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What Are 2D Glasses?

K.C. Bruning
K.C. Bruning

Two-dimensional (2D) glasses enable a viewer to watch a three-dimensional (3D) movie like a regular two-dimensional movie. It does this by altering the images accessible to the eye. Without 3D glasses a three-dimensional film looks blurry, because there are two major images that are projected onto the screen in slightly different places. 3D glasses allow one of these images into each eye and blocks the opposite image in order to created the three dimensional effect. 2D glasses create their effect by blocking and allowing the same image in each lens. They can be purchased or made out of two pairs of 3D glasses.

The glasses work with passive polarized 3D, which is the kind typically exhibited in a movie theater. Early versions of the glasses have not been able to accommodate IMAX theater 3D, which creates images with a different kind of technology. They also have not worked for some kinds of television 3D.

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Woman posing

If the kind of 3D glasses used in movie theaters will work on a television, then the 2D glasses are claimed to work as well. These are known as passive 3D TVs. The glasses will not work on televisions made to display 3D with more complex battery-powered glasses. These sets use a different kind of display known as active shutter.

2D glasses have the appearance of regular glasses for vision correction. They are claimed to have the same effect on the viewer as watching a 2D movie. Some glasses have been made so that it is possible to switch to 3D for select scenes.

It is possible to make 2D glasses using two pairs of 3D glasses, such as the type distributed at movie theaters. The first step is to remove one lens each from opposite sides of the glasses. Then to make each pair 2D, the lenses would be re-inserted into the opposite pair of glasses. Each pair of glasses will accept and reject one projected image. Though the images in each pair of glasses will be slightly different, the difference should not be dramatic enough to be noticeable to a viewer.

2D glasses are often marketed for people who get headaches from watching 3D for long periods. They can be used by individuals who wish to view a movie in 2D, but who are with companions who prefer 3D. The glasses can also be useful for those who live in areas where there may only be a 3D option available for certain movies.

Discussion Comments


@pastanaga - I agree that 3D in some movies is pretty useless but you can generally tell which ones to see and which ones to skip, or see in 2D.

I don't actually think 2D glasses would be all that much use to me, simply because they charge so very much for 3D movies in a lot of cinemas. I know they are allowed to set any price they want and in some cases they've been ridiculous.

I'd never pay that much to go in and use 2D glasses. I'll rarely pay that much for the privilege of using 3D glasses, to be honest.

And it's actually going to spell the end of 3D if they aren't careful.

Not many people are so impressed they're willing to pay that kind of price. Particularly when they make you buy the glasses as well.

Which means more and more people aren't going to see the 3D at all. And if they can't make any money out of it, they'll stop making it. Which is a real shame, since I also think it could have real potential as they stop treating it as a gimmick and start treating it as an additional means of creation atmosphere and emotion.


@KoiwiGal - Your friend has a point. 3D is often gimmicky. I won't say always because sometimes they manage to do something wonderful with it. Particularly if the 3D is done with animation, or if it is done during filming rather than after filming.

What will happen is they decide to cheaply add the 3D later and just go through and make it look as though one bit of the scene is further back from another bit of the scene, rather than wholly put it into 3D perspective.

This makes it looks like the characters in the foreground are just cardboard cutouts and it also makes the whole scene darker, which isn't a great thing to do when the atmosphere of a movie is already dark.

Movies in 3D should also be taking it into account the way that directors take lighting into account. Don't just do the whole thing in the brightest lights you can find. If there's a tunnel, stretch it out, if there's a pleading hand, let it appeal to the people in the cinema.

I'm hoping that this is just growing pains, because I really enjoy 3D films when they are done right.

And I wonder if 2D glasses can really repair a film butchered by digital 3D effects so that it looks normal.


I wish I had known about these kinds of glasses previously. I love 3D movies but my best friend absolutely hates them. She feels sick whenever she goes to see a film in 3D and feels like the whole thing is a gimmick.

There have been a couple of times when she wouldn't go and see a movie at the theater at all because there wasn't a showing that wasn't in 3D. And I didn't really want to go without her (although in some cases I did, but it's always better to be able to share films with friends).

I have a couple of sets of 3D glasses at home now, since they sometimes make you purchase a pair, and I could easily modify them for her so that she won't feel sick in the movie and can just watch it normally.

That's really going to be useful for me, thanks.

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