May 9th, 2011
11:41 PM ET

From 3-D to 2-D

I can't think of many things that inspire as wide a range of reactions as 3-D films.

I know people who love seeing movies in 3-D. I know people who can't watch 3-D without getting headaches. I know people who've seen "Avatar" multiple times (which may explain why it made more money than any movie ever). And I know people who get upset about the idea of seemingly every big blockbuster being converted into 3-D.

Those people may get a kick out of this: Glasses that turn 3-D movies into 2-D.

I tried Hank's glasses while watching "Thor." And, well... they work. The question is, would I ever use them again?

Personally, I don't have a problem with 3-D in general. (I'm the guy who has a Nintendo 3DS, remember?) After all, life is in 3-D; why wouldn't I want to enjoy movies in 3-D too? To me it's like asking why we need colour television.

But I do have a problem with bad 3-D. And to me, we've yet to come up with an effective technology to display 3-D, and this is where the backlash comes from.

It's very easy to shatter the illusion of 3-D. When done properly, like in "Avatar" or "Tron: Legacy," the effect can be amazing. But those are movies designed specifically to be in 3-D. "Thor," on the other hand, was shot in 2-D and converted later. And it shows. Characters look like flat cardboard cut-outs; an especially odd effect when you see how, um, "big" Thor is.

When I see bad 3-D, I'm suddenly reminded of the hoops I've had to jump through to make this happen: I have to wear big glasses. I've paid extra for the ticket. And sometimes I too get headaches in the cinema. (This happened during "Avatar" and, weirdly, Michael Jackson's "This Is It." Please don't judge me for my movie choices.)

And this is just in the cinema. There are also 3-D TVs, which have little in the way of dedicated content and require big, battery-powered glasses to work. There's the 3DS, which I like, but also frustrates me with how easily the illusion shatters. And then there are rumours that the iPad 3 will pack a 3-D screen, something which makes no sense at all for a very simple reason: Once you reach out with your finger, your brain will realise that the physical object that is your finger and the virtual objects on the screen do not exist in the same 3-D space, killing the illusion.

No existing technology has really hit the sweet spot for 3-D. It needs to be glasses-free, like the 3DS and unlike cinemas; but it also needs to be visible from multiple angles and not just one spot, like cinemas and unlike the 3DS.

Unfortunately, there seems to be little in the way of a practical solution just yet. Until then, I might just hang on to Hank's 2-D Glasses.

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Robin

    The 3DS uses a parallax barrier that allows the creation of multiple angles. It was just not implemented since only one person can play at a time. But it is possible to create several dozen viewing angles.
    It is also possible to put a camera on your device with face recognition, the parallax barrier will then change to make sure you enjoy the 3D illusion, no matter at which angle you watch the screen. However, this imply only one viewing angle.

    May 10, 2011 at 2:47 am | Reply
  2. Ren

    The whole 3D stuff is crap. Sure life is 3D but i dont get migraine and weird eye sensation that i have to move away.

    The 3D trying to be pushed been around for literally decades.

    People just moved into HD and now they want all to keep moving into something new nonstop, thats not gona happen.

    3d is a fail it always has been , and even if it were revolutionized to the point of someone being inside of a movie, im sure a lot of people would rather sit at the couch and eat their junkfood and watch a good old movie normally and avoid eye and brain damage.

    May 10, 2011 at 3:02 am | Reply
  3. Galactic

    I swear to god I thought I accidentally clicked a link to the Onion.

    May 10, 2011 at 8:04 am | Reply
    • Tyrone

      I dunno. I never "got" Thor when I was heavy into comics. Never uerdnstood the allure. Never uerdnstood his stories and I usually skipped buying the issues where he made guest appearances in the comics I usually bought. But then again I never really "got" Iron Man either. . . and look where that went.

      September 10, 2012 at 4:50 am | Reply
  4. Phil

    I have lazy-eye and can't see 3D anyway, it doesn't work for me.
    I should start a class action suit against the movie companies on the grounds that the 3D movies can't be watched by the disabled.

