Why 3D Movies Are Not Immersive

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 28, 2023

The promise of 3D movies is that they are supposed to draw the viewer further into the world of the film — the all-important immersive experience. In this video, Evan Puschak argues persuasively that the 3D effect actually has the opposite effect, for four main reasons:

1. The different focus and convergence points.
2. The darkness of 3D movies
3. 3D glasses shrink the screen
4. 3D forces you to look at only what’s in focus

I’ve long disliked 3D movies so Puschak’s explanation makes me feel vindicated about my stance. I’ve only ever seen two of them that were any good: the original Avatar and Tron: Legacy. Tron in particular was one of my peak movie-going experiences: I saw it, nearly alone, in a 3D IMAX theater from the best seat in the house. When the lightcycle match started, the 3D effect brought the playing field right into the theater a few inches from my nose and I just gaped in wonder like a little kid for the rest of what is essentially a 125-minute Daft Punk music video (nothing wrong with that!). If all 3D movies were like that, sign me up! But otherwise, I’m gonna stick to 2D.