Thomas McKenzie
by grace alone

Thomas' Blog

Thomas McKenzie's Blog.

3D or Not 3D

Over on the Rabbit Room, my partner in crime Russ Ramsey posted about his general dislike for 3D in films. Many of those commenting agreed. I would recommend checking the thread out over here:

I responded with the following comment, and thought it might spark some further conversation if I posted my comment over here. Here it goes:

It seems to me that there is an element of this conversation that is missing the point somewhat. 3D is not good or bad, in my opinion. It is simply an option, one that is becoming increasingly available. In some cases, like Avatar, it is an option that does enhance the film. In other cases, like Clash of the Titans "3D", it is an aftermarket add-on that serves only to make more money for the studio. So far, most films that are made to be 3D could also be made in 2D. I hope that this will begin to change.

The advent of digital 3D, which is what we are really talking about, is similar to the advent of good color in film. Most films that were made in color early on could have just as easily been made in black and white, and vice versa. Very few used color as part of the story telling. In many cases, the garish color distracted viewers from the story. The obvious exception would be The Wizard of Oz, in which color was part of the storytelling process. The Wizard of Oz was made better by color. Avatar was made watchable by 3D.

Film is, in a way, a language. Some developments, like color, surround sound, CGI, 3D, etc. are somewhat like adding new verb-tenses or noun-groups to that language. Some people will enjoy learning the new parts of the familiar language, others will not. Some people never made the conversion to color, always preferring black and white as a matter of course. Some people will not like the addition of 3D. For now, at least, you can choose to see a film in 3D or 2D. That choice will likely go away, I would expect.

I would encourage folks to refrain from deciding that 3D is good or bad, or that they like it or they don't. Rather, ask the question "did 3D enhance this film, did it aid in the storytelling, did it take me out or bring me in?" The answers will be different in each film. Of course, if you ask the same question about the score, the editing, the color use generally, etc. for each film, you will also find that each element can be used in helpful or unhelpful ways, and that your answer might even vary from scene to scene. No one says "I hate films with scores," but there are times when the score enhances or distracts, when a lack of score (like most of No Country for Old Men) is a great enhancement.

Oh, and I totally agree that the language of 3D vs. 2D does not reflect reality. Great, even good, cinematographers are masters of 3D, and have been for generations.

If you are reading this as a note on facebook, may I recommend you visit for the full service version?