There’s Something Wrong In My Mind

I don’t think I’ve complained about 3D (that is, stereoscopic imagery) much on this blog, but if I have, you may safely ignore it.

3D is all the rage in Hollywood right now, with enough theatrical 3D releases this year to provide real competition for 3D screens (Neil Gaiman warned via Twitter that Coraline would be pulled from 3D screens for The Jonas Brothers movie). Even Pixar, which makes 3D films of a different sort did their first stereographic release this year with Up.

Half a century ago, 3D was all the rage as well, but it proved to be a fad. At the time, there was no computer generated 3D animation, of course, and the only stereographic process was anaglyph (the red and blue glasses) which pretty much sucks. 3D was a marketing gimmick in the 1950’s to combat the rise of television, which provided for free what movies were still charging admission.

Stereographic films never entirely went away (remember Jaws 3D?) but was a tiny, tiny market. Stereographic technology has advanced quite a bit in the last 50 years, and computer generated 3D animation is ideal for the process.

I still believe that stereographic movies are a gimmick to combat declining box office (that the industry blames on piracy – but this is a whole different topic). Partly because I find the stereographic process to be more of a distraction and headache (literally) than it is entertaining or it adds to the experience.

But it turns out that this may all be in my head. literally.

Human vision is a complicated subject, with multiple aspects, nearly all of which are subjective. My understanding of the subject is limited, but I believe there are a number of areas that are not fully understood, including stereo perception.

Just as some people can’t perceive color or depth, there is a portion of the population that cannot perceive stereo images. And I it turns out I’m pretty much stereo blind.

The University Of Southern California Entertainment Technology Center has a home 3D lab where they can show a bunch of content on a bunch of different 3D systems. They’ve been compiling stereo acuity tests as well, and this week I tested myself. I can’t perceive stereographic images separated by less than around 70 degrees, which is pretty huge (20 degrees is considered perfect stereo vision).

Okay, that’s not too horrible. It’s not like I lack depth perception (I think). But there were two tests that surprised me.

One was a random black-and-white pattern with shapes and numbers that were popped out from the background. I was most able to see the tops of horizontal elements – the bottoms, verticals and diagonal were much harder to see. In a couple instances, the bottom left corners just blended into the background.

The other was a sphere that flattened and elongated towards the viewer. I could see the change of depth on a larger screen with active shutter glasses, but I could not see it at all on two smaller displays – one with polarized glasses, one with active shutter glasses. No matter how close or far I got from the displays. Which is really weird. Some folks have an easier time with one type of process than the other, but screen size should not make that much difference.

I take a lot of pictures and think I have an eye for composition and wonder how that is affected by my weird stereo vision. How many great photographers are (or were) also stereo blind?

I have two functional eyes. They are separated on my face. Science people call that binocular vision. I think I have depth perception in the real world. So this lack of stereo perception must be in my brain.

I don’t feel stereo blind. I see the 3D effects in stereographic movies. I just don’t enjoy it much.

Is it possible that someone with two functional ears can not hear stereo audio/music? Stereo deaf? Apparently no one noticed that JoCo’s Code Monkey was in mono, so I don’t feel bad about that, but generally, I don’t think in stereo. When I’m making my music, I have to force myself to make stereo because the compact disc is a stereo medium. I don’t know that the stereo sounds any better to me.

I haven’t thought about it before. It is interesting that I was planning on buying the mono version of the Beatles remasters after they come out in a couple weeks.


  1. Posted 17 August 2009 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

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  2. Posted 17 August 2009 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Someone else mentioned the book to me, too. I bought it for my Kindle but haven’t read it yet. Looking forward to it!

  3. kempozone
    Posted 11 October 2009 at 3:06 am | Permalink

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  4. Posted 18 November 2009 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Great job on your blog.

  5. Posted 7 April 2010 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Excellent post, I will save this post in my Mixx account. Have a good day.

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  1. […] two years ago, I wrote a post on my music blog about the fact that I am mostly stereo blind. I can’t see 3D imagery (in real life or in the […]

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