Huge argument: Is 3D a gimmick or a useful device?

by Eric Melin on June 4, 2009

in Blogs

I got into a pretty heated IM argument with longtime Scene-Stealers sitegoer Phil Fava from Vineland, NJ this morning on the future of 3D. We covered a lot of serious ground and it echoed sentiment I’ve heard before, so I reprinted it here with his permission (language and all). What do you think about 3D? Chime in below!

pixar up(10:38:30 AM) Phil: Saw “Up” in 3-D last night
(10:38:44 AM) Eric: cool
(10:39:14 AM) Phil: This was my mini Facebook status review: “Up” was fucking incredible. It had an aesthetic rivaling “The Wizard of Oz” and “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and literally one of the most moving stories I’ve seen put to film. Also, it was really funny.
(10:39:30 AM) Phil: And now I will tell you about the 3-D experience
(10:39:38 AM) Eric: 3D obviously didnt ruin it for ya
(10:40:28 AM) Phil: Yeah, but it didn’t improve it
(10:40:36 AM) Eric: hmm
(10:40:43 AM) Phil: And it detracted from it enough to the point that I wish I’d seen it regularly
(10:40:52 AM) Eric: wow
(10:41:14 AM) Phil: 3-D IS a gimmick, and “Up” clearly is not the film that needs such a gimmick to be watchable
(10:41:31 AM) Eric: but it wasn’t a gimmick in Coraline
(10:41:55 AM) Phil: What did it add to the film other than ticket sales?
(10:42:09 AM) Phil: Did the film really benefit from things poking out at you?
(10:42:19 AM) Eric: it increased the surreal atmosphere of the “other” world scenes
(10:42:26 AM) Eric: absolutely
(10:42:33 AM) Phil: Did you see it without 3-D?
(10:42:36 AM) Phil: And compare?
(10:42:39 AM) Eric: nope
(10:42:43 AM) Phil: Aha
(10:42:46 AM) Phil: See?
(10:42:52 AM) Eric: but they designed scenes specifically for that purpose
(10:42:58 AM) Eric: Up didnt
(10:43:01 AM) Phil: I know
(10:43:03 AM) Eric: Up was processed later
(10:43:08 AM) Phil: That’s where I’m going with this
(10:43:22 AM) Eric: then you cant call it a distraction all the time
(10:43:27 AM) Phil: Certain shots weren’t in 3-D at all
(10:43:38 AM) Eric: it all depends on the movie and the artist’s intent
(10:43:39 AM) Phil: And when I would take off the glasses
(10:43:48 AM) Phil: The non-fuzzy shots looked better than they did with the glasses on
(10:44:02 AM) Phil: And the 3-D stuff didn’t really do anything
(10:44:32 AM) Phil: 3-D really is a ticket selling gimmick
(10:44:36 AM) Phil: For shitty movies like Beowulf
(10:44:41 AM) Phil: And for good ones like this and Coraline
(10:46:35 AM) Phil: In watching this movie, I can safely say that the only way 3-D is even noticeable or effective is when things protrude from the screen, and that’s really lame, so
coraline 3d (10:46:37 AM) Phil: In summation
(10:46:38 AM) Phil: Fuck 3-D
(10:46:59 AM) Eric: for “Up,” you mean
(10:47:13 AM) Phil: See, you didn’t see Coraline regularly
(10:47:16 AM) Phil: And I think if you had
(10:47:28 AM) Eric: i LOVED it in 3D
(10:47:31 AM) Phil: You’d notice that the atmosphere would’ve been fine
(10:47:38 AM) Phil: I think you just loved it, period
(10:47:42 AM) Eric: but 3D was better than fine in that movie
(10:47:47 AM) Phil: No
(10:47:51 AM) Phil: The movie was better than fine
(10:47:57 AM) Phil: The art direction itself was better than fine
