3D projector lens causes diminished picture quality in 2D films

The inclusion of a special lens in certain Sony film projectors enables them to display 3D images for theatergoers comfortable paying that little bit extra for a premium experience. However, that 3D lens noticeably degrades the quality of traditional 2D films played through it.

Why don’t projectionists simply remove the lens? It’s complicated.

Sony’s 4K digital projector model ditches previous conventions – running software rather than film reels and utilizing a special lens to cast 3D images into a theater, explained Boston.com. Perfect for actual 3D films, but less than ideal for those lacking that extra dimension; 2D movies ran through the projector reportedly display darker and less colorful.

The site spoke with director Peter Farrelly who described how his “stomach dropped” when he saw the difference with his own eyes during a press screening of his film, “Hall Pass.” Farrelly described the viewings with and without the 3D lens as “daytime versus nighttime.”

“That’s no way to see a movie,” the director said.

An anonymous projectionist explained the problem caused by not removing the lens when making the transition from 3D to 2D. “If they’re not [removing the polarization device], it’s crazy, because you’ve got a big polarizer that absorbs 50 percent of the light,” he told the site.

Another frustrated projectionist said that by not removing the lenses and selling tickets for affected films anyway, theaters are “serving people pigeon burgers and telling them it’s Grade-A beef.”

One expert went on record to explain how this even happens – and just why theater managers are seemingly indifferent to it. The answer is a little surprising:

So why aren’t theater personnel simply removing the 3-D lenses? The answer is that it takes time, it costs money, and it requires technical know-how above the level of the average multiplex employee. James Bond, a Chicago-based projection guru who serves as technical expert for Roger Ebert’s Ebertfest, said issues with the Sonys are more than mechanical. Opening the projector alone involves security clearances and Internet passwords, “and if you don’t do it right, the machine will shut down on you.” The result, in his view, is that often the lens change isn’t made and “audiences are getting shortchanged.”

Sony, in an attempt to “clarify the inaccurate information that is currently circulating on the web,” went over details of the projector system in a fact sheet. It contends that trained technicians can change a lens in just 20 minutes, and that it’s developing a new system to “make the change even simpler.”

The company also refuted Mr. Bond’s claim that an improper lens change results in a system shutdown. Furthermore, Sony’s statement points out that “changing a lens does not require entering the projection system. Lenses are changed from the front of the projector.”

But that still leaves theatergoers wondering who’s holding the bag when it comes to delivering the best experience possible.

Short of a public outcry, it seems unlikely theater managers will make the effort required to adjust (and then readjust) the projectors as necessary. Some don’t seem to care whether the lens impacts the visuals, while those who do could find their hands tied by corporate bureaucracy or time constraints. And maybe they’re also a little too busy selling overpriced concessions. (Via TechDirt)