Has Someone Stolen Your Light?

Roger Ebert has been railing against 3D movies because, amongst other things, you’re only getting half the light on the screen. And in some situations, it can be 85% darker. Now he’s discovered that it’s bleeding over into 2D films as well. The primary culprit is Sony (big surprise), who has built a popular 3D-ready digital projector with an interchangeable lens system.1 You have to change the lens to go from 2D to 3D and vice versa, and thy have made this a complex process that requires more skill than your average projectionist has. It’s so complex and time consuming that even Sony Studios didn’t remove it for an industry screening of The Social Network in their flagship auditorium. But either way, what ends up happening is that they put he light-reducing 3D lens on, and then leave it on for 2D pictures! At the end of his article, he quotes Mike Humphries of Geek.com, who shares how you can tell if you’re getting screwed:

  • The title of the movie listed by the theater will have a “D” after it if it is being shown on a digital projector (Note: Fandango will write “digital projection” to make it clear.)
  • If you are in a D movie, look at the projector window when seated. If you see two stacked beams of light it is a Sony projector with the 3D lens still on.
  • A single beam of light means no 3D lens, or a different make of projector that doesn’t have the issue
  • If you see the two beams, then get up and go complain. You paid good money to see the movie, so make a fuss until they either give you back that money or remove the lens. Seeing as that’s an involved and time-consuming process, expect a refund.

I realize most won’t leave, but it’s good to know. I used to lean toward the showing with the digital projector, but now I’m going to think twice and try to find out which of my local theaters have the Sony’s and are too cheap to properly configure them between shows.

  1. As some commented there, you can have a single lens 3D system with a filter, but apparently it’s much easier to raise and lower that filter than it is to change the lens on a Sony. []

4 thoughts on “Has Someone Stolen Your Light?”

  1. I’m with you and Roger on this one. His article makes it perfectly clear how “unclear” and dark the image has become in most multiplexes. Let me summarize poorly here: movies have always offered you something extra to get you out of your house and into the movies (eg: sound, color, cinemascope, multiplex sound) but now they are offering you something that lessens your experience (ie: darker image). And 3D is already dying because it really doesn’t add anything to the experience.

    Oh yes, it adds 3.50 or more to your ticket price.

    I’m redacting my article on the history of 3D and how it should be properly used. Expect it soon.

  2. Looking forward to that article! My hope lies in James Cameron. He’s the one largely responsible for ushering in this new age of 3D (well, he and the electronics industry), and now he’s going after 48-60 fps movies, which should be just as bright and extra clear. Peter Jackson is thinking about using it for The Hobbit, which would be a big win.

    My concern is theater owners getting purchase fatigue, esp. when the studios are pushing up the home releases so soon and killing the second run market. The electronics industry will love it, and I’d be much more excited to buy a 60fps projector than a 3D one.

  3. And now the ultimate injury: you are paying for *nothing*

    The latest 2D-to-3D conversion is out, Titanic (1998). The movie was already a classic and did not need this added feature of 3 dimensions. But forget the artistic vandalism perpetrated on this classic: some of the scenes are not in 3D !!

    Our human brains are designed to decode 3D from the 2.5 inch separation between our eyeballs, as well as subtle color and shadowing cues in our environment. If you close one eye, your brain will do its best to create 3D out of a single image. It works; try it.

    So, the Titanic engineers (film restoration, not engine compartment) went back and created some 3D scenes for the movie, most noticeably the CGI material. But for a lot of the other pre-filmed, live action scenes they did not change a thing!! You can check this out by removing your 3D glasses in some scenes and noticing that the screen shows no apparent 3D processing. They can simulate the ‘close one eye’ operation by just removing or reducing the image going to one of your eyes; this was done successfuly for that infamous SuperBowl 3D TV commercial a few years back. The trick was done with paper glasses that you could pick up at 7-Eleven; one of the lenses was noticeably ‘dirtier’ than the other and diminished the picture going to the corresponding eye. Your brain did the rest.

    So, in addition to paying thru the nose for expensive popcorn and drinks, you get *less* light up on the screen and no 3D processing in the movie. What a ripoff.

    By the way, I already saw Titanic in 3D back in 1998. I closed one eye and noticed the enhanced dimensionality of the scenes, without loss of image brightness. But be warned: your eyelid gets really tired and then you stop doing it. My next step would have been to get a pirate eyepatch and try it that way.

  4. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that James Cameron, the man who reinvented 3D with Avatar, would follow in Lucas’s footsteps and rework his past films.

    At least they’re doing *something* to the films to warrant a re-release. Disney will do that with an untouched film, based on the artificial time pressure of “it’s going back into the vault!” Like they’re not the ones putting it there!

    And thanks for commenting here, as it reminded me about checking for 2 light beams. I’m pretty sure I saw that in my last movie, but switched it in my mind and forgot that 2 beams are BAD, not good.

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