24 May 2011

Some movie theaters misuse 3-D lenses on 2-D films

I'm not eager to see 3-D movies, but if I go to see a conventional 2-D movie, I sure don't want them projecting it through a 3-D lens.  Excerpts from a Boston.com article:
Why, then, do so many of the movies look so terrible? This particular night “Limitless,’’ “Win Win,’’ and “Source Code’’ all seemed strikingly dim and drained of colors. “Jane Eyre,’’ a film shot using candles and other available light, appeared to be playing in a crypt. A visit to the Regal Fenway two weeks later turned up similar issues: “Water for Elephants’’ and “Madea’s Big Happy Family’’ were playing in brightly lit 35mm prints and, across the hall, in drastically darker digital versions.

The uniting factor is a fleet of 4K digital projectors made by Sony — or, rather, the 3-D lenses that many theater managers have made a practice of leaving on the projectors when playing a 2-D film...

A description of the problem comes from one of several Boston-area projectionists who spoke anonymously due to concerns about his job. We’ll call him Deep Focus. He explains that for 3-D showings a special lens is installed in front of a Sony digital projector that rapidly alternates the two polarized images needed for the 3-D effect to work.

“When you’re running a 2-D film, that polarization device has to be taken out of the image path. If they’re not doing that, it’s crazy, because you’ve got a big polarizer that absorbs 50 percent of the light.’’

They’re not doing that, and there’s an easy way to tell. If you’re in a theater playing a digital print (the marquee at the ticket booth should have a “D’’ next to the film’s name), look back at the projection booth.

If you see two beams of light, one stacked on top of the other, that’s a Sony with the 3-D lens still in place. If there’s a single beam, it’s either a Sony with the 3-D lens removed or a different brand of digital projector, such as Christie or Barco.

The difference can be extreme. Chapin Cutler, a cofounder of the high-end specialty projection company Boston Light & Sound, estimates that a film projected through a Sony with the 3-D lens in place and other adjustments not made can be as much as 85 percent darker than a properly projected film...

So why aren’t theater personnel simply removing the 3-D lenses? The answer is that it takes time, it costs money, and it requires technical know-how above the level of the average multiplex employee...
Don't be afraid to walk out of a theater if this happens to you. And request your money back.

Via Miss Cellania's Miss C Recommends blog.

Addendum: Here is Roger Ebert's post on the subject, entitled "The Dying of the Light." (Hat tip to jaundicedi for spotting it).


  1. Sharing as a public service. Thank you.

  2. Jerry the DallasiteMay 24, 2011 at 1:21 PM

    Still another reason for me not to patronize movie theaters anymore. (I haven't gone in years, for many reasons.) Watching a DVD movie at home is better for me.

  3. Good thing here in Canada (well at least here in Toronto) majority of the theaters run by the biggest known movie theater company (Cineplex) are Christie projectors.... They even advertise that on the pre-movie....

    But thanks for informing us about this...

  4. Thank you for this enlightening post! -- which, I suspect, explains why our viewing of "The King's Speech" was so incredibly dark. It was like watching a film through sunglasses.

    Now I have yet another reason to hate 3D, as if the ticket surcharges, overuse, lack of quality, and headaches weren't enough.

  5. Roger Ebert did an in-depth blog on this today.

  6. Thank you, jaundicedi. Link added to the post.

  7. An interesting follow-up on why theaters may be leaving the 3d lenses in.


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