What's So Great About 3D?

Ransom Riggs

It's easy to see why 3D is popular from a movie studio perspective: it allows theaters to charge fifteen bucks for a flick that would normally bring in just eight or nine (in LA prices, at least). It's not as clear why audiences should love it. To me, it seems a novelty that wore off about five minutes after Avatar's credits rolled -- and to your brain, the 3D effect tends to "wear off" after about a half-hour, such that your brain doesn't "notice" the 3D in the same way -- in other words, that wow factor you get upon first donning the glasses dissipates.

But what about traditional metrics of movie enjoyment? Does the 3D effect actually make watching movies more fun? According to a new study, it doesn't:

3D movies do not allow viewers to experience more intense emotional reactions, are no more immersive, and do not offer any advantage over their 2D counterparts in terms of enhancing the ability to recall a film's details. Carrier's study did, however, suggest that watching films in stereoscope increased threefold the risk of eyestrain, headache or trouble with vision.

It seems somehow profound, after all this talk of "audience immersion," to simply ask whether viewers were more emotionally invested in a 3D story -- after all, it's the story you remember later, not the 3D effects. And the answer seems to be pretty clear: not really.