Posted by Deliverator on March 28th, 2009
I’ve had the chance to watch two movies in 3d recently using different projection technologies. The most recent was a showing of Monsters vs Aliens at the Imax at the Pacific Science Center using the older dual projector / linear polarization technique. The other was a showing of Coraline at a theater in Renton using the new single projector / circular polarization technique known as RealD.
The old linear polarization technique has a lot of problems associated with it. It relies on dual projectors that have to be kept in sync and carefully aligned on the screen. If you tilt your head at all during the movie the image blurs. It is quite difficult to keep one’s head perfectly still for the duration of a feature film and one develops a bit of a stiff neck in the attempt. Also, on occasion I would pick up a slight bit of a ghost double image. I am not sure if this was a result of sitting extremely off-axis at the Imax or what, but I found it distracting.
RealD, on the other hand, suffers from none of these problems. RealD uses a single, normal digital projector with a special LCD plate placed in front of the projector optics which circularly polarizes a frame with either a clockwise or counterclockwise twist depending on the eye a given image is meant to reach. Because this system relies on only a single projector, which most theaters are deploying for advertising purposes anyways, it is far more practical than two projector systems and as a result is being widely implemented. I did an informal survey and it appears that there are 6-7 theaters in the Seattle area which are 3d capable at this time.
I enjoyed watching both movies, but definitely found RealD to be the superior experience. I never found myself distracted by aspects of the projection technology with RealD and could just focus on enjoying the film. There are a ton of movies coming out in 3d this year. I am especially looking forward to James Cameron’s film Avatar. James Cameron has been behind some of the more notable special effects films of the last couple decades including Terminator 1 and 2, The Abyss and Titanic. The release of Avatar has been delayed till December at least in part to allow more time for theaters to get their RealD systems in place.
3D technologies for film have been around for literally generations at this point, but RealD is the first system that seems truly compelling and practical to implement. I hope we have finally seen the end of the old Red/Blue glasses!