3. “Subtle” 3D Isn’t Worth the Extra Money

Consumers remain split on what constitutes quality 3D – with many claiming that subtle use of the format isn’t worth the upgraded ticket price. Yet, taste in 3D is subjective – making it extremely difficult to measure “good” versus “bad” 3D. As a result, many viewers have turned to the fallible “Glasses Off” test to self-determine how much of the onscreen projection is distorted at any given moment. Previously, we clarified why this “Glasses Off” test isn’t a good metric for determining 3D quality – since filmmakers often adjust the strength of the 3D effect in every single shot: backing off during intimate drama scenes and ramping up in large-scale action set pieces, for example.

Similarly, some of the more celebrated examples of 3D filmmaking rely on subtle use of the format. Fans of Martin Scorsese’s Hugo claim the effect helped draw them into the film, whereas detractors maintain the director’s use of the effect wasn’t noticeable – and, therefore, not worth the added ticket price. This dichotomy places 3D in an tricky gray area, since filmmakers have to find a balance between making 3D worth the money, without allowing the effect to distract from onscreen tension and emotional drama – or even worse, making it uncomfortable to watch.

Since 3D films have long relied on “pop-out” effects, it’s not surprising (or unfair) that some moviegoers aren’t interested in more subtle implementations of the format. However, that doesn’t mean that subtle use of 3D can’t also be worth the added ticket price: Ang Lee’s Life of Pi rarely used pop-out effects, but managed to deliver a rich visual experience that, for many moviegoers, successfully enhanced the impact of Pi’s adventure at sea.

Like anything in this industry, 3D preference is personal and there’s room for many types of experiences.


NEXT: Is “Gimmicky” 3D Bad?

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