choosing your 3D seat

With the recent novelty of 3D movies taken up by various cinemas and movie theatres around Australia (and the world), the question of choosing your seat in a movie theatre is just that little bit more complicated. When we went to watch the latest (and last) installment of Harry Potter in 3D recently, it was decided (by me) that this was the perfect opportunity for a little scientific experiment. I scurried around the cinema during the 3D movie ads (including Green Lantern, Captain America, etc.) and gave each spot I sat in a rating between 1-5 in terms of 3D quality, where 5 is the highest. The scoring was somewhat arbitrary, but took into account how convincing the 3D was, whether it was technically working, the proximity to the screen and overall feel of what was being watched.

Then, I used Python (with Matplotlib) to interpolate and make a neat plot of the results. It's not a complicated process, carrying out a simple experiment. I think that in some ways the tedious way that experiments tend to be defined and taught in school hinders the way that people view their conduction - all you really need for an experiment is a question ("Where is the best place to sit in a 3D movie?"), a method of investigating this question (watching 3D movie ads from different positions in a movie theatre), a means of obtaining results (giving each spot a rating) and an analysis stage (visualising the data as a plot).

So what are the results? See the funky imshow() plot below! Dark blue in this case represents the best spot, while dark red represents the worst, with a typical rainbow spectrum in between. The position of the movie screen and back of the theatre are also indicated. In this case, the extremely dark red slab to the left of the plot represents the exit aisle, from which you'd have difficulty seeing any film anyway!

Actually, the plot is not particularly different from what would come out of a similar analysis in 2D. Sitting too close or too far is suboptimal, while the sides distort your perspective. In the case of 3D, sitting on the side of the theatre has a particularly bad effect because of parallax problems, where the two images (combined to create a 3D effect) are slightly separated and you lose the 3D image. This effect is amplified closer to the screen, but does not significantly impact viewing quality further away. Sitting at the back of the movie theatre has minimal effect on the quality of the 3D images, but does affect the quality of viewing since the screen is smaller and you feel quite distant. Overall, we found that sitting in the centre is better, especially closer to the screen, and that about 3/4 of the distance from the screen was the best compromise between screen proximity and comfort.

Of course, if you have any contributions or suggestions to improve our cursory investigation, feel free to let me know via the contact page!

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