Roger Ebert has been somewhat of a whipping boy for fans of video games, but he is an incredibly intelligent guy, and a critic who deserves our respect. So when he speaks out against 3D, and has arguably the greatest film editor arguing in his corner, maybe it's time to listen.
As we head towards a 3D future, with the 3DS and the PlayStation 3 in particular, the problems with 3D become increasingly important. This concept that 3D is an important feature we must pay a premium for is an idea that has become infused with video gaming - and not everyone agrees with the sentiment.
Least of all Walter Murch, an esteemed Film Editor whose work on movies like Apocalypse Now and Cold Mountain has earned him four academy awards. He claims that 3D, as it exists today, is problematic. The issue is that our eyes - and brains - simply can't cope with the effect over long periods of time. As he explains in a letter sent directly to Roger Ebert.
The biggest problem with 3D, though, is the "convergence/focus" issue. A couple of the other issues — darkness and "smallness" — are at least theoretically solvable. But the deeper problem is that the audience must focus their eyes at the plane of the screen — say it is 80 feet away. This is constant no matter what.
But their eyes must converge at perhaps 10 feet away, then 60 feet, then 120 feet, and so on, depending on what the illusion is. So 3D films require us to focus at one distance and converge at another. And 600 million years of evolution has never presented this problem before. All living things with eyes have always focussed and converged at the same point.
Murch accepts that 3D works, from a technical standpoint, but the work we have to do causes an inordinate amount of strain.
We can do this. 3D films would not work if we couldn't. But it is like tapping your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time, difficult. So the "CPU" of our perceptual brain has to work extra hard, which is why after 20 minutes or so many people get headaches. They are doing something that 600 million years of evolution never prepared them for. This is a deep problem, which no amount of technical tweaking can fix. Nothing will fix it short of producing true "holographic" images.
With the 3DS months from release, and Nintendo stressing that they don't want children playing for extended periods, will we start to see an increasing amount of problems with the 3D effect? Time will tell, but there is a growing opposition to 3D and an indication from consumers that not everyone wants this tech to become ubiquitous. We've had no problems with it personally, but know plenty of people that struggle - and this may prevent the tech from properly hitting the mainstream.
Why 3D doesn't work and never will. Case closed. [Chicago Sun-Times]