Saturday, March 28, 2009

3-D Follow-up

A couple posts ago I said I was going to take the first opportunity I had to see a movie presented using RealD Cinema 3D. Tonight I went with a couple of friends to see Monsters vs. Aliens in 3D.

RealD's take on 3D technology uses, instead of differently colored lenses, circular polarized lenses, one polarized clockwise and the other polarized counter-clockwise. Alternating differently-polarized frames are then projected onto a reflective screen specially designed to preserve the polarization. The point of using circular polarization instead of linear polarization is so that the 3D illusion is preserved when the viewer's head is tilted.

Based on this first impression, I have to say the 3D presentation worked surprisingly well; it's certainly a great improvement over other 3D technologies I have seen. First and foremost is the lack of eye strain. I watched the 3D episode of Chuck this past January, which used Intel's ColorCode technology (brown and blue glasses), and at the end of the hour-long episode I was glad to take the glasses off. One of the two people I went with tonight experienced a little bit of eye fatigue, but I myself experienced none. The second major improvement is in the representation of finer detail. ColorCode's use of layered colors in a single image to make the 3D effect has the limitation of being unable to effectively display differences in depth of small objects and texture — the result being that the larger objects in the scene (buildings, people, furniture) are rendered much like cardboard cutouts in a diorama, even on an HDTV. RealD Cinema's use of two completely separate images was much more effective in presenting finer details like facial features, surface contours, and even clouds of individual dust particles or grass clippings as naturally 3-dimensional, with the surprising result that surfaces one would expect to have texture but didn't (for instance, the Missing Link's scaly skin) stood out like a sore thumb. As a display technology, RealD Cinema lives up to its promise very well.

As with any new technology in the film industry, good implementation is key. There are still some quirks to the 3D effect that cinematographers are going to have to learn to work with. Objects that intersect the left and right sides of the screen still exhibit a flickering effect, and fast horizontal movement produces an unintelligible image much like looking in a vibrating mirror. Extreme variations in depth or objects placed very "close" to the viewer also lose the 3D effect, and objects flatly perpendicular to the camera's line of sight still exhibit the cardboard-cutout effect. I have a feeling that further refinements to how scenes are laid out (and perhaps further refinements in the technology itself) will overcome these issues.

Overall, the movie itself was a surprisingly natural-seeming 3D experience, with few exceptions. The experience was so natural, in fact, that I find myself struggling to imagine what the movie would be like had I seen it in 2D. I found it easy to forget that I was wearing 3D glasses, and I thought the movie made fairly good use of the technology as an experience rather than a gimmick (although there was a somewhat amusing incident with a paddle ball that, I admit, made me blink). On the other hand, I think the movie probably would not have been as entertaining without the additional fascination of 3D, and probably wouldn't hold up under multiple viewings — certainly not multiple 2D viewings.

So, overall it was a very positive experience. The RealD Cinema technology gets a 9 out of 10, the implementation of it in this movie gets a 7.5 out of 10, and the movie itself gets a 7 out of 10. I'm looking forward to seeing how the technology progresses, and especially interested in seeing it used on live action. There are currently 34 more movies scheduled to be released in RealD Cinema between now and 2013, but as best I can tell, all but two are either computer animation or stop-motion animation; the other two are horror movies I won't be seeing under any circumstances.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reald systems use a single digital projector running at 144 fps. The movie is still 24fps per eye. The projector buffers the frames and flashes them alternately L1 R1 L1 R1 L1 R1 L2 R2 L2 R2 L2 R2 etc

cool stuff

Sunday, March 29, 2009 2:13:00 AM  
Blogger treeinforest said...

My mistake. Got it mixed up with something else.

Sunday, March 29, 2009 9:56:00 AM  

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