5 Biggest Misconceptions About 3D

Published 2 years ago by , Updated February 17th, 2013 at 7:51 am,

3D Movie Questions Answered 5 Biggest Misconceptions About 3D

“Should I see it in 2D or pay the extra cost for 3D?”

It’s a question that’s being asked with increased frequency these days, as audiences are becoming more savvy about the 3D moviegoing experience. We’ve all been burned (one time or another) by a subpar post-conversion, distracting pop-out gimmicks, or underwhelming return on a pricey 3D investment. For this reason, it’s easy to understand why so many film fans (and now, TV viewers) actively dismiss 3D as a shameful fad that handcuffs filmmakers – and subsequently, ruins most moviegoing experiences.

Yet, over the last five years we’ve also seen a number of captivating and memorable implementations of the format, including Avatar, Hugo, and Life of Pi, among others. Quality 3D wasn’t limited to sci-fi or adventure films either – as Final Destination 5 and Dredd both delivered memorable (albeit tongue-in-cheek) use of 3D.

Of course, for every movie that is celebrated for its use of 3D, there’s a vocal group of dissenters who disagree – for entirely valid reasons: uncomfortable eyewear, strained or disorienting visuals, and questions of creative control, among countless others. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of misinformation still out there about the format. 3D technology is evolving rapidly – and while we entirely support a viewer’s right to boycott 3D (and sympathize with the estimated 10 percent of our population that can’t even see 3D films), it’s time to set the record straight by addressing what we believe are the 5 biggest misconceptions about 3D.


Jaws 3D Back to the Future 5 Biggest Misconceptions About 3D

1. 3D Is Just A “Fad”

For years, 3D has been referred to as a “fad,” but year after year we’ve seen an increasing number of 3D films in production – and behind-the-scenes technology is the biggest indicator that 3D filmmaking is here to stay. Gone are the days of Anaglyph 3D – when filmmakers rarely fine-tuned stereoscopic images before sending them off to blue-and-red glasses-wearing viewers.

These days 3D is an enormous industry – with countless companies dedicated to the format at every stage of development. Engineers push innovation in a number of areas: increasingly smaller and more user-friendly 3D cameras for filming; upcoming laser projectors capable of a brighter image and longer bulb-life in theaters; 4K TV sets that do away with battery-powered “active” shutter glasses and only require inexpensive “passive” 3D eyewear for home use.

Many of these technologies were extremely expensive one year ago and are significantly less expensive today – meaning that two years from now they’ll be relatively inexpensive (a blink of the eye for hundred-year-old movie studios). Not to mention, non-entertainment-related 3D is a rapidly growing business – especially in the medical field where, for example, three-dimensional displays are already being used to save lives in operating rooms around the world.

As movie fans, we bounce around week-to-week from one film to the next – debating the quality of 3D. Yet, even when 3D has a bad week or month in theaters, the industry is designed for longterm viability. If cinephiles intend to boycott studios and wait for the “fad” to pass, they may never get off the sidelines.


NEXT: Do Filmmakers Hate 3D?

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  1. honestly, 3D just doesn’t add anything to the film, well, at least not to me. I saw The Avengers in 3D and it was kinda cool within the first 5 minutes or so, but after that, I completely forgot I was watching a movie in 3D. The same thing happened when I saw Toy Story 3 in 3D and Transformers 3D. I was soo caught up in both of those movies that I just didn’t care or just forgot completly that I was watching a 3D movie.

    • Omg same with me man

    • I think your wrong, but that’s my opinion. I saw Avatar in 3D and The Hobbit in the HFR 3D and both made me feel like I was in a helicopter watching the action live.

      • @Ghost: I’m not going to disagree with your experience, but for me, I think 3D should be an additive experience, which doesn’t mean it should be at the front of your mind the entire time. Whenever someone says the 3D in a movie was bad because “I didn’t even realize it was in 3D,” I think to myself that the tech in that film was either non-existent, or beautifully implemented – like Ben said in the Hugo example.

        • I never said it was “bad”. The 3D work in Transformers 3D was spectacular, but like I said, I was soo wrapped up in the movie that I completely forgot I was watching it in 3D. The same goes for pretty much every 3D movie I’ve seen. The only exceptions were Resident Evil Afterlife and Retribution. Those were the only two films where I actually had fun with the 3D.

