In this week’s issue of Newsweek, Roger Ebert explains why you should “hate” 3-D movies. To be clear, he is not “opposed to 3-D as an option…but as a way of life.” That is, he is against the current marketing push to have all major studio movies made in 3-D — whether they would benefit from it or not. Or (even worse) to have studios only make the sort of “kiddie” movies that best showcase the benefits of 3D.
I was particularly intrigued by his description of MaxiVision48, a 2-D technology that doubles the frame rate to 48fps and offers image quality that is “400 percent better” than current films! I had never heard of this before. I would certainly like to see this technology used, rather than 3-D, in many of the movies I watch.
I have read numerous comments on Twitter critical of Ebert’s article, accusing him of being a movie Luddite. Before I read the article, I predicted I would agree with the critics. In the end, I did not. Ebert made a convincing case. If you haven’t already done so, I recommend you read the article and decide for yourself.
Still, while I agree with Ebert in regard to the current state of 3-D movies, we part ways when it comes to the long term potential. Ebert apparently sees no hope that 3-D will ever be of value. To me, 3-D is like any other cinematic innovation, from the talkies to color films. Initially, it’s viewed as an unworthy gimmick. Even today, you can find people who claim that color is a distraction and that the best way to make movies is in black-and-white.
Often, in the early stages, a new technology is primarily a sales gimmick. There are certainly numerous examples of “bad” and “fake” 3-D movies muddying the waters today. But eventually, the technology improves, movie makers learn how to better take advantage of the medium, and the effect becomes more subtle. One day, you discover that all movies, even small independent dramas, are made this way and it’s just fine. 3-D is only in the initial leg of this journey. It has a ways to go, but it will get there.
3-D does have one unique obstacle in its path to acceptance: the need for 3-D glasses. I have heard that, within several years, there will be a way to project in 3-D that does not require glasses. If and when that happens, the war will be over. Within several years after that, all or almost all movies will be made in 3-D. If the glasses are not eliminated, there’s a chance that 3-D will fade back into the background when the novelty wears off. If Las Vegas was taking bets on this, however, I’d bet on 3-D’s ultimate success.