The eye has some of the body’s hardest working muscles, but the latest 3D film technology is a far cry from a normal workout.
“It’s really putting the eye muscles through a marathon,” says Dr. Daryan Angle, an optometrist with IRIS, a network of 168 vision centres across Canada. In fact, some people can’t even properly process the 3D effect, leading to reports of headaches in adults and children. “It’s tough with children who don’t actually know what they should be seeing,” says Dr. Angle, who recommends that parents have their children’s eyes tested early. A rudimentary 3D vision test can be done as early as age one to see if a child is going to have problems with depth perception, which would prevent full enjoyment of 3D films. It all has to do with muscle control as well as vision, explains Dr. Angle. “The convergence and divergence muscles on either side of the eye have to be able to adjust properly and if both eyes aren’t seeing equally clearly, the brain will simply block out the dimension of the image.”
From birth to age seven, the eye’s depth perception ability is developing. If a deficiency isn’t addressed during this window, when eye development is moldable, then it may not be possible to achieve optimal vision down the road. If you suspect your child has depth perception issues (frequently bumps into things), see your eye doctor.
Early 3D films relied on the iconic cardboard glasses with two different coloured lenses to direct the images from two different projectors to each eye. The new and improved 3D technology uses one projector that switches between the left eye and right eye images 144 times per second, and uses better glasses. Both methods push our eyes to the max, and in fact some people reported headaches with the old technology. Despite improved technology, today’s 3D films are much longer than the old ones, requiring sustained muscle convergence from the viewer. And because the technology evolved through computer animation, many of the 3D films have attracted young audiences who may not yet have identified eye problems.
Nevertheless, as people line up in droves to see 3D movies, filmmakers clamour to meet the demand. This year no less than a dozen blockbusters will be released in 3D and plans to introduce the technology into homes are well underway. So if you have an eye muscle imbalance, you may still be at risk of feeling the effects of a 3D film long after you’ve left the theatre.
Great moments in 3D history
1903 – The film “L’arrivée du train” is rumoured to have panicked audiences into thinking the oncoming train is coming out of the screen at them.
1950s – After years of experimentation, 3D movies capture the imagination of audiences, but the requirement of complex screening equipment leads them to fall out of favour again.
1970s – “Jaws 3D” sparks a revival in the technology, but it has limited staying power.
1986 – The National Film Board of Canada film “Transitions” screens in IMAX 3D at Expo ’86 in Vancouver, establishing a new and lasting technology, used primarily for specialized productions.
2000s – Computer animation and digital cameras makes 3D technology more accessible and cost effective and 3D feature films become commonplace.
Published June 2010