      • *shrugs shoulders* to each their own

  2. honestly, 3D does nothing for me, partialy because I wear glasses, so it does nothing except giving me a headache, and raise the ticket price.

  3. What about these flat screens that are on the market that have 3D options? I purchased a 73 inch Mitsubishi flat screen last year and it has a 3D option in the back. I also purchased a Denon receiver which has the 3D hook ups as well. Have yet to use the 3d option yet, but has anyone out there experienced 3d capabilities on the their flat screens and are they worth it?

    • My flatscreen has 3D with the shutter glasses and I do enjoy it from time to time but the new 4K televisions are going to provide a much better option for at-home consumers that enjoy 3D.

      There’s pretty obvious “ghosting” in my 3D image and it can be distracting at times – which makes it feel like I’m working against the film. Not a good thing.

      • Thanks for that info Ben.

        • Of course, there are better 3DTV’s on the market with a better 3D image than mine. That said, it does seem like most hardware manufacturers are moving toward sets with passive glasses in the next few years.

          I just enjoy my 3D Blu-rays from time to time for movies that I want to enjoy the effect but there’s no doubt the tech has to evolve in the home market for it to not detract/distract from a director’s original vision.

          • I have a 3D projector with active glasses and I don’t notice any ghosting, so it definitely depends on the display. The only time things aren’t really in focus is when they try to pop out far from the screen.

            I wouldn’t go with a passive set unless I was sitting far enough back not to notice the loss in resolution – though it is nice to be able to get cheap passive glasses.

    • I have my 3DTV attached to my computer and I can now see any movie or picture converted into 3D if I wish and I have a lot of control over the stereoscopic depth. My Vizio uses the same light glasses as the theaters so I barely notice them on (especial since I got Lazik surgery and no longer need prescription glasses). The only problem is the TV is only 32″ so the 3D viewing field is limited. I imagine a 73″ TV would be amazing.

    • You don’t know what you’re missing. I can’t speak for Mitsubishi’s -D quality – I just got a 65″ Panasonic plasma and the 3-D is perfect. Have watched over a dozen 3-D Blu-Rays (some were dogs in terms of the film itself) but I have yet to experience andy ghosting or crosstalk. One of the best 3-D titles is Cameron’s (converted) TITANIC and his AVATAR. Considering what you probably spent on the TV, and assuming you have a 3-D Blu-Ray player you probably won’t be disappointed if you spend 20.00 (each) for the two titles I mentioned (that is what they’re going for at Amazon

  4. This isn’t so much a “Pros and cons of 3D” as it’s “GUYS YOU SHOULD LIKE 3D, WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU? GET WITH DA TIMES”

    • That’s not true. There are multiple mentions in the article that it’s totally valid for people to want to avoid 3D – we understand their concerns BUT the purpose of the article is to clear up confusion around some long-running arguments that aren’t true anymore.

      • I get the article, and I do think that 3D is in the process of improving, but COmeON does kind of have a point in that the article feels dismissive about virtually every legitimate gripe that surrounds 3D. I know that that might not have been the intent, but it comes across as an endorsement of the format. I do not think that the film industry as a whole deserves to have their 3D fixation applauded just yet.

    • yeah guys get with the times! its 3D you know that gimmick from the 50s?

      • @movieDude: THANK YOU! I’ve been saying this for years – movies have gone downhill ever since they brought in voice tracks, color and special effects! Enough with these gimmicks, right? ;)

        • hahaha touche :)

        • At the risk of coming across as humorless (which I’m really not!), were any of those other innovations accompanied by comparable negative feedback to 3D? Granted, early special effects could be awfully silly-looking, but part of the issue with 3D is that in some cases, it actually takes modern, incredibly refined high-tech films backwards (blurring during camera pans, deadend color).

          • I guess we’d need to find an incredibly old person to ask, but I think the problems you pointed out come from poorly-implemented 3D, not top-quality uses like Avatar or Hugo. Even Tron Legacy.

          • From articles I’ve read, they were. People complained about voices and colour not being real cinema. People still shoot in black/white to get that classic cinematic feel.

            As for blurry/stuttery pans, that is solved by HFR 3D, but some people complain about that as well (it doesn’t look like a movie etc.).

