The way the world works is that financial analysts will follow trends. Often, they’re incorrect in their assumptions, but nonetheless their reports are picked up by the mainstream media. Then the public reads the reports and believes them to be true. Like the one that the public is sick and tired of 3D.
There are many theories being thrown around – glasses are uncomfortable, the additional cost is not worth it, the film is too dark. All of these are valid excuses.
There are a number of factors that can make 3D glasses uncomfortable – wrong fit for the shape of your head, wrong lens size for the screen you’re viewing the film on, damaged polarizers. Ironically, REALD does have glasses for sale that will fix these issues, but you’ll end up paying a premium of between $30 and $120, and then you’ll still need to deal with the second issue.
One reason REALD came up with the disposable glasses, rather than those that require cleaning for reuse, was to promote patrons to return to 3D screenings, since they’d already have the glasses (REALD glasses handed at the theaters are financed by the studios). They’ve even created special disposable glasses to commemorate certain films and entered the premium 3D glasses market. But no matter what you bring to the theater, you’re still going to pay the same upcharge as someone who needs to pick up a new disposable pair.
Even with the beam splitter used by REALD on their XL and XLW systems, the image is only half as bright as a 2D image due to the design of the polarizers and silver matte screen. Projectionists I’ve spoken to have told me that MasterImage provides a better picture on a silver screen, while they prefer white screen technology, such as XpanD or Dolby 3D over a silver screen altogether. The best format for 3D remains IMAX, which is able to overcome the brightness issue through much brighter bulb in the film theaters and through a proprietary light enhancement engine in their digital theaters . However, because REALD has saturated the market, the public has become aware of the dim light level issue.
THE SOLUTION FOR NOW
Exhibitors are noticing the change in consumer trends. In my market, two of the regional chains have started showing 2D versions of films in their largest auditoriums with the 3D versions running in smaller ones. Watching patrons purchase tickets for Transformers on opening day, I was surprised how nobody questioned if it was in 3D (the sign did not indicate such) or how nobody complained once the film had started.
Cinemark is starting an even more interesting experiment: the Cinemark XD theaters are running alternating versions of the same film. 3D one hour, 2D the next, and so on. Last night, I viewed a 2D screening of Captain America at an XD location and, I have to admit, I was impressed with the film in its flat incarnation. Most 3D films actually work better when viewed in 2D, where you can concentrate more on the film and the details and less on the dimension of depth.
THE SOLUTION FOR THE FUTURE
Eventually, technology will be devised that will allow those without glasses to view a 2D image while those with glasses will see 3D on the same showing. The solution may lie in anti-pirating technologies created for the studios. Under each digital print lies an invisible watermark. When a video shot of a digital print is run through a computer program, the mark shows up, indicating the theater, auditorium, and even date and showtime that it was filmed. Such a technology could send a hidden signal for a second eye view, creating a 3D image when viewed through the proper eyewear.
THE ULTIMATE SOLUTION
Two decades from now, it’s very possible that digital projectors will be a thing of the past, replaced by giant 50-foot wide autostereoscopic monitors. Until then, there’s only one way to properly view a 3D film that doesn’t make you deal with uncomfortable glasses, doesn’t charge an additional 3D fee, and is bright as hell. It only requires three things:
- A 2D film print
- An IMAX projector
- A dome screen