(10:48:31 AM) Eric: no i watched the director talk about how they used 3D and i agree that Coraline used 3D well
(10:48:38 AM) Phil: Hahahaha
(10:48:56 AM) Eric: 3D is a tool
(10:49:03 AM) Phil: Yes
(10:49:10 AM) Phil: To make money
(10:49:10 AM) Eric: that tool can be used in a gimmicky way
(10:49:19 AM) Eric: or to enhance storytelling
(10:49:28 AM) Phil: Enhance storytelling?!
(10:49:30 AM) Phil: You’re insane
(10:49:33 AM) Eric: i’m not
(10:49:41 AM) Eric: you’re just wrong
(10:49:43 AM) Eric: admit it
(10:49:52 AM) Eric: in “Up,” it was an afterthought
(10:49:56 AM) Phil: Directors and actors have to talk about how great their shitty movies are all the time
(10:50:02 AM) Phil: Why would it be different for 3-D?
(10:50:08 AM) Eric: Coraline used it WHILE designing it
(10:50:13 AM) Phil: Yeah
(10:50:22 AM) Eric: AND Coraline used stop-motion puppets
(10:50:34 AM) Eric: do seeing actual 3D objects in 3D was amazing
(10:50:42 AM) Eric: “so, not “do”
(10:51:00 AM) Phil: You do see objects in movies in 3-D
(10:51:14 AM) Phil: Here’s how it is
(10:51:23 AM) Eric: http://www.scene-stealers.com/blogs/sxsw-2009-selick-rodriguez-imdb-observe-and-report/
(10:51:34 AM) Phil: 3-D is only noticeable when shit pokes out at you
(10:51:36 AM) Phil: And that’s lame
(10:51:38 AM) Phil: So who cares?
(10:51:47 AM) Phil: It has NO other purpose
(10:51:50 AM) Eric: Selick explained how “Coraline” did more than make objects jump out of the screen at its audience, using the technology to “transform space” in his stop-motion world, arranging some perspectives of Coraline’s nightmare world for maximum uncomfortability.The goal was to envelop the audience, not merely trick them.
up carl fredrickson(10:52:09 AM) Eric: are you done yet?
(10:52:11 AM) Eric: lol
(10:52:35 AM) Phil: Am I done?!
(10:52:40 AM) Phil: You’re quoting yourself!
(10:53:24 AM) Phil: And I don’t care how it well it’s used or to what end
(10:53:26 AM) Phil: It’s a gimmick
(10:54:05 AM) Eric: was sound a gimmick?
(10:54:16 AM) Eric: i think u better back up there, hombre
(10:54:33 AM) Phil: I think you better watch that tone
(10:54:42 AM) Eric: anything that accompanies film CAN be used as a gimmick, but it doesn’t have to be
(10:54:53 AM) Phil: Here’s the thing with sound:
(10:55:07 AM) Phil: Came about in, what, 1930 or ’31
(10:55:08 AM) Phil: Yeah?
(10:55:09 AM) Phil: Yeah
(10:55:14 AM) Eric: 27
(10:55:25 AM) Phil: Fuck
(10:55:40 AM) Phil: I had this shit memorized when I was real into Nosferatu
(10:55:50 AM) Eric: jazz singer
(10:56:02 AM) Phil: Oh wow you’re so smart
(10:56:03 AM) Phil: Fuck you
(10:56:12 AM) Eric: defensive?
(10:56:21 AM) Phil: Pretentious?
(10:56:33 AM) Eric: nope, just correct.
(10:56:38 AM) Phil: And pretentious
(10:56:39 AM) Phil: Moving on
(10:57:02 AM) Phil: Even fucking Chaplin (despite his best wishes) adopted sound eventually
(10:57:05 AM) Eric: just because you dont see 3D’s potential doesn’t mean people can’t use it to enhance story
(10:57:05 AM) Phil: Within a decade or so
(10:57:12 AM) Phil: 3-D’s been around for a long time
(10:57:14 AM) Phil: And it sucks shit
(10:57:17 AM) Phil: It doesn’t add realism
(10:57:22 AM) Eric: it HAS sucked shit
(10:57:31 AM) Eric: because it wasn’t developed enough yet
(10:57:48 AM) Eric: you don’t need realism for a movie to be good!