  5. You guys have missed the most valid point here: that 3D gives a lot of moviegoers headaches. That’s the main reason I won’t go see them, and the main reason my friends won’t go. Now granted, because of the type of 3D used, Avatar did not give me a headache, but that was the only exception. I saw Beowulf in 3D, and although it was cool, I had a massive headache afterwards. And I heard so many bad things about 3D with The Hobbit that I avoided it altogether and saw it in 2D.

    I saw Life of Pi in 2D, and was amazed by the cinematography and overall beauty of the film. I didn’t have to see it in 3D to enjoy it.

    Plus, I wear glasses, and 3D glasses don’t fit my face well.

    I agree with COmeON – you guys seem to like it and want us to go watch it that way. That’s great, but you aren’t covering all the issues that come up.

    • The number 4 “gimmicky” 3D section directly talks about uncomfortable 3D – it is a problem (along with the 10 percent of people that have eye problems that prevent them from even seeing 3D).

      BUT just as I mentioned to COmeOn, the purpose of the article wasn’t to make an argument for or against 3D or address all of the respective problems that come up – or to tell people they are wrong if they don’t like it. It’s to clear up some misconceptions about the format that we hear over and over and over in the comments of our articles.

      As stated in the conclusion, 3D still has a lot of challenges to overcome before it can deliver a quality experience for everyone. There is no question that 3D glasses are pain – especially for glass-wearers. That isn’t a misconception that needs to be addressed.

      • I have been reading the article and the comments, and the thing is, the list of “misconceptions” is pretty much every gripe that accompanies the 3D trend, many/most of which are indeed legitimate. So categorizing them as misconceptions comes across as dismissive. Sure, not every 3D has been “bad” but the complaints that viewers have are based on actual experiences, not urban myths spread on the street.

    • @katphoti: As someone who regularly gets motion sickness from some first-person games, I can sympathize with the pain of being in a minority of movie or entertainment audiences. I don’t think anyone is arguing that 2D should be done away with, or that 3D films shouldn’t at least have a 2D option on home video (and that’s a loooong way from being threatened).

      I’d understand your fears of people arguing that 3D should be industry-wide and used for every film, but that’s not really the case Ben is making at all.

  6. If 3D is done right I forget that it’s 3D after a couple of minutes, because I’m used to seeing in 3D every waking minute, hour, day, week, month, year of my life. It just disappears without any benefit. So basically all that good 3D does for a movie is cost me more money, darken the image and mute the colors.

    If it’s done badly, however, it is continously distracting and ruins the movie experience for me (even more).

    Quite frankly I strongly believe that people who are still being impressed by 3D and who still keep throwing money at it are about as dense as the average cat that is impressed every single time by a moving piece of string or a little foam ball (which would also explain the tremendous business that is professional ball sports). ;)

    • Um, besides being pompous and thinking you know what everyone who enjoys 3D is thinking, you’re quite wrong. I love 3D, not because it’s gimmicky, but because if used correctly it’s like looking into another world. Avatar, Prometheus, Toy Story 3, all used it very well, and actually enhanced the experience of the movie by making it seem as if they were right there with you. Next time, state an opinion instead of calling everyone who likes something an idiot.

      • @Brian West: I love 3D films for the exact same reason. There’s definitely a place for ‘flashy’ or ‘parody’ 3D (on a Friday night around Halloween, for instance) but the first time I got the sensation of falling in Avatar or How To Train Your Dragon (both excellent, subtle implementations of 3D) I knew I couldn’t argue its effect :)

    • “Which also explains the tremendous business that is professional ball sports.”

      Let’s put you on a line with 250 lb lineman wanting to tackle you as you systematically try to comb a field in a calculated scheme. Don’t act like pro sports players are all just big dumb jocks. Many of them have college degrees and are probably less pompous you.

      “Impressed like a cat every single time by a little string or foam ball.”

      Or a human impressed by people pretending to be other people in a made up reality.

      Check your head, son, and grow up.

      • “… Let’s put you on a line with 250 lb lineman …”
        What is this the 1980′s?

      • “Don’t act like pro sports players are all just big dumb jocks”

        I didn’t and I didn’t say that. In fact I wasn’t talking about the players at all, but about the audience, because I absolutely can’t fathom what’s so interesting about a ball going left and right.

