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Mid-Week Poll: Best Theatrical 3D Format

Yeah, we know. Some people can’t stand 3D and never want to watch movies that way. Regardless, 3D is still big business in theaters, and some films genuinely benefit from the third dimension. Right now, a few different 3D formats vie for your dollars. If you’ve checked them out, which do you think gives the best experience?

The two biggest players in theatrical 3D are RealD and IMAX. RealD requires that viewers wear passive glasses with circularly-polarized lenses, whereas IMAX glasses are linearly polarized. In practical terms, what this means is that IMAX requires that you hold your head upright and level, or else the picture will suffer “crosstalk” artifacts. RealD is more flexible if you tilt your head, for example if you like to rest it on your Significant Other’s shoulder (as my wife does mine). On the other hand, IMAX tends to have larger screens and brighter projectors.

Dolby 3D uses color filtering to create its 3D effect. Some viewers (including myself) may be sensitive to color separation artifacts during motion with this process, but other viewers may not be able to see this at all.

Viewers in XpanD theaters wear active shutter glasses, similar to those used with 3D TVs. (In fact, XpanD manufactures glasses for many 3D TVs.)

As far as which produces a better 3D effect with more depth and “pop-out,” that can vary from theater to theater or movie to movie.

I tend to favor RealD, but I know people who swear by IMAX 3D as the only type they will tolerate.

Do you have a preference on this?

What Is the Best Theatrical 3D Format?

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12 comments

  1. Bob

    I’ve seen some pretty good shows with RealD but I prefer IMax when it’s done right. Prometheus was excellent at the IMax, but I’ve been to the IMax when one of their projectors was off by a frame and that was really bad anytime anything moved (oh yeah, it was a movie!!).

    IMax is moving to electronic projection which will fix synchronization problems at the cost of true 70mm IMax resolution, but for movie releases that is a moot point since most aren’t filmed in 70mm to begin with.

  2. EM

    None of the answers apply to me. “None” comes closest—not because “3D sucks”, but because I think I’ve viewed only one theatrical 3D format (RealD) and cannot have formed an honest preference.

    Just as I was loading this page, in another window I came across a tabloidish piece (some text, mostly video) about The Hobbit inducing headaches and nausea, attributed to its 3D and high-speed framerate (http://www.cincinnatibell.net/tv/3/player/vendor/Zazoom%2C%20LLC/player/fiveminute/asset/gnrc_18182619).

    • William Henley

      I must agree – while I chose RealD, I haven’t seen any of the other variations. They sound ghastly, though. RealD works really well, though, so that is probably why most theaters have gone to that standard.

  3. BabaGaNoosh

    You can tell when a director is utilizing 3D as another cylinder as opposed to a rear spoiler. I can’t imagine seeing Life of Pi, Avatar, or Hugo in 2D when I know what the director wants me to see. Once the glasses boundary is cleared, people will choose to see 3D because it is another level of immersion. Glasses, as much as I am willing to bypass the “discomfort”, are still the biggest thing holding 3D back.

  4. BabaGaNoosh

    and, by the way, I voted IMAX for screen size, soundtrack volume, and immersive 3D….though, I do have an issue with IMAX ghosting sometimes.

  5. mattedscreen

    RealD for me. I like Imax, but like the article states, it does require a centered sitting position. I’ve had to sit on the sidelines for some of their 3D releases and the further away from center you get, the worse the experience. Plus with RealD I can take home my glasses and use them on my 3DTV set. never, ever enjoyed active shutter, had the batteries go out at a screening once, crappiest experience ever. I love 3D but agree that not all movies should be 3D, if there is a necessary WOW factor, Hobbit, Prometheus, Avatar etc. I’ll pony up, otherwise it’s 2D

  6. Barsoom Bob

    Currently, in the theaters I prefer the RealD system, but I would have voted for my Plasma TV at home if it was an option.

    Oddly enough, a couple of weeks back when I saw Life of Pi, we were given glasses that had a mirror finish on the outer side of the lenses. I don’t know what system that was but it gave what appeared to be a brighter, clearer picture than the dark sun glass type glasses you usually get. The loving attention to the 3D that went into this movie may have been the contributing factor but I did see the movie again with my wife and a friend with the traditional dark glasses, and it did seem to make the image a little darker.

  7. Captain_Celluloid

    Hey Josh;

    Interesting question sltho I think it’s pretty much rendered moot by the
    wide variance in theatre projection light levels.

    Unfortunately, with the notable exception of IMAX, none of these systems have any control over what light level an individual theatre opts to use.

    Any system with enough light pushed thru it will look better than any other system with a low light level.

    To wit; when Peter Jackson premiered THE HOBBIT they used two
    projectors to yield at light level of 12 ft/l [ foot-lamberts ] which is a massive increase over the 3 or 4 net ft/l we get in most multiplexes . . . unless the bulb i old then it;s even less . . and yellow to boot.

    RE: light levelss . . . . a shout out to CINEMARK / TINSELTOWN multiplexes which have committed to maintaining a 6 ft/l light level on their 3D screens. It does make a HUGE difference.

    I suggest we patronize the 3D theatres that offer the highest light level regardless of the system used.

    best,

  8. tomandshell

    I love the giant screen that IMAX provides, but if I turn my head even a little, I get ghosting at a 3D screening. There have been times (Alice in Wonderland) when I couldn’t get rid of the crosstalk no matter how I turned my head. So IMAX is great for 2D, but I voted RealD for 3D.

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