Comparing 3D to arrival of colour is ridiculous

Comparing 3D to arrival of colour is ridiculous
3D - a different way to watch, not necessarily a better way

"Watching a movie in 3D is simply a better way to watch a movie. It's like black and white versus colour," said legendary director and producer George Lucas this week, becoming the latest person that I respect to prostrate themselves before the altar of 3D spouting nonsense.

I consider myself relatively neutral in the great 3D debate. I like it in the right circumstances - a blockbuster movie or a carefully shot documentary for instance - but if it was the World Cup final and I had to choose a format to watch it in it would be 2D (HD) all the way.

But what I absolutely will not accept is that 3D is to 2D what colour is to black and white.

Although I wasn't around at the time, I cannot for the life of me imagine that those lucky few who witnessed the birth of colour wandering out of the cinema and grumbling.

3D - a different way to watch, not necessarily a better way

"All this colour gives me a headache!" I imagine them not saying loudly. "I preferred it when you couldn't tell that Dorothy was ginger."

The fact is that colour was clearly taking things on a step; not a gimmick, not a trick – merely the next stage in film.

3D, however, cannot lay such a claim. It's certainly increasingly impressive and directors are beginning to use it intelligently rather than merely to thrust object at us out of the screen every five minutes, but that doesn't mean that the general public are clamouring to see Coronation Street or the Superbowl in 3D even when (in the latter's case) they are given the option.

In fact, for me, claiming that 3D is the new colour is actually damaging to the process. People's expectations are built up to the point that what they experience inevitably falls well short of what the likes of Lucas bill as "a truly immersive and overpowering experience".

3D meerkats

As I say, I enjoy 3D – but accept that it is limited and, if I'm being honest, will probably remain limited in its true scope throughout its technological life time.

That's not necessarily a terrible thing, if the success of smash hit black and white modern film The Artist has shown, there is room for multiple formats. Nobody is saying that The Artist proves black and white films are the new colour, just as nobody should expect that the brilliant and impressive Avatar sounded the death knell for 2D.

Cinemas have clearly benefited from 3D - giving it a much needed boost because it works better on bigger screens and as an event - and directors need to keep movie theatres buoyant.

Indeed, someone like Lucas will be aware that 3D also helps protect content from piracy because of bigger file sizes and cutting out the surreptitious film tapers, but neither of these reasons make the movie better to watch.

We all know that Lucas has a film to sell – JarJar, poodo and all – and that he's a man known for pushing the technological boundaries, but comparing a technology that is only just peeking outside of the realm of gimmick to the arrival of colour isn't doing anybody any favours.

3D is here to stay, and I, for one, welcome that; I just wish people who should know better would be frank about its impact rather than trying to persuade us that this is the second coming of the golden age of cinema.

That'll clearly be when holographic feelies arrive…

Patrick Goss

Patrick Goss is the ex-Editor in Chief of TechRadar. Patrick was a passionate and experienced journalist, and he has been lucky enough to work on some of the finest online properties on the planet, building audiences everywhere and establishing himself at the forefront of digital content.  After a long stint as the boss at TechRadar, Patrick has now moved on to a role with Apple, where he is the Managing Editor for the App Store in the UK.