        “Or a human impressed by people pretending to be other people in a made up reality.”

        Well, at least they tell a story and explore interesting themes, which is very, very different from the dullness of a ball being carried left and right. I can barely imagine anything more boring. Well, perhaps watching grass grow…

  7. I think the biggest question is still Is It Worth the Money At All?? And the answer, dear people, is NO haha

    • … and that’s your personal opinion ;) Which is totally valid for you – but not everyone.

    • That’s the kicker. I want to see the pros and cons if ticket prices were unaffected.

      It’s business over art with that premium surcharge.

  8. I have a 3D tv and I have to say for me its better then cinema’s 3D. To people who say that ‘good’ 3D is forgotten after the first 10mins and so doesnt add anything. The same can be said about high defination, you can enjoy a movie in sd too and you dont notice hd after the 10mins. Also the same can be said about hd audio. So do you guys think that bluray (and HDTV) is not worth it!

    • Apples and oranges. High Definition and surround sound don’t have any detractors that counterbalance their advantages. You don’t need to put on an extra pair of uncomfortable glasses that darkens the image and mutes the colors in order to enjoy HD. Neither do you have to wear headphones to enjoy surround sound. If some day they come up with really good 3D TVs or 3D movie theaters that work without glasses and that preserve the overall image quality instead of ruining it it would be whole different story and we can talk about it again. Until then 3D, in its current form, is useless.

      • I think “useless” is a pretty strong blanket statement. Is the 3D in Avatar “useless”? It is definitely “worthless” in certain films but I think “useless” is unfair to the creators who are trying to do interesting and worthwhile things with it.

        • Well, there are always the exceptions to the rule. I can only think of two movies where 3D actually added something to the experience. Avatar is indeed one of them, and the other one is Prometheus. All the other 3D movies that I watched (and those were plenty enough to make me a guilty accessory to the success of 3D) gained absolutely nothing from it and it even impacted many of them negatively.

      • I understand your point regarding the pros and cons of 3D and I can understand that you think its useless. But my point still stands, that is if you dont notice something then that doesnt mean that it isnt adding anything to the overall experience.

        • At this point most of my problems with 3D films comes from theaters having their lights waaaaaay too dim for a 3D film. Avatar was so bright throughout that it wasn’t a problem, but in my opinion, it completely ruined the look of Clash of the Titans.

          And I think you’ve got a point faxxal that you don’t realize how technology has advanced as you move with it. It’s only when you go back to watching the previous version (like when I first watched Avatar on Blue-ray without 3D) that it becomes clear. Dredd is a great example too: loved it in theaters and on Blu-ray, but know every second that the 3D experience made everything more visceral and close-up.

          • Yeap, the lights make the difference, and some theaters just project too dark. It’s super inconsistent from theater to theater I find as well.

  9. I thought this was a cool, informative feature. Really liked reading it.

    The biggest issue about 3D to me is the price. Where I live, it costs $9.00 for a matinee ticket and the 3D surcharge is $3.25 the last time I checked. To me, it doesn’t add that much to warrant the extra cost. The way I see it, you get the same movie whether you see it in 3D or 2D, so I’d rather save the few bucks and go with the 2D. That’s how I saw The Avengers and I enjoyed it a lot.

    • Cheers Chris! Glad it was useful.

      I totally agree with a lot of people’s reservations about 3D – ticket price included. I just also think a lot of the arguments we see on the site about 3D are pretty outdated.

      I’m can be pretty critical of 3D in our reviews and the overall goal here at Screen Rant is to help people make informed decisions about whether or not they should splurge for the extra money. Of course, doing that means that we have to accept that SOME 3D experiences will be worth the money – and, subsequently, that the format can be worthwhile.

      • I think I’d be more open to trying it for certain films (like Life of Pi or The Hobbit) if the cost of a regular ticket wasn’t so high. I go to my theater a lot during the course of a year so I’d rather save the money.

        The last time I saw a movie in 3D it was Thor. That post-converted job gave me a headache and kind of scared me off from doing that again.

  10. For 5 bucks, I will go around to anyone who wants to feel the physical aspects of the movies.

    Now if you pay for the experience and a guy get shot, kick, stabbed, thrown off a building, run over, set afire and blown up.

