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How do children experience films in stereoscopic 3D?

In stereoscopic 3D technology images are projected from two cameras, which record the same scene but slightly displaced, onto the cinema screen. In 2009, 17 of the new films arriving in cinemas were in 3D. In 2010 the number in German cinemas rose to 30, and in 2011 and 2012 to just under 50 feature-length films. How do children experience the technology? What do they expect? And even more importantly: are their expectations fulfilled? The IZI addressed these questions in an exploratory study at the beginning of 2012 using the films Hugo Cabret (original title: Hugo)and John Carter – Zwischen den Welten (original title: John Carter) as examples.   
The IZI interviewed 51 children and adolescents between the ages of six and 17 (19 girls and 32 boys) and 22 adult companions who had bought cinema tickets for the 3D film screening of their own accord.

The 3D film experience makes children aware of the limited nature of other filmic representation. The film experience is described as “like in real life” (boy, 12 years old) or “as if it was reality” (boy, 13 years old). If children and adolescents draw their film experience, there is often an object coming out of the screen.

When asked what they expect will be the added value of 3D technology, the expectations of nearly all the respondents are high: that things or people will fly towards them, that the action will seem more real, and that 3D technology will make watching the film more fun. Over a third of informants hope that the 3D technology will make it easier to engage emotionally with the story and to feel as if they are in the film. When asked after the film, the results show that the expectations of several girls and boys had been fulfilled to a certain extent. The 3D technology did make the film more exciting, and almost all who had hoped for this indicated that watching the film in 3D been more fun; they felt it was “more real”.     

They were disappointed, however, by the objects flying towards them. They had expected more illusion of space. The hope that the 3D technology would perhaps give them “butterflies in my tummy” was only fulfilled for one fifth of the children. Most of those who saw the film Hugo Cabret did have the feeling of “being right in the middle of it”, but most of those who saw John Carter did not. Most of those who saw John Carter did not have their hope fulfilled that the technology would make the film more believable, however expectations were significantly surpassed for those who saw Hugo Cabret. It therefore depends mainly on how the technology is integrated into the narrative. The study provides clear examples of where this is successful and where it is not.

Götz, May; Bulla, Christine: "As if you're right in the middle of the place where the story is happening". How children and adolescents experience stereoscopic 3D technology. TelevIZIon, 26/2013/E, 41-45.