(10:57:56 AM) Eric: Coraline depends on the unreal!
(10:58:00 AM) Phil: I don’t mean realism in that way
(10:58:01 AM) Eric: that’s why 3D worked!
(10:58:05 AM) Phil: I meant in terms of physicality
(10:58:19 AM) Phil: The appearance of places being tangible or whatever
(10:58:22 AM) Phil: Or objects or people
(10:58:25 AM) Phil: It doesn’t do that
(10:58:29 AM) Phil: It’s just distracting
(10:58:48 AM) Phil: You’re arguing something different
(10:58:56 AM) Phil: Tons of my favorite movies aren’t realistic
(10:59:05 AM) Phil: In terms of story or character or setting
(11:00:08 AM) Eric: how can something that is purposefully used by the director to achieve a feeling from the audience “distracting” if it achieves that goal?
(11:00:16 AM) Eric: it’s not
(11:00:22 AM) Eric: it’s effective
(11:00:51 AM) Eric: you may want to see Coraline in 3D and wait for Jamas Cameron’s Avatar before u pass any more judgement
(11:01:19 AM) Phil: You may want to go back in time and NOT see Coraline in 3-D (unless that option was unavailable)
(11:01:36 AM) Eric: not necessary
3d glasses theater(11:01:46 AM) Eric: already saw that it worked beautifully
(11:01:54 AM) Eric: nothing more to glean from a 2D version
(11:01:56 AM) Phil: No you didn’t!
(11:01:58 AM) Phil: Hahahaha
(11:02:05 AM) Phil: You saw that the FILM worked beautifully
(11:02:16 AM) Phil: How tall are you?
(11:02:17 AM) Eric: no, the 3D film
(11:02:34 AM) Eric: uh oh…here comes the analogy
(11:02:38 AM) Eric: 6ft.
(11:02:47 AM) Phil: Okay
(11:02:56 AM) Phil: So that means I have a good chance of winning when we fight over this
(11:04:15 AM) Eric: funny
(11:04:29 AM) Eric: the last gasp of a dying argument
(11:04:51 AM) Phil: It was a joke, you dickwad
(11:05:01 AM) Phil: And I will argue this all day
(11:05:15 AM) Phil: Except you ultimately lose because you didn’t see Coraline in 2-D
(11:05:17 AM) Eric: i have a feeling that if I engeged in the same kind of arguments i do with JD
(11:05:21 AM) Phil: So your frame of reference is limited
(11:05:28 AM) Eric: that you would end up punching me in the mouth
(11:05:33 AM) Phil: Hahahahahahahaha
(11:05:39 AM) Phil: It was a joke!
(11:05:46 AM) Eric: true, but still…
(11:05:50 AM) Phil: I was more or less wondering because I watched a review earlier
(11:05:52 AM) Phil: And I was like
(11:05:55 AM) Eric: btw, did u see “Up” in 2d?
(11:06:00 AM) Phil: “Either JD is a midget or Eric is the tallest man ever”
(11:08:20 AM) Phil: Yeah, parts of it I did
(11:08:30 AM) Phil: Because when I would remove the glasses and look at the non-processed shots
(11:08:36 AM) Phil: They looked better than the processed ones
(11:08:43 AM) Phil: Clearer
(11:08:56 AM) Phil: Brighter (partly due to the fact that the 3-D glasses are basically sunglasses)
(11:09:22 AM) Phil: And the ones that were processed were indistinguishable from the regular ones with the glasses on
(11:09:25 AM) Phil: They added nothing
(11:09:30 AM) Phil: And if they HAD added something
(11:09:31 AM) Phil: For me
(11:09:37 AM) Phil: It would’ve detracted and distracted
(11:10:15 AM) Eric: Can I reprint this conversation on the site?
(11:10:22 AM) Phil: Hahahaha
(11:10:25 AM) Eric: it’s actually got a lot of good stuff in it
(11:10:30 AM) Eric: seriously
(11:10:32 AM) Phil: That would be awesome