    I will give you the exact same experience.

    You will have to sign a waiver.

    • Haha! I think that’s 5D Jeff! You should get that patented before someone else beats (or stabs) you to it!

      • Or if someone wants a 48 fps viewing experience, you can just stand over them, and gently shake their head during fast-paced shots so their eyes can’t focus! ;)

        • @Andrew

          Hmmm. What if they make a new Rocky Movie?

          People coming out of the theater with swollen eyes and concussions.

        • 48fps is the exact opposite of what you said (it makes things sharper, not out of focus). It’s 24fps that blurs everything whenever the camera pans or things move quickly.

      • @Ben

        Yes, yes I WILL!

  11. 3D us useless and you know it. Stop making excuses for it.

  12. I’ve always hated 3D I wish it would just go away I blame you Cameron for putting Avatar in 3D now everything has to be in 3D. Seriously I saw avatar in 3D and it literally did nothing for me I didn’t see a difference except when I took the glasses off of course, and to be honest I didn’t care for the movie that much

  13. I Hate It!, Who wants to see a 3hr long movie wearing Glasses???? Not Me!

    • (everyone who wears glasses raises an eyebrow)

  14. When I ask people who say they don’t like 3D movies what the last movie they saw in 3D was, it usually ends up being something where they still used the paper glasses. Like Shark Boy and Lava Girl or something. I can get not wanting to take the whole family to see a 3D movie and dropping an extra $30, but honestly the up-charge for 3D isn’t that big a dent in the wallet of people who only see one or two movies a year (like me). A lot of the complaints from the average person seem to be exaggerated and coming from sheer stubbornness.

    • There’s definitely going to be resistance to any change, and when that happens in any situation not all of the arguments are…’current.’ There are valid reasons for why it doesn’t seem worth it for everyone, and I was incredibly skeptical when Avatar’s massive investment into the technology had studios thinking people were idiots who would just pay extra for the glasses, not the experience.

      They learned quickly that wasn’t the case, but it still bothers me from the corporate side of things. But when a lot of the directors I respect start coming around and saying that it really does make them happier on set, and capable of delivering an even better version of their vision…. I mean, they know better than I do, I think. That’s just my opinion though.

  15. As a glasses wearer, the big 3D glasses can be cunbersome, and recently I have been noticing the “muted colors/darkened image” effect. I get what Ben was trying to say here, but I think I fall largely on the side of peopele who think 3D viewings are not really necessary. (That said, I said the same thing about cell phones ten years ago.) But with a quality 3D experience so rare these days, it’s hard not to feel like people are just grabbing for my pockets. Like honestly, let’s take a gander at the list of quality 3D films vs. sucky 3D films. I rest my case.

  16. There should be no extra charge for 3D. This is the main problem. A family of 6 can cast over $100 to see a film in 3D. We just wait for the Bluray to come out and watch it at home on our 3D TV. Total cost $7. We rent the discs since they also overprice the 3D Bluray discs. Historically the movie going population has never been asked to pay for the technological advances in film until now. It is a blatant money grab. They can’t even blame the cost of the “eye-wear” since they reuse them. For the first 5 or so films we saw in 3D we did not have to pay any extra fee. We went to every 3D movie that came out. Now we go to one a year at most. And we don’t see it in 2D either since we want to see it in 3D. So in effect they are losing money by increasing the cost of the ticket price.

  17. 3D or Stereo as it’s called in the industry is just a fad. There are many issue with it from a technical stand point not to mention the cost. VFX houses charge double to work shots in Stereo, which is why every movie that comes out isn’t in 3d. You can shoot a film in stereo, but the cameras are very temperamental, just read about Joss Whedon headache with trying to shoot the after credit scene for Thor. Then there’s conversion, which is time consuming and until recently (Avengers) wasn’t very good. Until the cost comes down and the quality goes way up it’s not realistic for most directors to go that route unless your a James Cameron or Peter Jackson. Then there’s the consumers. Personally, I don’t think the final result on screen is worth the price bump, for what, a little extra depth and a headache, no thanks, most films are not even worth the price for a regular ticket, much less paying extra for a migraine.

    • I’m about your reference to Thor, since it wasn’t Joss Whedon that directed Thor (it was Kenneth Branagh), and it wasn’t shot in 3D but rather post converted.

