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November 28th, 2014

Fans & Theatres Are Ruining 3D Movies, not Studios

Fans & Theatres Are Ruining 3D Movies, not StudiosYou know what is wrong with Hollywood? Not much. They have things figured out pretty well and it leads nicely into my talking point on the new genre of 3D films. Studios continue to make movie for one reason and one reason only to make a buck and milk as much of our paycheck from us as they can.

Studios have no interest in us as fans other then to open our wallets despite their clever viral campaigns to promote films and get us to join fan groups, facebook pages and more. Studios are in the business of making money, more money then you and I will ever see and the new easy way to do that is 3D…. or should i say Post Production 3D which is added to the movie after its shot.

3D was re-invigorated by James Cameron’s Avatar and as cutting edge and monumental as his remake of Fern Gully was it also opened Pandora’s box as studios lined up knee deep with their films to release them in 3D.  There are two breeds of 3D, 3D Movies that are shot on 3D Cameras and 3D movies that are done in post production with computers and although you are never told which is which one is visually fantastic and one is a blatant cash grab to lure you in on the false pretext that you are going to experience another Avatar moment.

Movies shot in true 3D are extremely rare and also extremely expensive which is why studios are more than happy to convert their movies in post production into 3D since the average film goer has no clue about the difference. It costs a studio about $500,000 to convert a movie to 3D after it has been shot where as to actually shoot a movie in 3D with 3D cameras cancost in the 10’s of millions. Studios charge a premium for 3D movies on top of  that so what studio wouldn’t convert the movies? 30% hike in ticket fares at a cost of only $500,000 is a lot of money on the bottom line. Just look at it this way, studio A makes a movie and 500,000 people see it for $8.00 a ticket, thats $40million. Now Studio A takes the same movie, spend $500k, converts it to 3D, charges 500,000 people $11.50 a ticket and makes $57,500,000. So for $500,000 they make an extra $17million.

With James Camerons Avatar still fresh on peoples minds its an incredibly shrewd business move for studios to convert as many of their films to 3D as possible in post production. For $500,000 you can take a movie people might not otherwise see add the words ‘3D’ and you have a potential box office monster. Even if you don’t have Avatar Success you are at the very least making 30% more than if you released it in 2D.

This carefully crafted move by the studios to release films in 3D done in post production is going to have a serious implication though. Most fans don’t know the difference and this constant release of garbage post production 3D movies is going to cannibalize the movie business to the point where nobody wants to see 3D movies. Even James Cameron has mentioned this concern. Fortunately we do have some great 3D movies coming that are shot in true 3D and Disney’s TRON which is coming this fall will be the first big release in real 3D to see if it can reproduce the Avatar success.

Resident Evil Afterlife was done in true 3D shot with 3D cameras but it also was one of those movies which had a limited genre draw. Resisdent Evil 3D was the last 3D movie I saw and was very well done and shot with the same cameras they used for AVATAR and leads to my other gripe out 3D. Those damn 3D theatre glasses. I realize it is all about the buck but couldn’t the theatre chains put a little more effort into getting us some glasses that fit a bit nicer, don’t give you a headache and don’t make you look like Steve Urkle? I for one think they should just slap some white tape in the middle of them and hand out flood paints while they are at it. The glasses make your eyes hurt, give you a headache and if you wear glasses normally good luck getting the 3D glasses over top of them. I for one would pay a premium to get a nice set of 3D glasses that I could keep and wear again and again and with theatres running commercials before movies and lowering their level of service for customers they should consider this idea as a new revenue stream.

I am sick of post production 3D movies but the studios are not to blame for bad 3D movies we as fans are for buying the tickets and the theatres are a major hindrance in hurting real-3d with those glasses we all hate wearing. 3D is here to stay and its a fantastic time for film fans but we as fans need to speak with our dollars, demand better service at the theatres in the form of better glasses and stop giving our money to studios that convert movies to 3D for no other reason then make a buck off us.

You will have plenty of chances to express your feelings since Thor, Green Hornet and Harry Potter are on their way to tantalize us in post production 3D gimmickry.

Update: Reader PB makes a valid point on ‘quality’ and taking the time to do things right. He clearly has a deeper scope of knowledge behind the scenes and writes the following in reference to my comments on quality and the time / money it takes to generate a post-production 3D movie.

Factually inaccurate. It costs between $30k and $130k per MINUTE to convert a 2D movie to ‘hollywood quality’ 3D, such as the work done on Alice in Wonderland and G Force. More to the point, 2D to 3D can be indistinguishable from natively shot 3D if 1) there are skilled people involved who know what to look for and how to do it right, and 3) there is enough time to do it right.

The problem with films like Clash of the Titans and The Last Airbender was that they were rushed to market and the conversion houses didn’t have time to do the work right. The studios have learned their lesson, as witnessed by WB’s decision not to release the next Harry Potter in 3D because the work would not be done in time to their quality standards.

Great points by PB and when I get to see a 3D movie in Post Production that compares with real 3D I will be the first to sing its praises. If you use PB’s math the bare bones conversion to 3D would be in the range of $1.7million with the high end conversion being $11,700,000. I dont know where the movies he mentions and I discussed fall into the ‘price structure’ but I can say I was less than impressed with the 3D in every post production movie I have seen.