    May 10, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Reply
  5. Phil

    3D technology can be traced all the way back to the beginning of photography. In 1844 David Brewster invented the Stereoscope. It was a new invention that could take photographic images in 3D. Later, Louis Jules Duboscq took that invention and improved on it. Louis took a picture of Queen Victoria using the improved technology and displayed it at the Great Exhibition in 1851. This picture became very well known throughout the world. Steroscopic cameras started to catch on and became fairly common for personal use by World War II.

    In 1855 the Kinematascope, a stereo animation camera, was invented. It was able to create 3d motion pictures. In 1915 the first anaglyph movie was produced. Anaglyph technology used 3d glasses with 2 different color lenses that would direct an image to each eye. In 1890 William Friese-Greene, a British film pioneer, filed a patent for the 3D movie process. In 1922 the first public 3D movie, "The Power of Love", was displayed. In 1935 the first 3D Color movie was produced. The use of the technology would remain dormant for over a decade.

    In the 1950s, 3D technology made a come back. During this era, TVs had become extremely popular and had started appearing in many households. In the 50s a number of 3D movies were being produced. In 1952 "Bwana Devil" by United Artists was shown across the United States. This was the first 3D movie of the 50s. The film was shot using a process called Natural Vision. This process was pitched to Hollywood studios but they all passed. A year later, in 1953, "House of Wax" was released in 3D. "Dial M for Murder" was originally planned to be released in 3D, but Alfred Hitchcock decided to release the movie in 2D to maximize profits. Not all movie theaters were equipped with the 3D technology. 3D films were also being developed outside of the United States. In 1947 The Soviet Union released their first full length 3D movie, "Robinson Crusoe".

    May 10, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Reply
    • Kelly

      I actually like the cnstiag. I thought Thor couldn't be cast but I think Chris Hemsworth will do a fine job. I've seen a few head shots of the guy and think he would have made a good Captain America. I was actually hoping Alexander Skarsgard from True Blood would have gotten the role but like I said, I'm happy with the cnstiag.

      October 11, 2012 at 5:43 am | Reply
  6. Anton

    Me & my wife watched Thor 3-D movie in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City last week.
    We both felt headache & most importaly it was our first time to watch 3-D movie. We complained that 3-D movie is too bad & its a waste of money,,,, you pay doulbe(of 2-D) & what you got is headache..
    & Thanks CNN explains that "" Thor ,was shot in 2-D and converted later. And it shows. Characters look like flat cardboard cut-outs; an especially odd effect when you see how, um, "big" Thor is."",
    So,, I think Thor is absolutely crazy,,

    May 10, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Reply
    • Yasmane

      Thor was amazing! Kenneth Branagh never cesaes to amaze me. He was the perfect choice to direct for this particular character. I was worried about how the use of humor would transfer over and not make the Asgardians seem corny, but it was placed in just the right spots. Especially the second time Thor was hit by the car. The way Hawkeye was introduced was really good. I was surprised by how emotional the film got. It really had a big moral overtone which made it that much more spectacular. The scene where a human Thor confronts the Destroyer and we see Odin's reaction, as he is still able to see what Thor did. That was the climax of the movie for me. I can't wait for Captain America to see how the cosmic cube will be introduced, since we got a glimpse in the post credits scene.

      September 8, 2012 at 12:36 am | Reply
  7. Mike

    Lance Sulkowski is right.

    May 11, 2011 at 6:45 am | Reply
  8. Glenn Stokes

    I have created twin lens 3D 35mm slide transparency photographs for over 40 years. When these images are viewed in a twin lens viewer (not projected, or on a TV, or on a computer) you get to see a clear bright realistic three dimensional view as you see it in ordinary daily life (of course cropped not full wide angle). Converting a 2D image to 3D is NOT real 3D. In real 3 D you get as many dimensional layers as there are objects in the view. In faux 3D (as I call it), you get two, three, maybe four layers. Conversions use a lot of horizontal movement to accentuate the faux 3D. AVATAR was filmed with two cameras. Using a headset gamer type of viewer that has one viewing screen for each eye, if you watch a 3D movie that was created with two cameras you will get to see real 3D. You will feel like you are IN the scene. Everything else is an approximation.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Reply

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