How to Train Your Dragon and Alice in Wonderland stand as the current top two movies at the box office, and with Clash of the Titans appearing in theaters today, 3-D movies may soon sweep the hits list.
Many viewers have donned a pair of 3-D glasses to view the 3-D films dominating the movie industry. However, health implications, both short and long-term, may discourage some viewers from becoming 3-D patrons.
For instance, some viewers experience short-term eyestrain and nausea during 3-D films. Many more experience tired eyes, migraines, double vision and nausea afterward.
“Motion sickness is a conflict of perception. Your brain is getting the input of motion. But your body’s going, ‘What the heck’s going on? We’re not moving at all. I’m just sitting in a chair, but the whole horizon is moving,'” said Dr. Richard Isaacs, an otolaryngologist and a head and neck surgeon at Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento, in an interview with The Sacramento Bee.
Headaches, tired eyes and double vision can also result from eye strain which is most likely to occur in viewers with visual conditions such as monocular dysfunction – when eyes cannot see in tandem – and accommodative dysfunction – if the eyes cannot focus properly.
“Any abnormality in binocular vision can result in eye strain, headache or double vision. You may not even be able to see the effects in the movie at all,” said Dr. Melissa Barnett at the UC Davis Medical Center in an interview with The Sacramento Bee.
3-D technology records and projects separate image-tracks per eye. Due to the spacing between eyes, offset tracks create something called a binocular disparity cue and the three-dimensional effects. The 3-D tracks are created with different polarizations and the lenses for each eye match the corresponding footage. One example of this kind of tracking appears on older versions of 3-D glasses, with one-red-lens one-blue-lens. The glasses combine two offset images by polarizing screen colors.
“The two lenses are different, 90 degrees apart. You need both eyes to be working together and fusing the image to get the 3-D effect,” Barnett said.
Short term side effects occur when eyes are not able to work in tandem.
However there are no long-term effects for college students and adults because their visual systems have already fully developed. If 3-D movies do continue to increase in popularity, though, side effects might become pronounced.
Some believe that young children growing up surrounded by 3-D media are more susceptible to long-term side effects because young children who encounter many 3-D media on a daily basis risk harming the development of their vision systems.
However Dr. Ivan Schwab, a professor of ophthalmology at the UCDMC disagrees.
“A child’s vision system develops between birth and age seven, maybe up until age 11, but the first few years are the most critical,” Schwab said. “If you are putting 3-D glasses on a one-year old for a period of six months, [developmental harm] is conceivable. There won’t be problems if the child is watching the occasional movie. Polarized glasses are just like sunglasses.”
While time will tell, there may be other reasons to limit children’s exposure to 3-D films.
“Three-dimensional film is an intense experience and young children easily become overwhelmed,” said Janet Thompson, academic coordinator for human and community development at UC Davis. “Preschool children [especially ages three to five years old] growing up now have become much more used to intense animated graphics. There is a desensitizing process going on – that isn’t necessarily a positive thing. The idea is not to expose children.”
Companies such as Nintendo are in the process of creating 3-D video games. The new game system is tentatively called the Nintendo 3-DS, and will not require users to wear 3-D glasses. The system is expected to be released this year.
“I think it’s a great option for teens and adults [but] I wouldn’t have bought it for [my sons] in their elementary and probably, being a protective parent, during their junior high years,” Thompson said.
Yet Thompson stressed that every child’s sensory experience with 3-D movies is different, and that parents must determine for themselves whether seeing 3-D movies is appropriate for their children.
Schwab added that no scientific evidence has proved the damage of 3-D movies to a child’s development.
“Unless all time is spent doing so, children should be fine,” Schwab said.
SHAWNA ALPDEMIR can be reached at email@example.com.