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Vidsub June 4, 2009 at 1:20 pm

I saw Up in 3d, and I personally like it better when the 3d isnt all gimmicky like in Monsters vs aliens. I liked how the backgrounds looked in 3d in Up, and it personally added to the movie for me.

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2 Vidsub June 4, 2009 at 1:20 pm

I saw Up in 3d, and I personally like it better when the 3d isnt all gimmicky like in Monsters vs aliens. I liked how the backgrounds looked in 3d in Up, and it personally added to the movie for me.

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3 ShangoPrime June 4, 2009 at 2:25 pm

It’s difficult and slightly painful to wear glasses on top of pre-existing glasses. Definitely hurt what would’ve been and “UP-LIFTING” experience. Seriously, whats “UP” with that?!

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4 ShangoPrime June 4, 2009 at 2:25 pm

It’s difficult and slightly painful to wear glasses on top of pre-existing glasses. Definitely hurt what would’ve been and “UP-LIFTING” experience. Seriously, whats “UP” with that?!

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5 Brian June 4, 2009 at 2:30 pm

I’ll freely admit I’m a total sucker for 3D. When I was a kid my Dad took me to a late-night showing of The Creature from the Black Lagoon in old school black and white 3D. It was one of the coolest movie going experiences I’ve ever had. Frankly I don’t care about the argument over 3D taking away from or adding to the story. I think 3D movies are fun, just like roller coasters or haunted houses. I loved My Bloody Valentine 3D. I thought Monsters vs. Aliens was fun. I enjoyed Meet the Robinsons in 3D. Has it made me buy tickets to movies I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, yes, and I’ve had a good time with almost all of them. That doesn’t mean I’m waiting with baited breath for The Godfather 3D. Some things it just isn’t suited for, but I’d love a chance to check out Speed Racer in 3D, and I’m sure Eric would too. In the end I think it’s pretty simple math. Movies = Fun; 3D = Fun; 3D Movies = 2x Fun. So grab a few friends, a 3D animated or horror movie, and let the good times roll, right out of the screen and into your lap!

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6 Brian June 4, 2009 at 2:30 pm

I’ll freely admit I’m a total sucker for 3D. When I was a kid my Dad took me to a late-night showing of The Creature from the Black Lagoon in old school black and white 3D. It was one of the coolest movie going experiences I’ve ever had. Frankly I don’t care about the argument over 3D taking away from or adding to the story. I think 3D movies are fun, just like roller coasters or haunted houses. I loved My Bloody Valentine 3D. I thought Monsters vs. Aliens was fun. I enjoyed Meet the Robinsons in 3D. Has it made me buy tickets to movies I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, yes, and I’ve had a good time with almost all of them. That doesn’t mean I’m waiting with baited breath for The Godfather 3D. Some things it just isn’t suited for, but I’d love a chance to check out Speed Racer in 3D, and I’m sure Eric would too. In the end I think it’s pretty simple math. Movies = Fun; 3D = Fun; 3D Movies = 2x Fun. So grab a few friends, a 3D animated or horror movie, and let the good times roll, right out of the screen and into your lap!

Reply

7 Gary June 4, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Right now I can’t stand 3D. Personally, I think it’s an excuse to add $5 to the price of the movie to buy the glasses – and then they ask you to recycle them after the movie. I saw Monsters vs Aliens in 3D and it gave me a headache. The images were never crisp and I didn’t think it did anything to enhance or develop the story. Even my kids couldn’t keep the glasses on throughout the entire movie. I made sure when we saw Up that we went to a 2D showing so I could actually enjoy the movie.

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8 Gary June 4, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Right now I can’t stand 3D. Personally, I think it’s an excuse to add $5 to the price of the movie to buy the glasses – and then they ask you to recycle them after the movie. I saw Monsters vs Aliens in 3D and it gave me a headache. The images were never crisp and I didn’t think it did anything to enhance or develop the story. Even my kids couldn’t keep the glasses on throughout the entire movie. I made sure when we saw Up that we went to a 2D showing so I could actually enjoy the movie.

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9 Eric Melin June 4, 2009 at 3:25 pm

A movie like MvA has nothing going for it other than 3D. In that case, since I was stuck watching it, I appreciated the extra visual flair. In the case of Coraline, I think it made the movie better. As far as Speed Racer goes, when I spoke with VFX Supervisor John Gaeta, he said they always wanted to process it in 3D, but make all the images supremely flay. He called it “the ultimate Viewmaster” movie. I would kill to see that. I’ve already seen Up in 3D, so I’m wondering if seeing it again in 3D would be a good movie since I already know the story and was moved by it once. I hope my schedule allows me to do that.

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10 Eric Melin June 4, 2009 at 3:25 pm

A movie like MvA has nothing going for it other than 3D. In that case, since I was stuck watching it, I appreciated the extra visual flair. In the case of Coraline, I think it made the movie better. As far as Speed Racer goes, when I spoke with VFX Supervisor John Gaeta, he said they always wanted to process it in 3D, but make all the images supremely flay. He called it “the ultimate Viewmaster” movie. I would kill to see that. I’ve already seen Up in 3D, so I’m wondering if seeing it again in 3D would be a good movie since I already know the story and was moved by it once. I hope my schedule allows me to do that.

