With more and more 3D-ready home theatre systems becoming commonplace (unit sales are expected to reach 8 million worldwide this year), manufacturers have issued blanket warnings regarding the viewing of 3D content (See below/link for official warning.). At first glance it would appear as though they are quickly covering their respective behinds in case somebody drops dead after a film, and possibly eliminating the likelihood of litigation-frenzied members of the public laying claim to a sizeable portion of their profits. But on a closer look, there may be reason for them to have their lawyers on speed-dial.
To their credit, some manufacturers have begun studies that aim to reveal the possible side-effects of 3D displays. Somehow one would expect those findings to resemble those of a tobacco company in the 1950s: “No clear connection between our product and your inability to breathe”. Yet, they have all their facts laid out – the good and the bad – for all to judge for themselves. It does mean going a step further than: “Pregnant women, the elderly, children under age six and those with a family history of epilepsy or stroke should refrain from 3D TV viewing. If you experience any of the following symptoms while viewing 3D images, discontinue viewing: altered vision; lightheadedness; dizziness; involuntary eye or muscle twitching; and/or disorientation.”
Although I feel those symptoms at least once a month come payday, or rather the day after payday, I’ve never really taken note of what would possibly be going wrong inside my brain. After all, it’s just images on a screen, rub my eyes and everything’s fine. But, my mother always said that if I watch too much TV my eyes will go square. Does that mean that they will now be cubed?
Sort of. Studies of excessive TV watching (and even minimal TV watching) have been controversial over the past decades, showing shifts in behavioural patterns, cognitive abilities and a wide range of developmental problems. Now wonder: it sucks you into another world and hinders your ability to process information and situations in the real world.
And that’s just from a 2D image on a screen!
Now we have a 3D experience which, as the media expounds, is a “totally immersive experience”. Just what the hell is going to happen to us now? Sure, it’s not quite the same as jumping into an oozing pit of toxic waste, but it does have some affects that those responsible members of the public might want to keep in mind before they plonk the ever-developing-putty-mind of their offspring in front of the electronic-nanny.
Simply put: in normal day to day vision, your eyes are doing 2 things: First they are both meeting at the point of focus (converging or diverging) called vergence, let’s say on something 2 metres away; and second, each eye is adjusting the blur or sharpness (focal distance) relative to that object which is called accommodation. These are done simultaneously and both give each other clues to make it a fast and efficient process.
With regular TV or cinemas you are watching a flat image that is at a constant distance from you and nothing varies other than on-screen movement.
Without sounding like a science fiction film, S3D (Stereoscopic 3D) brings in a vergence–accommodation conflict. Your eyes are now converging on something that appears to be it’s inside or outside the screen. That by itself is fine. Although, the first visual clue is telling your brain to now adjust focus, when in reality ALL objects can only ever be ON the screen (not where the object is supposed to be – behind or in front) and already in focus. You end up beating your focus into submission (or a catatonic state) while your eyes just move in and out of a fake space.
So by the end of the film you’ve convincingly reeducated your brain and eyes. Stepping out of the darkness into actual 3D you have to apologise to strangers for falling over them like a drunken pensioner; brake a little abruptly behind the car at the traffic lights; and finally realising that swift head movements render your world swimmingly surreal.
Therefore, editing for four hours a day can only be reprogramming my mind in ways not conducive to life here in reality. All well and good if I live on Pandora but not if I want to operate heavy machinery on Earth, or accurately judge the distance between my hand and my food. It seems senility is only a 3D screen away.
“What about me”, you ask? I’d like to say that watching a 3D movie every now and again won’t impair you in any way, but that’s assumption. And with everything, including all TV, heading furiously towards the 3D promised land, you will be bombarded with more and more content and more and more hours of 3D enjoyment.
As with all media thrown at us, our brains are the final filters. We choose what we want to let in and what not to let in. May you always have your feet firmly placed in this world in order to more effectively dodge what the media world throws at you.
For the complete warning guide visit: