Posted by Mark Withall: 2010-03-31

I’ve recently seen two of the new wave of 3D movies sweeping across the globe (Avatar and Alice in Wonderland). These movies have received great praise. However, I’d like to take some time out to step back and take an ‘objective’ look at the 3D element of these movies.

Firstly, Avatar. I, rather carelessly, went to see this film whilst wearing glasses. This is not, in general, a good idea (unless, of course, that is the only way you are able to see). The problem is that these 3D films require you to wear another pair of glasses. This second pair of glasses rests in an uncomfortable possible further down the nose and gives the constant feeling of being about to fall off (the glasses, not the nose). The film itself looked very nice; as long as the shots were wide shots of the open countryside. Any close up shots had the problem that most of the frame is out of focus, which is perfectly fine in 2D but the brain doesn’t seem to be able to cope with it in 3D and gives many people headaches when looking away from the focused areas. Having the whole frame in focus would be a great improvement to 3D films (though may be hard in practice). Another close up element that cause problems was rapid movement across the screen. The picture seemed unable to keep up with this and cause the image to be very blurred. More frames per second would probably help. The final issue was that, on several occasions, things poked unnaturally far out of the screen; making it appear has if the objects in question had dramatically increased in length.

Now on to Alice in Wonderland. This had the same problems as Avatar. However, an additional thing that I noticed was how, often, people didn’t seem to really be part of the scene. They floated on top of the scene with a shiny glow around them. This may be fine in Wonderland but I doubt it was supposed to happen in the ‘real’ world scenes. This may have been an artefact of the CGI processing used in the film.

The two films themselves weren’t bad but I suspect I would have enjoyed them much more in their 2D versions. I’m sure that many of these issues will be ironed out in the coming years. The frame rate is a particular issue that is long overdue being addressed (even for 2D films).