If you’ve not noticed any of the hype around James Cameron’s Avatar then you’re probably a blue alien living on another planet.
The film has been touted as the poster boy for 3D technology – technology that is going to revolutionise cinema, and once it’s done that, it’s going to do the same to the home entertainment with 3D Blu-ray, 3D Sky HD and just for good measure 3D gaming.
Personally, I’m pretty excited about all of it, but predictably in many places there’s been a 3D backlash. 3D is just hype they say – it adds nothing to the film experience and wearing those darn glasses is a pain. And even worse, it’s just an excuse to push ticket prices up.
The commander-in-chief of this anti-3D crusade is the BBC’s film critic Mark Kermode, who has not been wowed by Avatar’s 3D trickery, from now on he’s going to stick the flat 2D versions of films, apparently.
While I think Kermode’s a good film reviewer, I disagree with him totally on 3D. In fact, there’s been a lot of nonsense written about 3D both for and against it. My favourite was a comment, actually in favour of 3D, that I heard on Radio Five Live from a listener responding to Kermode’s negative criticism.
The 3D version was better apparently as he took the glasses off during a film and it give a totally different experience. Well of course it would. 3D, or rather stereoscopic vision, works by overlaying two versions of the film over each other, and the polarised glasses cancel out the difference between the two of them, leaving you with a perception of depth. Without them, you’re looking at two films at once, and that’s a just blurry mess. So yes, it’s would be a different experience.
But it’s the 3D naysayers that I’m really after. If you’re getting a headache, then it’s probably best you go see an optician as modern 3D shouldn’t give you any problems at all.
The fact is there are always going to be those who don’t like progress, as progress means change. But without it we would never have had genuine improvements in cinema such as digital projection, IMAX, Dolby Digital and DTS surround sound, 70mm film widescreen, or even colour. Is 'the glasses are a bit uncomfortable' the best you can come up with? I’ve worn them several times and I’ve not had a problem, and I’m already wearing a pair of specs.
Some also have a pop at the polarising glasses for reducing the brightness level from the screen, and there is something to that, but after sitting through an intense three-hour film, a little less brightness is probably a good thing.
Of course all the technological trickery in the world can’t cover up a rubbish film, and so criticism of Avatar as being derivative or having a flimsy plot are fairer – but that’s not the point.
3D may add a pleasing sense of depth to the visual experience, but even I’ll admit that it can’t actually add any depth to characters. For some, though, the technology used in Avatar was actually too good. In fact, there are reports of people being depressed after seeing the film as, as to quote the London Metro, 'it makes real life seem imperfect'. There you go, that’s the spirit. As for the naysayers, I say, deal with it.
Most of the big films this year are coming out in 3D, Toy Story 3, Alice in Wonderland and Tron to name but three, and next year it’s likely to be more. Of course not every film will be in 3D, though personally I think that’s a shame. I want Driving Miss Daisy: Part Deux – in 3D.
With the Blu-ray 3D standard finalised and Sky launching a 3D channel, this year will also see 3D make a real push for the home. Yes, you’ll need a new 3D compatible player, a new TV or projector and for the hell of it, a new AV receiver as well. The current HDMI standard is 1.3, but it’s not going to work for 3D, so your current amp won’t work. Expect to see HDMI 1.4 kit in the shops this summer.
But that’s, literally, the price of change and I say embrace it.