Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Thor doesn't nail it in 3D

The second Thor movie opens in the UK later this week. Is it worth paying the extra to see Thor's hammer in three dimensions? A soon-to-be published psychology study suggests probably not.

Brendan Rooney and Eilis Hennessy surveyed 225 cinema-goers in 2011 after they'd just watched the first Thor film either in 2D or 3D. Remarkably this is the first time that psychologists have compared people's psychological reactions to the two film modes in the real world (previous research has all been lab based).

Those people who saw Thor in 3D found it more perceptually realistic and said they felt more focused on the film, and yet their self-reported emotional arousal during the film was no higher than those who watched in 2D, and their reports of their enjoyment of the film were also just the same as the 2D viewers. Rooney and Hennessy said this suggests film enjoyment is more about how much we are moved by a film emotionally, with perceptual realism not being so important.

If you're headed to the multiplex this weekend to see Thor 2, it may be worth heeding the findings of this study. As the researchers concluded:
"These findings might challenge the value of increased ticket prices for 3D film when no significant difference was observed in satisfaction levels. This is particularly important in light of the claim that the commercial use of 3D effect in cinema is largely based on the assumption that the increased perceptual realism is associated with increased emotional engagement and viewer satisfaction."
The study comes with some caveats. The data was collected from a single suburban cinema, presumably in Dublin where the researchers are based, and the results relate to only a single film, so we have to be cautious in generalising from these findings. Another thing - Thor was only converted to 3D in post-production and some critics suggest this is an inferior process compared with when films are actually shot in 3D. However Thor 2 was also converted in post production. Whatever your plans this coming weekend, have fun!


Brendan Rooney, and Eilis Hennessy (2013). Actually in the cinema: A field study comparing real 3D and 2D movie patrons’ attention, emotion and film satisfaction Media Psychology. In Press. 

--Further reading--
Are 3D films more psychologically powerful than 2D?
How to eat less popcorn at the cinema.
Right-handers sit to the right of the movie screen to optimise neural processing of the film.

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.


Erik Gahner Larsen said...

Did they sample movie goers to either the 2D or 3D version (e.g., free tickets)? (or was it self-selection?)

Neuroskeptic said...

The study has many limitations but I can believe it. I don't know anyone who thinks 3D adds much to movies.

Anachrophile said...

While the last time I did any controlled experimentation with #D imaging was about 25 years ago, I recall a finding then that seems relevant still: 3D reactions were strongest and most emotionally evocative where a 3D effect is expected. Expectation was strongest where the 3D effect was frequently perceived in natural experience such as a precipice or parallax. With this in mind, I went to the first 3D movie I have seen in ages: Beyond the Edge – the story of Sir Edmund Hillary’s journey to the summit of Everest. A composite of film and stills from 60 years ago with the best 3D imaging practicable in shot-real and altered recent footage, there are some stunning sequences. The aesthetic decisions to hold separation to that which would be real in the location is important. I recall we could easily over-separate images, making for stronger visual effects, but less satisfying aesthetics. If the journey to the top of the world AND a mix of 2D and 3D might be your cup of tea, you might watch the movie. I think that for this one, 3D added something of an icy blast of realism that the 2D version lacks. But if the subject doesn't attract you, expect a mediocre psychophysical response.

wowconsortia said...

It depends a lot on the movie. I'd agree that Thor has not done a very good job with 3D, but for exampe Star Trek : Into Darkness was vastly improved by being able to really feel the depth of the enterprise. Also, films like "Gravity" is based around the 3d experience where the story really wasn't that impressive, but seeing it in 3d made it breathtaking.

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