I was one of the crazy ones. At 10:45 PM last Thursday I drove my family to a local cinimaplex to stand in line with gaggles of wannabe Hogwarts students for the big opening of the last installment of the Harry Potter saga. Despite my arguments against it, we opted for the 3D showing (because my kids insisted). After watching the movie through the collectors’ 3D glasses (shaped a little like Harry Potter’s glasses), I left very disappointed in the experience and convinced that everything Avatar did for 3D was just dismantled by Harry Potter.
First, let’s get this out of the way—I am a Harry Potter fan. When I was an early teenager I was obsessed with Tolkien, Dungeons and Dragons and Conan the Barbarian (the Robert E. Howard books). I say this so you know I went into the experience willingly expecting magic.
So, back to my point about 3D. Many analysts believe that the best thing to happen to the 3D TV market was James Cameron’s Avatar. It raked in huge box office results and got people more excited over 3D than anything before or since.
The new Harry Potter movie broke opening sales records by millions. I don’t have the information on how many of those opening weekend people went to see the 3D version, but it had to be a lot. Unfortunately most of them walked out of the theater with much the same thought as I had: “good movie, but terrible 3D.”
What went wrong? You may already know that the makers of Harry Potter DH Part 1 had entertained the idea of releasing that movie in 3D, but decided against it at the last minute due to a lack of time to make the conversion. But part two allowed them more time, so it was released in 3D. The trouble is the movie was never meant to be in 3D. Never.
A true 3D movie is shot with a camera system designed specifically for that task—it involves two lenses (one for each eye) and a director and camera crew knowledgeable of 3D film making. None of those elements were present for Harry Potter. The movie was recorded with a standard movie camera and shot with the understanding that the result was going to be presented in 2D. Adding 3D to the title was an afterthought and done in the post production stage.
What does that approach give you? A lousy 3D experience. In fact for most of the film it was barely apparent there was any 3D at all. There were two, maybe three, instances where the 3D effect was noticeable, and even those instances didn’t really add to my engagement in the film. If anything the whole process was a distraction.
So I’ve got two complaints. First, I want the extra $4 I pay for a 3D movie to give me a worthwhile experience. Second, if the public walks away from the biggest movie release of the year thinking that this is what 3D looks like, then that industry is doomed.
And I’m not a 3D hater. I really like 3D movies, both in theaters and at home, but I expect it to be well-done, not just a cheap special effect added after the fact.
I’m sure I’ll bring my family back to see the movie again, and we’ll definitely purchase the Blu-ray disc, but we’ll skip 3D both times.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.