My 3D Headache

RealD 3D Glasses

Yesterday, tired of Atlanta’s continuing lack of Imax theaters showing Hollywood fare, my wife and I drove to the AMC Southlake 24, in Morrow (about a 30 minutes away) to see Avatar. The theater complex is a rather comfortable oasis in the midst of a rather desolate shopping complex and largely enjoyed the movie; but right now I don’t want to focus on the movie itself, but on the fact that about two hours into the film I began to get a headache on both sides of my head. Reports of headaches while watching 3D films are certainly nothing new or strange, but, for someone who has been seeing stereoscopic films without incident since 1952 (yes, I’m old enough to have seen Bwana Devil when it first came out), this really caught me by surprise.

I suppose there are several valid explanations for my what happened, including the fact I never before sat through a 3D movie over two hours long, or saw a feature-length 3D Imax film, or age was finally catching up with me, or some combination of these or other factors. And attempts to use the techniques to avoid 3D headaches discussed on Shadowlocked did not seem to help left me fearing my 3D moviegoing days might be numbered.

However, in talking this over with my wife, she suggested that my headache came from the glasses applying too much pressure on my head muscles. She herself felt uncomfortable during the show and was able to relieve her discomfort by moving her glasses into a more comfortable position. I’m not sure if this explanation is valid or not, but the RealD 3D glasses the Southlake used were noticeably different from any I used before; and though I was not conscious of any added pressure to my head, it’s not something I can rule out.  And even if it is valid, I doubt it explains all reports of headaches while viewing 3D movies.

Author: Harvey Deneroff

Harvey Deneroff is a Los Angeles-based independent animation and film scholar specializing in labor history. He formerly taught at the Savannah College of Art and Design and was editor of Animation Magazine, Animation World Magazine, and Graiffit (published by ASIFA-Hollywood). He is the founder and past president of the Society for Animation Studies.

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