Headache Watching Avatar? Stay Focused During 3D Movies

Avatar's huge success at the box office has vanquished any doubts about the 3D movie trend: It's here to stay. And if every new 3D movie looks as stunning as James Cameron's sci-fi fantasy epic, we say, bring it on. But with new technology comes new problems, and a lot of audience members are complaining about headaches and dizziness. So, what causes the Avatar headache, and how can you prevent it?

A writer at the Web site Shadowlocked suffered from a headache at an Avatar screening, and he's come up with a detailed explanation for why it happens. The gist is that, in traditional 3D movies, there's usually a clear point of focus for the audience -- usually something popping out at us (the "jack in the box effect"). In the advanced 3D world of Avatar, there are a lot of things in the foreground at once, which is why it feels realistic (like the forest is surrounding us, and the big blue people are standing beside us). However, our eyes are trained to look for details in the whole screen, not just in the foreground. We automatically look at the blurry stuff in the background, because a lot of times, that's where something important is about to happen (think of a horror movie where the killer is lurking in the background, unseen by the victim, then suddenly comes into focus).

The problem is that the blurry stuff in Avatar doesn't ever come into focus, because the important stuff is in the 3D elements. The director has chosen what we should look at, rather than letting our own eyes choose for us. And that, friends, is disorienting enough to give anybody a headache.

So how to prevent 3D wooziness? It's actually pretty simple: Pay attention to the most in-focus part of the screen, and if your eyes wandering to the blurry stuff, snap them back. Concentrating on faces seems like a good bet -- there's a diagram here. It's really just a matter of training your brain to keep up.

Chime In: Did you get a headache during Avatar?

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