3D movies: I'm a believer

Oct. 12, 2015
I used to think that 3D movies were just a passing fad, but my views have changed after seeing Jurassic World in IMAX 3D.
Gail Overton 720

In last year's 2014 Laser Marketplace Review, a discussion of laser cinema revealed that in 2010, 33% of the total dollars earned by 127 film releases were earned by just four 3D movies. I used to think that 3D movies were just a passing fad and this epic earning season in 2010 was just an outlier, but my views have changed after seeing Jurassic World a few weeks ago in IMAX 3D: I'm a believer! A believer in the successful future of 3D movies, that is.

Prior to Jurassic World, the only 3D movie I had seen was a short thriller in a small theatre at Sea World called R. L. Stine's Haunted Lighthouse. The visual effects in that movie were interesting, but paled in comparison to having Indominous Rex hurl his big teeth into your face or the Mosasaurus snap up a huge shark like a sardine in Jurassic World; I actually spilled some of my popcorn when the waiter came by to ask if I needed something during a particularly interesting fight scene between dinosaurs--I was truly "jumpy" at the onscreen action--talk about virtual reality immersion--and the waiter startled me a bit. When the movie ended, I proclaimed to my husband that Jurassic World was the best of the Jurassic series that I had ever seen (see image below from Daily Capital showing the Mosasaurus feeding on a shark).

While the movie did require us to wear glasses, was a bit dim, and did--I must admit--make me feel a bit disoriented during the first five minutes or so (could have been because we were sitting in the front row), I can't imagine watching it again in flat 2D format. The official world trailer is embedded here, albeit not viewable in 3D from your desktop.

So now that I've completed my sales pitch, here is the photonics part of this blog: IMAX 3D, while it displayed Jurassic World on a huge curved screen, is just one of several 3D technologies all aiming for a better viewing experience. These technologies are contrasted online at http://www.reviewmaze.com/2011/03/3d-technology-in-cinema-imax-3d-reald.html but a few technical details are worth sharing here: IMAX 3D is the only method wherein the film is viewed on a huge curved screen. Basically, in IMAX's own words, "An IMAX 3D movie actually consists of two separate images projected onto a special silver-coated IMAX 3D screen at the same time. One image is captured from the viewpoint of the right eye, and the other shows the viewpoint of the left eye. IMAX 3D glasses (see my souvenirs below) separate the images, so the left and right eyes each see a different view. Your brain blends the views together to create an amazing three-dimensional image that appears to have depth beyond and in front of the screen." But whatever you do, don't view the movie without your 3D glasses--it will really make you dizzy.
Unfortunately, according to the Review Maze description, "Linearly polarized glasses require the viewer to keep their head level, as tilting causes the images of the left and right channels to spill to the opposite channel. This is the so-called 'ghosting' effect which plagues to some degree pretty much any 3D technology displaying info for both eyes at the same time. The head movement restrictions have a couple of implications: first, the amount of seats in the cinema theater where the image quality is at its best is limited, and second, longer viewings may become uncomfortable." Purveyors of RealD 3D technology, a competitor to IMAX 3D, claim that their technology allows the audience to move their heads around without any loss of 3D perception by using circularly polarized glasses. It can also be displayed on normal-sized screens; however; the 3D images do not "pop" out the screen as much, which is less stressful on the brain, but correspondingly less spectacular. Both IMAX 3D and RealD 3D systems lose light initially during projection through the polarization filter at the projector lens and then again once more via the viewing glasses. IMAX says it solves this by using two projectors--one for each eye--to double the light output, while RealD 3D says it uses silver screens to improve reflection (but so does IMAX). What is the ultimate solution? Better lamps--brighter lamps--yes, laser projectors!

I'm a believer, and I want to see laser projectors play a bigger role in the success of 3D movies. Turns out I'm not alone; according to information cited at http://www.worldtvpc.com/blog/3d-movie-revenues-reach-all-time-low-in-u-s/, while major box office revenues in the United States represented only around 30% of the screenings for those 3D movies shown recently, 3D films are responsible for “80% to 90% of a film's box office take in places like Russia and China."

About the Author

Gail Overton | Senior Editor (2004-2020)

Gail has more than 30 years of engineering, marketing, product management, and editorial experience in the photonics and optical communications industry. Before joining the staff at Laser Focus World in 2004, she held many product management and product marketing roles in the fiber-optics industry, most notably at Hughes (El Segundo, CA), GTE Labs (Waltham, MA), Corning (Corning, NY), Photon Kinetics (Beaverton, OR), and Newport Corporation (Irvine, CA). During her marketing career, Gail published articles in WDM Solutions and Sensors magazine and traveled internationally to conduct product and sales training. Gail received her BS degree in physics, with an emphasis in optics, from San Diego State University in San Diego, CA in May 1986.

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