  18. No 3D

  19. I’d rather not see movies in 3D because the only ones I have seen where the 3D was used extremely well and put me right there in the movie were Dredd and Life Of Pi, otherwise The Avengers, Harry Potter, Wrath Of The Titans and many others have felt like I’m watching characters being projected onto two different screens, one in front of the other.

    There’s also a price issue and the fact that I can’t even wear any kind of glasses without the bridge of my nose starting to hurt and then that pain spreading all across my head within a minute of putting them on (this goes for sunglasses as well as 3D glasses).

    I’m just hopeful that we moviegoers will eventually come to a point where we don’t need to wear glasses to see in the same kind of dimensions we do in everyday life and the technology becomes cheap enough to allow more people the chance to go see a movie more often than they do now.

  20. My biggest negative with 3D (which wasn’t mentioned) is wearing the 3D glass OVER your glasses (which is roughly half of the population). This really kills the bridge of my nose and I am continually adjusting them to alleviate the pain. This is of course very distracting for me.

    I keep going since I am addicted to IMAX (and all the IMAX movies these days are also 3D) but I wish there was a better solution like maybe a cheap, clip-on pair that would work with the theater screens.

    • I don’t know what the situation is in the US, but here in South Africa most theater companies have been tweaking the 3D glasses sell to movie goers. The last pair I bought was very light-weight and fit over my regular glasses easily (I only recall having to adjust them twice during the whole movie, as opposed to 10 million times ;)).

      I still need to check out those clip-on glasses that I’ve seen advertised, but they are a bit more expensive, and fairly hard to come by (and I can only assume they’ll make my regular glasses feel very heavy because of the added weight on the front/lens part.)

  21. Finally the feature is up, good work Ben! :)

    The entire 3D good or bad debate isn’t black and white and I think you did a great job of explaining that. Every movie uses 3D in a different way and at a different level of quality and eeeeveryone has different preferences, different tastes, and different expectations…. as with every form of entertainment. I personally prefer 2D but I’m still a bit interested in seeing where 3D technology goes and how it will grow. I haven’t dismissed it completely.

  22. Don’t remember where I read this but I think a large factor of the debate is visibility/biological. Apparently only about 50% of people can see “correctly” in 3D so obviously they (mostly) are interested in it. The other 50% either have problems with depth perception (brain thing) or eye problems or whatever thus they don’t care about it. The article compared this to to the transition to color which only a small fraction of people are colorblind which is why the acceptance was essentially unanimous.

    I think we’re going to have to leave it as let the people who like it enjoy it and if you don’t enjoy it, stop badgering us because 2D is never going to go away anyway.

    • Exactly! Even though directors are embracing the 3D format more, it’s pretty obvious that studios are aware of these widespread complaints, and others with vision problems. Hence why movies are released in both 2D and 3D, rather than just 3D.

  23. So 2D planes set at different depths is 3D?

    Because that’s what I see when I watch these so-called 3-D movies. It’s like a cross between a diorama made with magazine cut outs and a puppet show (neither of which have been appealing to me since I last used safety scissors).

    “3D” or 3D juxtaposition of 2D planes as it should more accurately be called, may not be a fad but I find that it adds absolutely nothing to the experience; save possibly a headache.

    Let me know when they have actual three dimensional movies that I can walk around while watching.

  24. The article lies. It is a fad.

  25. Gives me a headache every time I watch 3D. It’s a fad, a lot of people are walking away from 3D. Especially with this economy, people are just straight up not going to pay for it. It’ll die out like in the 1980′s when they first tried it then.

  26. My qualm is more that I just don’t see the point in 3D most the time. Often I’ve seen a film and afterwards thought, “that really didn’t need to be in 3D”. Dredd was a good one though, as well as the obvious ones like Avatar.

  27. I think Deathly Hallows Part 1 had a terrible post-conversion. In some scenes you could literally see the sort of ‘ghost’ or ‘double image. 3/4 of the screen in one scene was 3D, while the top right wasn’t, it was 2D, it was like someone put a piece of cloth over part of the lens

  28. Im not a fan of 3D. The studios can cram it you know where!!! The only film I ever saw in 3D that was excellent was Hugo.