It is said that James Cameron personally visited cinemas in the US to sample the quality of 3D glasses before he released his mega-budget 3D wonder Avatar so that movie goers could watch his dream production without any visual hassles. This small device,which is vital to watching any 3D film, is becoming an important means for movie goers and exhibitors alike.
When cinemas in India upgraded their screens to accommodate 3D films, it gave exhibitors an opportunity to increase ticket prices. And considering the mind-blowing experience, patrons were willing to pay the price for the premium 3D experience.
But most consumers as well as filmmakers had one major gripe: the qualityof the 3D goggles. However, now there is enough reason to cheer as technology is slowly overcoming this hurdle too. So let’s get down to explaining the nitty gritties of this visual tool.
There are three major types of 3D glasses – passive, active and colourised 3D, mainly patented by cinema engineering company Dolby.
Passive 3D Glasses
Passive 3D glasses are light weight and sometimes made of paper. They have separate filters for each eye. Priced any where between Rs 30 and 35 a piece,most multiplexes even allow patrons to take them home, if they are willing to pay for them.
Here, the 3D image beams out of the lens through a circular and polarised 3D filter before it hits the screen. It is important for a multiplex to have a ‘silver’ screen if they are using passive glasses.
Silver screens or silver lenticular screens were used as the standard formotion picture projection decades ago.These screens are back in use as they are ideally suited to modern 3D film polarised projection. The cost of installing a silver screen is about Rs. 700 per square foot, depending on screen size.
Active glasses are bulkier, thanks to a little battery-operated circuit installed inside the glasses. The technology works on the left and right eye shutter technique. These glasses do not require a silver screen.
Colorised 3D Glasses
Here, there’s a colour wheel inside the projector. The conversion of 2D to 3D images happens within this colour wheel.The colored glasses match the image from the projector and produce a 3D image.
Scrabble Entertainment supplies these glasses to exhibitors to whom they also supply their 2K and 4K DCI-complaint projection systems. Ranjit Thakur, CEO,Scrabble Entertainment says, “Exhibitors were initially apprehensive about investing in passive 3D projection systems as theywere doubtful of the number of 3D films that would come their way. But with the huge flow of 3D films in India, more and more exhibitors are willing to upgrade.”
Scrabble offers two types of business models – one where the exhibitors can opt for a package deal of projectors and glasses on a six-month rental basis and the other where exhibitors can hire the equipment on a per-film basis.
Thakur says, “Most cinemas are opting to go passive, but these factors depend on the amount exhibitors are willing to spend as well as the size of the cinema hall and various other factors.”
PVR Cinemas, for instance, plans togo 100 per cent passive. And it’s not just them. Many exhibitors are choosing to install the costlier projection systems to accommodate passive glasses as these are cheaper and there is minimal wear and tear. Once purchased, some cinema owners even allow patrons to take these home which can also be used a number of times to watch several other 3D films till the quality depletes.
But the investment the multiplex has to make to install a silver screen as well as the 3D projector can be as high as Rs 27 lakh. Active glasses, on the other hand,cost around Rs 1,300 apiece, before tax.But the accompanying projection cost of these glasses is only Rs 3-4 lakh.
Hence, the multiplex’s seating capacity is one of the primary deciding factors while choosing active or passive 3D glass technology. For a single-screen cinema,which has about 700 to 800 seats, passive glasses would be an ideal choice. But for a multiplex which has about 250 seats on an average, active glasses could be a preference. Despite this, even multiplexes are now opting for the passive ones due to the low cost factor.
Over the years, evolving technology has breathed life into this once humble cardboard 3D glasses, giving it a swanky makeover.To sum it up, the 3D glasses have come a longway from the time the country was exposed to it’s first 3D film Chhota Chetan.
Arshad Shaikh, Asst Manager—Operations, E-Square Media PvtLtd, Pune
We use passive 3D systems for our property Victory in Pune. The glasses here are for Rs 50. Since we have a small staff here, we did not want the responsibility of managing the active glasses which are more expensive and delicate. But for our other multiplexes like Vishal, Konark and Abhinay E-Square at Parvati and the one at Kolhapur, we have invested in active 3D. Here, the glasses cost Rs 1,500 a piece and the projector costs Rs 5 lakh. Our property at University Road multiplex uses Dolby 3D, which is far more expensive but also worth the quality. Here, the glasses cost Rs 1,600-1,700 each, and the projector up to Rs 22 lakh.
Akshay Rathi, Director, Rathi Group of Cinemas
We have only one cinema with a 3D facility and it is powered by UFO Moviez,which does not use 2K projectors. In lay terms, there are two projectors which display an image from two angles giving it a 3D look. With these projectors, the 3D glasses cost around Rs 30 and that is a very cost-effective business model for us.
Pramod Arora, Group President &CEO, PVR Cinemas
We prefer passive 3D glasses over the active ones as there a few dis advantages to the active glasses. The battery in the active ones sometimes dies mid-way through the film. The active glasses are also heavier even though they weigh 20gm, which is less than the earlier 70 gm.Yet, we have received complains for molder patrons, who say the glasses hurt their nose when they wear them over their spectacles.