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Disney Digital 3D: Is it the Future?

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Disney Digital 3d

Welcome to my first “feature article!”  If you’ve read my posts, you know that I usually like to keep things short and write little blurbs as I come across interesting stuff.  But I’ve been wanting to write something a little longer to really get in depth with a particular topic.  Actually, I’d like to do this on a pretty regular basis.

So we’ll start off with Disney Digital 3D.  It seems like all of the big players in the movie business have adopted Digital 3D as a new way to get people back into the movies.  I want to talk about where this technology came from, how Disney Digital 3D came to be, and where we might be heading in the future.

So, if you’re ready, click the link below and immerse yourself in Disney Digital 3D – or at least a blog post about Disney Digital 3D…

RealD – The Technology

The technology behind Disney Digital 3D is called RealD (visit their website here) and was developed by Lenny Lipton.  Lipton is not only the developer of this new stereoscopic 3D system, but he’s also an author, songwriter, and filmmaker.  Some of his credits include writing Puff the Magic Dragon (a hit song for Peter, Paul, and Mary), authoring books such as The Super 8 Book and Independent Film Making (both published by Straight Arrow Books in San Francisco), and independently producing 25 films.  You can visit his website here.

Lenny Lipton with 3D Motion Picture Camera, Burbank, 2007 (from

RealD technology uses circularly polarized light to achieve the 3D effect, where older systems use linearly polarized light.  While these two terms are pretty complicated to explain, here’s the breakdown.  Linearly polarized 3D systems used the paper 3D glasses, usually with the red and blue lenses for the eyes.  Projectors superimposed two images onto the screen, and the glasses only allowed each eye to see a certain image.  When seen by both eyes at the same time, this creates the 3D effect.  The problem was that this didn’t work as well if you tilted your head to one side – you could see a “ghosting” effect where you actually see both images at the same time.

Circularly polarized light, on the other hand, practically eliminates this problem.  One major difference is that RealD uses a single projector to shoot two images on the movie screen.  Before it gets there, though, it goes through a Z screen that creates this circular polarization.  The result is essentially the same as linear systems (the glasses only allow the wearer to see images designed for each eye, but the images are combined into a 3D image when seen at the same time).  The difference here is that the wearer doesn’t have to keep his or her head straight to get the full effect.  It’s actually much more comfortable and convenient.

I think this is where RealD technology needs to separate itself from older 3D technologies.  I’ve seen some people leery about experiencing current 3D movies because of bad experiences with 3D in the past.  This new system is a lot better.  It actually drastically cuts down on the infamous “3D headache” people got from older 3D movies.

RealD also helps to keep the screen brightness as intense as possible.  The images are projected onto a silver screen that reflects as much light as possible.  While screen brightness still may not be quite as good as seeing a film with the naked eye, it’s definitely better than older technologies.

The Evolution of Disney Digital 3D

What do you think was the first Disney film released in RealD 3D?  I certainly was surprised when I started doing some research on Disney’s 3D films.  It was actually the 2005 release of Chicken Little.  That’s right – the origins of Disney Digital 3D actually started four years ago (even though the technology has really only taken off in the last year or so).


The following year, Disney released Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas in RealD, and they would continue doing this each October through 2008.  In 2007, Meet the Robinsons was released in Disney Digital 3D, and it was shown alongside the classic short film Working for Peanuts (which was originally released in 3D in 1953).  2008 saw two theatrical releases in DD3D: Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert (which also became the first DD3D home release) and Bolt (which showed with Pixar’s first 3D creation, Tokyo Mater).

nightmareplakatPixar’s first major stab at 3D came this past May with their release of Up.  This was one of Pixar’s most successful films, becoming their second highest grossing film of all time.  The rest of 2009 looks to be a huge year for DD3D as well.  Right now, G-Force is holding its own (in its first week, it actually beat the latest installment of the Harry Potter series), and we still have some major films coming soon: Toy Story, Toy Story 2, A Christmas Carol, and The Princess and the Frog.

The Future of Disney Digital 3D

Beyond 2009 looks to be pretty big for DD3D.  In fact, you’re going to see some old and new characters come to life thanks to RealD technology.  Check out some of these classics on tap for 2010 and beyond: Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Aladdin.  You’ll also see some old faces reimagined in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland due in March 2010.  We’ll also have one more visit to Andy’s room for Pixar’s Toy Story 3.  There’s also a group of fans extremely happy to hear that a sequel to Tron is coming next year, almost 30 years after the original.  If you want to see what other movies are coming in Disney Digital 3D, click here.

You know, there’s a lot of hype about Disney Digital 3D – and, honestly, 3D films in general.  Should you buy into it?  Well, everyone should experience RealD at least once.  It’s definitely an improvement upon older technologies.  Is it the future of filmmaking?  I don’t think so.  3D films have been decently successful recently, and I think they’ll be around for a while.  I just don’t think we’ll all be watching 3D movies in 10 years.

RealD wants to expand its offering of 3D technologies. We could be seeing 3D technology in our home sooner than later.  Once this happens, we have the same problem that theaters had before 3D: Will people go to the theaters to experience something they can do at home?  That’s probably the biggest reason why I can’t see 3D as the technology that changes our movie-going experience.

But it’s still worth the extra money you’ll pay in admission.  At least try it once.  Disney Digital 3D will probably be something you’ll see in the theaters for the time being, so definitely get out there and give it a shot.  I think you’ll see the difference.


2 responses »

  1. Hi Adam,

    I was doing a search on 3D movies and Disney’s 3D offering and found this article. I was real excited about 3D, especially Avatar, but since seeing it in both 3D and 2D, I’m not that impressed. I also saw Alice in Wonderland at a Cinemark theater in their XD theater, and was even less impressed, with the picture at least. The sound and seating were awesome, however, the picture did not ever reach to the full “wall-to-wall” experience as they advertise. I’m guessing it’s due to the fact that the wall-to-wall experience is really only achieved when it’s an IMAX 3D film, but then that’s just a guess. Regardless, I was less than thrilled. I know it’s a minor thing, but it was very noticeable to me.

    As for the 3D experience itself, I’m just not getting it. Avatar was a great movie with some very stunning visuals in it, and the 3D did lend itself to adding more depth to those visuals. But after a while I felt like I was watching any other movie, that could’ve been in 2D. The same goes for Alice. There’s just not enough to the 3D experience that, in my opinion, makes it worth the extra cost.

    • I completely agree with you. I saw Alice in Wonderland a few days after it came out, and elected to not see it in 3D. I don’t see 3D as anything more than a gimmick – something to get you back into the theaters. 3D has always been a fad, and I think this will die down eventually.

      Granted, I definitely think the technology is better with RealD and the others than it was a decade ago. I’ve experienced the RealD, and I notice that I don’t have to worry about the angle I’m at when I’m watching. I can tilt my head almost any way possible and still have a solid 3D image. Also, I don’t get the headaches I was prone to with older 3D technologies. In that respect, I’m impressed with the technology. I still don’t expect this 3D craze to last, though.


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