Posted on 06/27/11 10:41 AM | Last edited on 06/27/11 10:41 AM
Let’s face it. 3D is not what it is cracked up to be. Since AVATAR graced us with its presence in December of 2009, (for better or for worse, I’ll let you decide) there has been an onslaught of 3D films, many of which are not worth the price of a regular admission ticket, let alone the premium charge for the excitement of wearing sunglasses in a darkened room conveniently placed on that added dimension. Where this will lead in the future is anyone’s guess, but it is safe to say that with sales of 3D screenings on the decline and the inability of upcharges to save films like GREEN LANTERN it may hopefully be on its way out for the third time in film history. As far as I’m concerned it will not be too soon, because I would like to inform you of a trend that has been occurring in some theaters that is indirectly related to 3D.
Aside from higher ticket prices and wearing cumbersome goggles for two hours the other down side to 3D is that the projection is darker than its 2D counterpart. Based on the way 3D works, the reasons for this cannot be avoided. Without getting too technical polarizing lenses are used to create the two overlapping images and bring them back together for the 3D effect. Because of their nature, these polarizing lenses filter out some of the light that passes through them. On a simpler note it is the difference between the way a sunny day appears when wearing and not wearing sunglasses. The result is a projected image on the screen that can be anywhere from 50% to 80% darker than what would be seen during a 2D screening. Colors are not as vivid or bright. Images appear muddy and less crisp. For these reasons many filmgoers, including myself, have refrained from going to 3D screenings of popular films in favor of their dimensionally challenged but much brighter cousins.
Here is where problems arise. It would seem that some theater chains, namely AMC, Regal, and National Amusements, are using Sony 4K Digital Projectors, and even though they are state of the art they come with a minor design flaw. Apparently the cameras had to be retrofitted with a 3D polarizing lens that has to be manually removed when a film is not being presented in 3D. Some theaters, either out of laziness or because the process is actually more complicated than it would seem, are neglecting to remove the 3D lens for 2D presentations. The result is an underlit projected image that is as dark as a 3D screening. This problem may arise in any theater that uses Sony 4K Digital Projectors and may occur during any screening at any time, whether it be a loud summer blockbuster or a quiet independent film. Therefore, one of the major advantages to watching 2D presentations is lost because someone somewhere decided that it wasn’t important enough to maximize the filmgoer’s experience or because not enough people were complaining about it. Well in a day and age when ticket prices continue to climb, and when we are already bothered by insensitive patrons who talk and text, etc. during films the last thing we need is for theater management to give us another reason to wait for BlueRay or DVD. I have personally discussed this problem with one of the two theaters that I tend to frequent, and believe it or not they were very receptive. In fact, when I asked the manager at the National Amusements Showcase Cinema De Lux in Springdale, Ohio, if they used Sony 4K Projectors she said that they did and that they always remove the 3D lens for 2D presentations. To date I have found this to be true 100% of the time. As for the AMC Cinema in Newport, Kentucky, I found that a 3D lens WAS in place for my 2D presentation the one time that I had been there since learning of this trend, and I have not been able to get a manager on the phone to discuss it and have not been back to the theater since that time to discuss it in person. I don’t know what their response will be so in all fairness I don’t want to comment further at this time. Needless to say, I don’t want my good friends here at Rotten Tomatoes to get caught in the dark so I am going to show you how to tell if this phenomenon is happening to you.
As the film begins briefly look back at the projection room. If the image you see passing through the glass looks like this:
Congratulations you are in the clear, and your 2D projection is not being underlit. One of following three things is occurring, and all of them are good. 1. You are not watching a digital presentation. 2. You are watching a digital presentation on a projector other than a Sony 4K. 3. You are watching a digital presentation on a Sony 4K Projector, and management took the time to remove the 3D polarizing lens.
However, if you look back at the projection room and you see this double image passing through the glass:
I am sorry to say that you are watching a 2D presentation utilizing a Sony 4K Digital Projector with the 3D polarizing lens still in place. Your film is being intentionally underlit, and you are being left in the dark. Be sure to report your displeasure to management because they won’t change unless complaints begin to mount.
Best of luck and happy film going to all of you. I hope all of you continue to enjoy the rest of the summer fare. For me, I would say that it has been mostly positive but certainly uneven at times. If you would like more information on this problem please review this article from The Boston Globe.