7 Comments


  1. Pblely

    Factually inaccurate. It costs between $30k and $130k per MINUTE to convert a 2D movie to ‘hollywood quality’ 3D, such as the work done on Alice in Wonderland and G Force. More to the point, 2D to 3D can be indistinguishable from natively shot 3D if 1) there are skilled people involved who know what to look for and how to do it right, and 3) there is enough time to do it right. The problem with films like Clash of the Titans and The Last Airbender was that they were rushed to market and the conversion houses didn’t have time to do the work right. The studios have learned their lesson, as witnessed by WB’s decision not to release the next Harry Potter in 3D because the work would not be done in time to their quality standards.


  2. Anonymous

    The stats are an eye-opener, thanks. This topic is hot. Does anybody remember that the first 3D viewing glasses were made of Cell-o-phane, that crispy, transparent paper? My uncle remembers his first 3D experience: “The Haunted Mansion”. I’ll have to check that one out.


  3. Khalleron

    You can buy circularly polarized glasses, even clip-ons for glasses wearers from many 3d retailers, even Amazon. Most cost under $10, so if you go to 3d movies often, it might be a good investment for you.

    As to the headache, that’s because you don’t normally work both eyes together for long periods – usually one eye rests while the other eye works. Most people only use their binocular vision for short periods when needed. Watching a 3d movie forces you to work both eyes for long periods and can cause eyestrain and thus headaches. Try covering each eye for a few seconds every few minutes if you’re prone to 3d headaches.


  4. Khalleron

    You can buy circularly polarized glasses, even clip-ons for glasses wearers from many 3d retailers, even Amazon. Most cost under $10, so if you go to 3d movies often, it might be a good investment for you.

    As to the headache, that’s because you don’t normally work both eyes together for long periods – usually one eye rests while the other eye works. Most people only use their binocular vision for short periods when needed. Watching a 3d movie forces you to work both eyes for long periods and can cause eyestrain and thus headaches. Try covering each eye for a few seconds every few minutes if you’re prone to 3d headaches.


  5. I agree with these comments completely. I personally don’t have a problem with the 3D glasses you get at the cinema since they fit my face and don’t give me a head ache, but I know my sister can’t take her kids to see 3D movies because the one size fits all glasses at the cinema are too big and the kids can’t wear them, so why go to the expense of taking them to a 3D movie?

    Like with food additive laws, it should be mandatory for films to declare if they are shot in native 3D or made into 3D in post production. I too really enjoyed Avatar, and looked forward to seeing the Last Air Bender but found the only thing really 3D in the movie was the subtitled graphics telling you what city the characters were in and the odd special effect shot added in later in post production any way like Katara’s water bending in the opening sequence of the film. I have since been to a heap of other supposedly 3D movies but they are nothing compared to the 3D appearance of Avatar. These include the Green Hornet and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The movies were great, but a note to the studios, unless you shoot in 3D don’t even bother (I am so disappointed in the Studio’s decision to make Harry Potter into 3D I don’t want to even talk about it!!).

    One final note though, working in neuroscience I am familiar with how the brain percieves depth from a binocular image and it is not just by using a 3D camera. Supposedly Tron was shot in 3D and I didn’t actually find that very good 3D. I would have sworn that it was just another post production disaster. So it is not always the fault of post production 3D when the 3D effect is not that good. The sense of depth from binocular images depends on your brain’s ability to analyse two slightly separated images and extract depth information from them. Your eyes don’t just point straight ahead, they actually converge on what ever object you are looking at. This focal point of your two eyes therefore changes as you look at different things. The amount of paralax error in the images coming from each eye, therefore changes depending on how converged or diverged your eyes are. Also each person’s eyes are a different distance apart.

    Why all this is important, and also why people get headaches going to see 3D movies, is that each person’s brain learns to extract the precise 3D spatial information from the images coming from your eyes based on how far apart your eyes are, the degree of focus of the image on your retinas, the part of your retina that the image is hitting and where the focal point of your eyes are at a given time and therefore the degree of paralax error between the two images. It then learns based on experience how the images it is recieving relates to actual 3D space. If the supposed 3D images it is recieving is unfamiliar enough, it can not extract 3D information from the images. This is why some movies have sensational 3D and others don’t even if they are shot in native 3D. The 3D cameras used in a movie have to mimick the way your eyes work, not just be two camera’s pointing straight ahead. It is also why some people can have a great 3D experience at a movie (becuase the film’s camera settings more closely replicated their own eye settings) than another person. The headaches come from your brain trying to derive 3D spatial information from images that it can tell didn’t come from your own eyes as it has learnt them. It tries to adjust your eye position and focus as well as join the image once the image gets to your occipital cortex (in post production as it were), hense the head aches.


  6. Does anyone know any lists out there showing which movies have been shot in 3D and which are just post production?

    I know there is this list at Wikipaedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_3-D_films

    Which describes all 3D movies and what their method of 3D produciton is. Would be good to know ahead of time though so you can choose whether or not to go and see a movie in 3D based on the info.



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