Every day there seems to be a new article in a magazine or newspaper forecasting health problems and looming dangers with regards to all things 3D. Most cite the example of focus decoupled from convergence. They say things like “this 3D stuff is unnatural” and do their best to sensationalize and dramatize for the purpose of selling more magazines. They do it because that strategy works. You can’t blame them for wanting to sell more magazines. But when trade magazines like Broadcast Engineering jump on the bandwagon this “National Enquirer” style journalism becomes troubling. See their article:
This article was brought to my attention by a fellow member of a professional group that authors Blu-ray and DVD content. Much of the basis for articles like the above stem from the premise that perception conflicts that occur with 3D illusions are unnatural and therefore are harmful with potential health hazards looming large. Then they point to anecdotal evidence that people experience headaches and nausea and one article exclaimed that someone died as a direct result of watching Avatar.
I’d like to bring some common sense observations into this dialog. First, human perception conflicts happen all of the time in nature. There is nothing unnatural about it. Perception conflicts also happen in outer space and inner space (ocean). If the brain wasn’t able to suppress perception conflicts we would not be able to travel on a boat or airplane or submarine. We certainly would not be able to travel into space where the number of perception conflicts go off the scale. Think about it, even with rigorous training and preparation, many astronauts experience nausea and headaches when they go into space. It is a natural human response to conflicting perceptions as processed in the brain. Some people have more difficulty with conflict suppression and therefore present more significant side effects. While some might argue that Buzz Aldrin must have experienced permanent brain damage as evidenced by his willingness to participate in the Dancing With The Stars TV program, the evidence is that after a time back on earth astronauts reintegrate perceptions that no longer conflict. (Buzz perhaps requires additional study ;^)
In a previous blog post I talked about decoupling focus from convergence. That is one of the leading issues that people use to justify an opinion that 3D is inherently unnatural and dangerous. They ignore that those who produced the movie Avatar took great pains to mitigate that disparity by using toe-in cameras and keystone correction. Indeed, many found Avatar one of the most pleasing and easiest to view 3D movies they had ever seen. But Avatar did have elements of focus/convergence conflict as well as camera shake (I wasn’t shaking in my seat but the visual was shaking) and super fast scene jump cutting (last I checked there weren’t instant Star Trek like transporters that could beam me around in real life) and many other “unnatural” perception conflicts.
My thought is that it is common sense for filmmakers to spend time understanding the ramifications of perception conflicts and to perhaps reduce or minimize them especially in the beginning parts of the movie. This should provide a greater comfort level for the audience and especially for those with lower tolerance to perception disparities. Just as there are some people who simply can’t see 3D for various reasons, there are people with greater sensitivity to perception conflicts. This should be studied in a scientific way and proper consideration given to educate everyone involved in a factual and scientific manner. 3D filmmaking is both art and science and it certainly can improve dramatically from where the bar currently sits.
Finally, those who have problems watching 3D movies should be encouraged to seek more information about their condition. There are many ways that their experience can be improved, whether through vision therapy or other measures. The notion that 3D tech is somehow bad is very misguided. We should open our minds to the possibilities, not close our minds with unjustified prejudice and misinformation. If we weren’t willing to work through the ability to suppress perception conflicts we never would have got on a boat and humans might very well have become extinct due to their inability or unwillingness to adapt to a dynamic environment.
I hope that common sense will prevail and that all of us will seek to expand our horizons and enjoy all that viewing with stereopsis can provide in both our real world experience and within the realm of entertainment and presentation.