My 3D Conversion

In the 14 months that I’ve been contributing to The Bonus View, I should have made my personal opinion about cinematic 3D more than clear: I don’t like it. It adds nothing to a movie. It’s inconsistent. It’s a gimmick just to help crappy movies (like ‘Clash of the Titans’) become box office successes. Yet if you read my Blu-ray reviews, you may have noticed that my opinion about 3D is starting to sway. Let me explain why.

When I purchased my new television last year, the salesman at Best Buy (of course) tried to sell me on something larger and much more expensive. My home theater room is not very big. No matter where I sit, I’m never far from the television. For that reason, I don’t need a huge set. In fact, too large a set could be a blinding distraction because of how much head movement it would require. What I bought was perfect for the home I’m in. Despite mentioning that and the fact that I had already researched the television I wanted to buy, the salesman tried to sell me a massive Samsung 3D model. First off, it was too big. Secondly, I wanted nothing to do with 3D. And third, I already knew what I wanted. But he just kept insisting that I put on the 3D glasses and see how great it was. Just to get him off my back (and to get him to ring me up), I slapped on the glasses, looked at ‘Avatar‘ for half a second and said, “Thanks but no thanks.”

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine bought a 65″ LG passive 3D television to fill the large theater room in his new home. When I walked in, he had the 3D ‘Tangled‘ Blu-ray running. Without any glasses on, I saw the usual blur that I was determined I wouldn’t enjoy any more if I put the glasses on than if I left them off. But when I did put those glasses on, everything changed.

When watching 3D in theaters, my mind registers the abnormal crosstalk halos more than it recognizes the three-dimensional look. At the start of every 3D movie, I notice the depth to the picture, but that sense is always fleeting. By the second half of the movie, I completely forget that it’s there. However, when watching ‘Tangled’ on my buddy’s television, I learned that home theater 3D – in the case with his television, at least – can be so much better than theatrical 3D. The depth was noticeably deeper, which gave each disc we demoed a whole new sense of reality. I don’t know if the projection of light causes it to appear less deep, but theatrical 3D is far from the best 3D out there. 3D TV is where it’s at. I already want to upgrade my television to something like the one my friend has. Even if that takes a while, I’ve decided to start purchasing 3D/2D Blu-ray combo packs when available just so that I can have a 3D collection when I do make that upgrade to 3D TV.

If you read my theatrical reviews, you’ll notice that I’ve recommended seeing two of this summer’s recent blockbuster in 3D: ‘Prometheus’ and ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’. Why? Because they carried the same quality of depth that I loved when demoing 3D Blu-rays on my friend’s LG set. And, dammit, they look good.

Where I used to be a cynic, I’m now a fan. Sure, horrible 3D conversions will continue to plague future, flat pop-up-book looking movies, but so long as these good 3D presentations are available to us, I’ll be a fan of them.


  1. William Henley

    I completely understand. I am a 3D fanboy, but after getting the 3DTV, I have actually started watching movies at the theater in 2D. My passive Vizio just has such a better picture than anything I have seen a the theater.

    There are actually two discs I am going to recommend to pick up – both shot natively in 3D, and both fairly cheap:

    What is neat about the second one is that the movie is encoded in 3 different 3D formats – Blu-Ray 3D and two anaglyph formats, so pretty much anyone can enjoy it. I haven’t tried the anaglyph yet, but the 3D is pretty much some of the best out there.

    Also, just pretty much pick up every single 3D Imax film you can get your hands on. If you want any suggestions (in addition to River at Risk), I like Ultimate G’s, the ocean films, and Dinosaurs: Giants of Pategonia.

    As far as movies, The Three Musketeers is about the only feature-length one I have seen with good 3D. As far as animated films, I like Puss In Boots..

  2. Drew

    Absolutely! Home 3D is vastly superior to cinema 3D. I’ve been telling everyone I know this for over a year.

    Home 3D is spectacular!

    If theatrical 3D looked 80% as good, theatres would have no problem selling a huge percentage of 3D tickets.

  3. I have found passive 3D at home to be an unwatchable mess. Even on 50″ screens the loss of detail is staggering. Everytime I see a passive LG at Magnolia (Resident Evil BD) or a passive Vizio at Costco (Into the Deep IMAX BD_ I am just flabbergasted that anyone would ever buy such an inferior picture.

    I will say that the motion looks great on these sets, though, but I prefer 1080p quality detail to slightly smoother 3D.

    • William Henley

      I agree that its superior to theater 3D. Passive is fine for me, because, at the distance I sit from my TV, I really cannot tell much of a difference. If I sat closer, or if I had a bigger set, the 540 would annoy me. I can really tell at the store on the 50 inch sets when I am standing right in front of them, but at home, on the 42 inch that I am sitting 7 feet from, you can’t tell the difference. The convienance of a passive set over an active set is staggering. And let’s put it this way – I have 12 pairs of 3D glasses, 3 of which are kids pairs. How much would that cost you if it was active?

      Truthfully, on smaller sets where cost is a factor, or if you are going to have more than 2 or 3 people watching at once, active is just impractical.

      Truthfully, though, if you are complaining about loss of detail on a 50 inch screen, you are sitting too close to your screen.

