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May 23rd, 2019

Fake 3D Movies vs Real 3D Movies

I have always had a problem with 3D movies. For me 3D movies are a gimmick and are as much about cheap thrills and parlour tricks as it is about delivering a great movie experience. Recently I had my mind changed about this after buying a 3D television. Since then its been the focus of my reviews as I consume as many Blu-Ray 3D movies as I can and review them.

Filmmakers who make a movie with the intent of shooting in 3D and using it as a tool to make their movie experience better must be commended. My thinking that 3D offers very little was jaded by the way some people use 3D in their movies and was not fair to filmmakers who really think outside the box and try to use the technology instead of applying a 3D bandaid to a mediocre product.

A great example of this is LionsGates DREDD. The film is directed by Pete Travis and is a remake of the 1995 film which starred Sylvester Stallone. The 3D in DREDD was polished and as much a part of the story as the characters were and its the first action movie I have ever called beautiful.

But for every DREDD you will find a movie that was post converted to 3D to lure in movie goers and does very little for the story and in many cases is just a mess visually. The first experience I had with really bad post production 3D was Tim Burtons Alice in Wonderland.

I have no idea if it was the theater I saw it in or the passive 3D glasses technology but I can tell you it was a complete blurry mess that not only gave me a headache but made me angry. I paid extra to see it in 3D and all I got was a headache and a bad movie.

Shooting in real 3D mean you get lots of 'out of the window' and 'into the window' effects. The explanation for these terms if you dont know is pretty simple. Its film elements coming out at you as well as you being literally sucked into the TV by the visual effects. DREDD did it very well and it was simply put… awesome.

James Cameron and Michael Bay two very opinionated filmmakers have come out against post production 3D and good on them. For every movie that is converted to 3D in post production it will hurt the filmmakers like Pete Travis who take the time to shoot in what I am calling 'real 3d'. Eventually fans will clue in and simply stop paying to see 3D because regardless of real or fake 3D the posters all say '3D' they dont say '2D but we converted to 3D'.

My biggest and most recent piss off is I purchased Avengers on Blu-Ray 3D and yep it was not even shot in 3D it was all done in post production. I havent watched it yet but I fear I may be cursing at the lack of true 3D.

In 2010 there were almost as many what I call 'Fake 3D' movies released as real ones. In 2011 it did not get much better. 2012 was our first good year for 3D where the films in real 3D outnumbered the post production 3D by almost 3 to 1 according to

Sadly 2013 is not looking so good with some big name films taking the post production route and once again almost numbering as many as the real 3D. Wolverine, Iron Man 3, Mad Max, Superman Man of Steel and Pacific Rim all are being converted in Post production to 3D. That my friends is a disappointment.

One important note on 3D in the real vs the post production is to note that I am not a 3D expert. I review films and write about them and I read up on the technology as I go along. If there is one thing I have both noticed and learned from research is that there is one place where post production can apparently match real 3D and that is in CGI sequences.

As much as I am pissed off I paid a premium for the Avengers 3D Bluray the good news is most of that movie is CGI rendered. Which means that when I do watch it I should see quite a bit of full 3D in most of the big scenes. But also I imagine much like Green Lantern I will notice it going from full blown 3D to 2D as it transitions between CGI scenes and real world cameras. I will let you know on that one.

When a movie has large portions of the movie not actually shot but rendered by computers it means that when you do convert to 3D it is apparently as good as the real thing. Certainly this proved true as noted in Green Lantern since there were entire scenes that were as good as DREDD but also were completely CGI so when the director transitioned to a new scene you went from full 3D to blah.

I have no idea where 3D will take us but with the technology becoming a staple in homes and growing in popularity and dropping in price it will be the future. Unfortunately as much as we will see more 3D that also means more fake 3D and I cant be the only person paying a premium when I can afford it for 3D Blurays and feeling ripped off when its anything but.


  1. If you know you’re against post-converted movies, you’re predisposed to hate them. Have you seen the post-converted 9-minute IMAX exclusive trailer for the new Star Trek movie? Everyone loves the look. Best conversion I ever saw was the last Narnia movie. But you’re also wrong in looking for 3D to add to the story. Sound, color, and 3D don’t add to the story. The story is the story. They do add in being able to tell the story, but I think you’re looking at 3D in the wrong way. It should add to the experience without being in the way (unlike kid 3D films where they do 3D tricks to put the action in your face). I’ve done 3D stuff professionally–some shot and some converted–but to me, I just want to be entertained. If 3D gets in the way of that, whether shot or post-converted, the filmmaker screwed up. If it doesn’t, then the filmmaker did a good job.

    • Herner Klenthur

      Great comments Michael. Obviously my post is an un educated opinion since I do not know as much about 3D as I would like. I have noticed that CGI post production 3D seems to be on par with shot in 3D. Would you agree?

      Also since you say you work in 3D what do you see as the advantages and pitfalls of shooting in 3D or post conversion. Educate me :)

      • Sorry for the late reply. I actually think post-conversion has some benefits as you can do things that the natural world would not allow, as J.J. found out on Star Trek. I do think it’s a matter of the right tool for the right job. If a filmmaker asks “should we shoot 3D or convert?” He’s asking the wrong question. The question is, since we’re doing 3D, what’s the best way to help tell the story–within budget and workflow?

  2. VirtualMark

    I wondered why Man of Steel and Star Trek didn’t seem that great in 3d – this explains it! I noticed that some scenes looked 2d – to the point that I took off my 3d glasses for a moment to check!

    The CGI stuff would be just as good, as they can just render a second angle. But for actors – there is no way to make them pop out and look 3d in post production. The best they can do is to make the actors appear closer than the background, which is a pale comparison to using proper 3d cameras.

    I really wish Hollywood studios wouldn’t skimp on using proper 3d equipment to film a movie. It’s kinda insulting that we pay top money to see a movie in 3d and they haven’t bothered to make it properly. The only movie I’ve seen where the 3d was awesome was Avatar. The actors, scenery and amazing CGI looked great all through the movie.

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