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So I’ve finally figured out what bothers me about 3-D entertainment (and no, it’s not that all of it sucks post-Captain Eo … although that is true….).  It’s focus.  In 2-D photography and cinematography, depth-of-field creates a sense of depth, naturally, by having the foreground in focus and the background gradually more and more out-of-focus as it recedes.  But it’s a bit of a trick; we can look directly at part of the out-of-focus image, and it stays out-of-focus.  Unfortunately, this is not how our eyes actually work in real life.  In real life, our eye automatically re-focus on everything we look at, meaning when we look at a scene, in a certain sense, everything appears in-focus.  Our sense of three-dimensionality comes from being physically present in the 3-D environment, and the depth perception of using two eyes to look at it. But when we focus on what’s in the foreground, we do actually lose focus on the background.

3-D movies mess with those independent senses; if there is shallow depth-of-field, we can look at part of the image and it stays out of focus, but still feels 3-D because of depth cues caused by the high-tech magic of the imagery.  If there is deep focus, we don’t have that screwyness, but we’re limited to the odd camera lenses  (often wide-angle) that produce deep focus, or very peculiar lighting to cater to the more stringent aperture requirements.  Either way, that stops looking natural after a few hours.  Citizen Kane is all peculiar photography, but you can’t watch everything shot that way.

In short, I guess you can count me among those who really thinks 3-D  “looks cool” to the eye because it’s so UNnatural.  So it’s novel, yes, and impressive, perhaps, but I’ve never thought it made anything look better.

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