Saturday, October 2, 2010


The last time I went to Costco, I got a chance to check out the 3D TVs. Apparently this is the next big step in home theater, and seeing as how I'm the kind of guy who jumped on to the Blu-Ray bandwagon a little earlier than most (and I also mistakenly jumped on the HD-DVD Titanic) I wanted to check out this next step.

Well, I have to be honest. I was skeptical. After all, I'm getting tired of all the 3D stuff that's coming out right now. When I went to see Toy Story 3, I deliberately went to see it in 2D. Even if the ticket prices were the same, I'd go for the 2D. I remember feeling that with Up, the 3D did absolutely nothing for the visuals. If anything, it was slightly distracting, and I've been much more impressed watching the 2D Blu-Ray of the film. I thought that Monsters Versus Aliens actually put the 3D to some use, but then when they did it was just to have a "Look! This is 3D!" moment. When I saw the new Clash of the Titans, I had read that it wasn't originally shot for 3D in the first place, so I opted for 2D. I have to say that the only movie I've seen where I thought that the 3D actually contributed to the overall experience was Avatar. While I didn't love the film itself, I did think that it was worth it for the visuals alone, and the 3D created an immersive experience like I had never seen before. Still, do I really need to have that kind of experience with everything I see? Do I need it for Forgetting Sarah Marshall or Goodfellas? Probably not.

After seeing the 3D TVs, I am no longer skeptical. I now think that it's a total waste instead of maybe just being a waste. I mean, let's get real about a couple of things. First of all, 3D is not an improvement over 2D. Talkies were not an improvement over silent film (I'd argue that they created a new artform, actually) and color was not an improvement to black and white. They both just opened up some possibilities. At best, that's all you have with 3D. However, these possibilities are entirely unnecessary when it comes to most films. Not only that, but in many respects, 3D actually looks worse than 2D. The colors are dimmer, the image isn't as sharp, and in some cases, it's been known to give people headaches. (I confess that I started to feel a little "off" when viewing the 3D TV display.)

The second thing we need to realize is that we can only make TV look so good. DVDs were a huge step up from VHS, and HD was a big step as well. Still, the difference between DVD and HD is not nearly as great as the difference between VHS and DVD. Shortly after I got my DVD player, I could barely stand to watch VHS tapes anymore. I've had my Blu-Ray player for some time now, and I have no problem watching (and sometimes even buying) DVDs.

So what's 3D all about? It's the TV manufacturers trying to get us to think that we need to have something that's better than what we already have so we'll buy crap we don't need. I've made statements about my feelings regarding 3D TVs before, and the comments I usually get back are along the lines of, "Yeah. It's not worth to pay the extra money for something that's just a little bit better." While these folks are probably not going to be quick to jump on the 3D bandwagon, I wish they'd realize that it's not even a little bit better. In fact, it's worse.

And of course, Roger Ebert explains why 3D sucks much better than I can. My favorite reason:

IT’S THE WASTE OF A DIMENSION. When you look at a 2-D movie, it’s already in 3-D as far as your mind is concerned. When you see Lawrence of Arabia growing from a speck as he rides toward you across the desert, are you thinking, “Look how slowly he grows against the horizon”? Our minds use the principle of perspective to provide the third dimension. Adding one artificially can make the illusion less convincing.


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