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11 Phil June 4, 2009 at 3:52 pm

I guess I could see 3D as just another advancement in film technology, but until it’s ubiquitous and doesn’t require special equipment, it’s still a gimmick.

I think for shitty movies, it’s obvious that it’s all they have going for them. Quality stuff like “Up” and “Coraline” doesn’t need it. If 3D is used to enhance the visuals and not used to make them jump out at you, I think that might be acceptable. But all the baggage associated with it at this point is too much for me to tolerate.

At the risk of sounding snobbish, I’d have to say that this might boil down to the difference between wanting to see art and wanting to have an “experience.” Although, in Eric’s case, I think he’s looking more to 3D’s potential and cases of its rare success.

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12 Phil June 4, 2009 at 3:52 pm

I guess I could see 3D as just another advancement in film technology, but until it’s ubiquitous and doesn’t require special equipment, it’s still a gimmick.

I think for shitty movies, it’s obvious that it’s all they have going for them. Quality stuff like “Up” and “Coraline” doesn’t need it. If 3D is used to enhance the visuals and not used to make them jump out at you, I think that might be acceptable. But all the baggage associated with it at this point is too much for me to tolerate.

At the risk of sounding snobbish, I’d have to say that this might boil down to the difference between wanting to see art and wanting to have an “experience.” Although, in Eric’s case, I think he’s looking more to 3D’s potential and cases of its rare success.

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13 Evan June 4, 2009 at 5:41 pm

I haven’t seen a lot of movies in 3D, but from my experiences it seems like a total gimmick. I haven’t seen Coraline in 3D, but I have a pretty hard time imagining 3D adding to a movie. Not saying it’s impossible, but I’m pretty skeptical.

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14 Evan June 4, 2009 at 5:41 pm

I haven’t seen a lot of movies in 3D, but from my experiences it seems like a total gimmick. I haven’t seen Coraline in 3D, but I have a pretty hard time imagining 3D adding to a movie. Not saying it’s impossible, but I’m pretty skeptical.

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15 Yale June 4, 2009 at 10:08 pm

3D enthusiast here. I saw Up in 3D and I don’t think it detracted at all. I think it helped, there weren’t any periods of vertigo or anything, but the scenery was awesome. As far as the quality of the pictures, I don’t think there were any details in the movie that were lessened by the 3D effect. I personally hope this trend carries on because I love it. For 3D animated films, it really isn’t that much effort to get into 3D and that’s why it’s far more common among them than live action films.

Can’t wait for Avatar.

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16 Yale June 4, 2009 at 10:08 pm

3D enthusiast here. I saw Up in 3D and I don’t think it detracted at all. I think it helped, there weren’t any periods of vertigo or anything, but the scenery was awesome. As far as the quality of the pictures, I don’t think there were any details in the movie that were lessened by the 3D effect. I personally hope this trend carries on because I love it. For 3D animated films, it really isn’t that much effort to get into 3D and that’s why it’s far more common among them than live action films.

Can’t wait for Avatar.

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17 JP Ward June 7, 2009 at 9:35 pm

I’d be more interested to see 3D applied to a minimalistic Jarmusch-like film or something (judging by the reviews, it might have actually helped The Limits of Control). Where the shots hold still long enough that you can examine the layers.

I’ve always thought 3D had potential but it’s never been used above gimmicky exploitation. Now, on the other hand, watching Tom Waits smoke and drink coffee in 3D…

(Better yet, how about Un Chien Andalou in 3D?)

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18 JP Ward June 7, 2009 at 9:35 pm

I’d be more interested to see 3D applied to a minimalistic Jarmusch-like film or something (judging by the reviews, it might have actually helped The Limits of Control). Where the shots hold still long enough that you can examine the layers.

I’ve always thought 3D had potential but it’s never been used above gimmicky exploitation. Now, on the other hand, watching Tom Waits smoke and drink coffee in 3D…

(Better yet, how about Un Chien Andalou in 3D?)

Reply

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