we focus on the background – the objects in the foreground get separated into left and right, when the combined image reaches our brains, it looks something like this:

Focus on the waterfall behind the car. The car looks like it's in the foreground because of 2 reasons: 1, the car is severely blurred and 2, the car is diplicated and placed upon itself slightly to one side - simulating the perspective from the two eyes

I’m not 100% convinced cinema can do this kind of effect, certainly not at the moment. The problem is, is that to get proper 3D, you need holograms – a technology that is still not here yet.

But I’m not done on my tirade yet. Oh no! There’s just one more point I’d like to make. 3D gives you the ability to create depth in films – however, only through the film can we do that. We can’t have natural control over where we look. Even if we artificially create depth of focus through blurs, we cannot choose to look at the background in full detail if it’s out of focus and the foreground is in focus. It means that much like the positioning of the camera, we have no control over what we look at in the world of the film. And the current setup for 3D will never let us do this, because even though we’re merging two slightly different pictures in our head, they’re still of a 2D nature. Not 2D as in the flat image we see with the light hitting our retina, but of the 2D flat image reflected off the 2D screen.

Don’t get it? Okay, here’s an experiment. Keep your head perfectly still while looking at something in front of you and something very close by in the background. Now switch between looking at the two. You’ll notice that even though the head doesn’t move (and theoretically the frame in a film wouldn’t either), it’s almost as if the item in the foreground jumps slightly one way as you focus on it. This can never happen with a 2D image.

The only true way of viewing in 3D will be holograms. Everything else is a less than perfect emulation.

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One Comment on “3D – How and when it works”

  1. […] How 3D works. Yup… get schooled. […]


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