  4. Drew

    Yes, active 3D is definitely superior. However, I feel that even passive 3D and the loss of detail suffered by only delivering quasi-540p is still superior in depth and overall 3D experience to what we see in the theatre. I own both passive — for the kids — and active 3D.

  5. I have an active 3D 50″ plasma. I got it mainly because it was such a good deal, thinking I would barely use the 3D. However, I must admit I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

    I felt much the same way about 3D, especially in the cinema. It usually does little for me. Avatar, for example, left me thinking there was no real point. In the home, I have to say the new Three Musketeers sold me on it. Whatever you think of Paul Anderson, he’s one of the few who’s really taken to doing it well. He knows how to set the shot up and keep the movement and cutting to a minimum so you can actually appreciate the 3D.

    In fact it seems to have forced him to go back to a more effective old-style form of film making without all the hectic camera movement and cutting and poor composition that plagues a lot of modern action movies.

    I still think it’s a bit of a gimmick, and I wouldn’t want to watch too many movies in 3D, but for some it certainly can be good fun. Musketeers in 3D makes Transformers 3 in 3D feel like its made by an amateur in comparison. 😉

  6. Barsoom Bob

    I’m going to THIRD that opinion on The 3 Musketeers. It was really shot native 3D and Anderson brought the equipment into these beautiful beyond belief, real, old European castles and estates. The “you are there” feeling in places that woud be totally thrilling to really be “there”. It is fascinating to stare into that depth on the screen. Anderson has a couple of 3D movies under his belt and has gotten pretty good at it. Of cours,e his movies are pretty silly and this film is no exception, but it really was fun. If I want the faithful version I’ll dig out Gene Kelly’s or Richard Lester’s version.

  7. Wow, these positive comments make me want to buy ‘The Three Musketeers’. Awesome job on being salesmen, guys!
    I have an active Sony 3DTV at home. I’m nearsighted, with quite a difference between both eyes, which makes 3D hard to see no matter what equipment I use. That said, I have a few discs that pleased me (Tangled, Tintin, Pirates IV) and a few that disappointed me (Tron Legacy, especially, is one blue mess to me — strange, considering that famous HDD iconoclast vihdeeohfieuhl considered it the best 3D disc on the market).

    • William Henley

      In Ton Legacy, only the parts that take place in the Digital World are in 3D, the rest of the movie is 2D. On the plus side, you can take the glasses off and rest your eyes during the non-3D sceens. There are some really cool 3D scenes, but the movie as a whole is underwhelming.

      Yeah, definately pick up The Three Musketeers if you haven’t already. Not only is it some of the best 3D out there, but its actually a pretty good movie.

  8. Drew

    I’ll chime in to concur about ‘The Three Musketeers’. Even if you end up hating the film, the 3D will knock your socks off! It’s leaps and bounds ahead of any other live action 3D movie. I don’t know quite how they did it, but there’s just something entirely different about it. It’s almost literally unbelievable!

  9. paulb

    I buy 3d version of the BR if available but don’t have 3d set yet. I will be buying one once we get to 4k w/passive. I can see the flicker with active shutter glasses so tire my eyes but I’m not interested in buying BR and getting 1/2 the image quality. Little less of a problem for animated movies but for live action I want to see all the detail. Hope all visually interesting movies take on 3d and 48fps+ (as that helps with the issues as well).

    • I have to ask, when you used the active shutter glasses, was it in a brightly lit/daylight room? I pick up the flicker then, and it can tire your eyes. But if you don’t mind leaving most 3D viewing for the evening, active really makes the difference, with the extra full detail.

  10. I really enjoyed The Three Musketeers. It’s a really good old-fashioned over-the-top adventure movie with a heart. It could’ve leapt out of the 80s, just with modern production and effects.

    I think one of the other big factors for the 3D, is that the vast majority of the film is brightly lit. It’s a pleasure watching almost every scene of the film.

    As Julian said, Tron Legacy was a murky mess. If you want a couple of great 3D demo scenes, I think pop-in the Musketeers and check out the introductory scene of D’Artangon where he’s practicing with his father and the scene where he talks to the king, and the king tells him about his ‘friend’ who has difficulty talking to a lady. That scene, when they go to see the queen, looks superb. The detail on things like the table and costumes and the feeling of depth is superb. And honestly, while those scenes kinda stood out for me in convincing me of the 3D, the whole film is gob-smacking in 3D. It really is a film where you can appreciate the incredible detail of the costumes and sets/locations in 3D.

    Regardless what you think of the film, if you’re just looking at it from the 3D perspective, even the weakest 3D scenes are better than the vast majority of other live-action 3D films out there. (Probably the weakest is the dark beginning, and only because of a little cross-talk in the backgrounds which seems to be a symptom of all dark scenes in any 3D film. It’s still head-and-shoulders above most)

    Honestly don’t understand why the film wasn’t a big hit. It got compared a lot to the Pirates of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, but it puts them all to shame in every respect.

  11. John Burton

    “Hugo” made me re-think 3D. The way it looked on my Panasonic plasma was nothing short of stunning. After watching “The Dark Knight Rises” at my local IMAX theater, and having the sound being as bad as it was in the theater that day… Home may be the only place I’ll watch movies.