3D - IMAX type vs regular theatre - results surprising

I’ve seen Avatar twice. Haven’t been to a 3D movie ever before.

First showing was at the local Wakefield 12 in Wake Forest, NC. They use the wayfarer frames type glasses. Is this the dolby 3D? Anyway, the 3D effects were really stunning. Some of the previews were inclusive of elements that were shoved way out of the screen and into your lap and that was great. Also, glad that the actual movie didn’t do that sort of thing, it was just subtle and realistic all the time. But, during the falling ashes from the tree and with some of the bugs flying around it felt real enough to want to shoo it out of my face.

So then a week later we go with the office crowd to see it in IMAX. The boss has only seen the IMAX one and he’s spouting about how that’s obviously the ONLY way to see this because generic 3D would suck, etc.

Surprisingly no. I found the IMAX version to be a lot flatter. Things had some depth into the screen, but never out in front of the screen at all. It just felt like a weaker sensation of 3D, and it was a little muddy at times too. Like the picture was making my eyes work to resolve it.

Josh pointed out that he felt the same and his theory was that since the screen is so massive you’re not taking in the whole panorama at once, but instead focusing in on elements so you’re only aware of 3D depth in a section of the image at any one time - which breaks the effect.

In both cases I was there early enough to get a seat dead center of the middle of the theatre, so positioning was a non issue.

It’s because IMAX still uses linear polarized lenses, while everybody else is using circular polarization. With IMAX that means if you tilt your head slightly the glasses end up losing a bit of ability to separate the images to each eye.

Next time you go see an IMAX film take two glasses and hold one up in front of the other, notice you can still see through it. Now rotate one lens 90 degrees and notice how it’s black.

While circular polarization is a nice step forward, it’s still like watching a movie with polarized sunglasses. I myself prefer the LCD shutter technology, though the bulky, battery powered glasses have their own issues. Haven’t seen an IMAX showing using the LCD shutter tech in over a decade though, so I don’t expect a sudden resurgence except in the home.

I have not enjoyed 3D much at all. I don’t seem to see anything but the most blatant “in your lap” effects. The subtle stuff seems to go over my head. I hate that you can’t just opt out of the 3D experience mid-movie by taking off the glasses.

With IMAX, I get sick trying to follow everything. I have to consciously hold my head straight to keep a clear head. I have never seen an IMAX 3D movie, but I can’t imagine the 3D glasses will make it better.

You’d probably hate the IMAX 3D even more, Tim. Everyone I saw Avatar with complained that the 3D looked really weird when they moved their head around. I guess I’m pretty focused on the middle of the screen when I watch a movie because I didn’t notice it, but the rest of them did and they didn’t like the effect it had.

I don’t think this kind of 3d is designed for ‘looking around’. I think the idea is to watch it like a regular movie and then the 3d effect adds depth.

Sort of like when you stare at something trying to see the pattern, but you can’t. Then if you just relax and not specifically try to see anything it jumps out at you.

I’ve seen both RealD and Imax3d and it’s no contest, Imax wins out. There is more ‘pop’ in the Imax3d.

Seeing Avatar in both formats, I much prefered RealD3D to the IMAX 3D.

Yeah, it doesn’t have anything to do with the size of the screen. IMAX 3D is just older tech and not as good as a nice bright regular theater using one of the newer methods.

There’s actually 3 formats, IMAX 3D, RealD, and the newest, Dolby3D. Dolby3D is what I saw it in, and it was my first Dolby3D experience. By far the best picture fidelity and 3D depth I’ve seen to date.

Huh, I just assumed Dolby3D was using circular polarization too, but they are not. If I understand the tech behind it right you would end up losing a bit of color saturation but they supposedly correct for it with additional filters in the lens coating.

Glasses are also more expensive, but on the plus side you don’t need a silver treated screen.