The meaning of back-to-school nightmares, and PSVR

Hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas! One of my resolutions for the new year is to blog more, as blogging seems to help me think in words, which helps me think in general… I think. And I haven’t blogged much over the past year, so I got a little bit dumber.

I had a very good and peaceful Christmas. Pre-Christmas busy-ness was worse than usual though, so I didn’t have time to bake a bunch of cookies like I usually do, but I managed to eat too much on the holiday anyway. It’s nice to have a few days off. My big gift this year was a PSVR, which I’ve been wanting since it was released. I’ll blather about that in a bit, but first some thoughts on some nightmares I’ve had…

The meaning of nightmares in which I’m forced to go back to school

I got out of college in 2008.

Notice the phrasing of that sentence. I “got out.” Not “graduated.” I hate formal schooling so much that I think of it as something to “get out” of.

So it’s been over a decade since I got out of school, but throughout that decade I’ve been plagued by annoying nightmares about having to go back. Either I find myself back in college having to earn a few more credits, or I have go back to high school for some stupid reason even though I already graduated from college.

Last night I had an interesting and somewhat cathartic variation on this dream. I was forced to go back to high school and retake some classes, including AP European History, which I dreaded, not so much because the material was difficult, but because there was so much of it. Lots of notes to take and lots of essays to write and lots of names and dates to memorize. But I packed my bookbag and off I went.

When I got to school, however, the teachers had an announcement. “Would the following names please report to the office: Sean, [and three other names I don’t remember]. You four don’t have to be here. There’s nothing more we can do for you. We wish you the best in life and we’re sure you’ll do great!”

In the dream I was relieved. Freedom! The nightmare actually released me from its clutches. Although, what did they mean, “There’s nothing more we can do for you”? Was that because I was too dumb? Not good enough? Oh well, who cares, I was free!

But when I woke up and thought about it, it hit me: Was that why I was having these nightmares? Because my subconscious was (is?) insecure about how I did in high school and college? My subconscious was disappointed in me, knew I could’ve focused more and could’ve earned better grades, so it kept revisiting those stressful times in a sort of effort to “conquer” them? To fantasize about doing better? To try to understand why I hated it so much, why I didn’t do better?

Obviously, I don’t know the answer, but it’s certainly an idea I didn’t even think to consider before. There’s the conscious me, which says of my memories of high school and college, “I don’t care about how I did, I’m just happy to be out of it!” But it certainly feels possible that below the surface, in that mysterious realm where emotions and fears and dreams and desires are manufactured according to their own strange and mysterious logic, the subconscious was unsatisfied and frustrated by the high school and college experience, and that the seeds of these nightmares are planted in unresolved tension. At the very least, it’s an interesting idea that I hadn’t considered and something worthy of pondering.

Guess I’ll have to wait and see if I have any more nightmares about school, and/or whether they are varied in any way.

What would Jung say about this?


PSVR and games and movies!

As mentioned earlier, my big gift this year was a PSVR. One of the coolest things I can do with it is watch 3D blu-rays! I love 3D movies, though of course the home video market for 3D films never really became popular enough. It’ll be interesting to see if they stop producing 3D blu-rays altogether. Already it seems impossible to find certain titles like Rogue One on blu-ray 3D (in the USA at least). But now I can bask in the beauty of Jurassic Park and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo in 3D! I’ve collected about a dozen other 3D movies as well. I watched a bit yesterday, and it was great! Granted, the resolution wasn’t great, as PSVR doesn’t give you full HD resolution in both eyes, but it’s still completely watchable, around (or perhaps a bit better than) DVD resolution.

I also played a bit of Skyrim in VR. I’m used to playing this game with a keyboard, so mostly I was terrible at fighting as I tried to figure out how to control the character with a PlayStation controller. Can’t do keyboard shortcuts like I’m used to. I suppose I could try hooking up a keyboard to the PS and see if Skyrim VR is even compatible with that. Moving around in the Skyrim world did make me a bit VR motion sick, though the “FOV filters” help a lot.

With that limited gaming experience, here’s my comparison between PSVR and Oculus Rift:


  • More comfortable to wear (VR unit hangs in front of your eyes from a ring on your head)
  • In-ear headphone are more comfortable and deliver great sound
  • Supports 3D blu-rays
  • Resolution is decent
  • Field of view seems smaller, but as greater FOV causes more VR motion sickness, this is a tradeoff

Oculus Rift

  • Less comfortable to wear (VR unit presses against your face like ski goggles and gets too warm)
  • Headphones (not in-ear) aren’t great
  • Blu-ray support depends on your PC and so would cost more (I’ve never tried it)
  • Resolution seems a bit better; your GPU can likely offer better graphics (at greater cost)
  • Greater field of view, helps with immersion but causes more VR sickness

Overall, I’d say the PSVR wins at the moment largely due to its greater comfort. I can only play my Oculus Rift for up to about an hour before it starts to annoy me; it’s constantly pressing against my face, gets too warm, and leaves me with ski-goggle marks. PSVR’s design is far superior.

That said, I still prefer PC gaming to console gaming, though I don’t like the whole “Oculus Home” or whatever it’s called that Facebook (owner of Oculus) has tried to shove down everyone’s throat. It’s clunky and unneeded. (I understand they want some control over the market, as any console manufacturer gets for free, but too bad; that’s not in my interest as a consumer.) Overall, I’m hoping for a 3rd party company to come in and conquer them both, but we’ll probably have to wait a while. As with any new technology, I think most companies and investors are more concerned about the business models of this tech; innovation’s not worth much if you can’t sell it. We’re probably lucky (Luckey! haha) to have any VR at all.

Are 3D conversions actually better?

There’s an interesting blog post over on Blue Sky Disney about 3D. I do find it nice to see a blog post by someone who doesn’t seem to hate 3D as much as many other bloggers (just check out that post’s comments), but he also makes an interesting point:

A lot has been said about shooting 3D rather than post converting. Just because some studios wanted to rush a conversion and the conversions came out poorly, people have just assumed that all conversion is poorly done. The way conversion should be used is just like any other art form, it should be viewed like cinematography, editing, sound, it is essential to the picture to be done right. “Conversion is a artistic process, not a technical one” – Jon Landau.

If you’ve read some of my older posts, you’ll know that I’ve said that a live-action 3D movie should be shot in 3D, because 3D conversions look awful. I suppose I fell prey to a deductive fallacy; just because the conversions I’ve seen have been awful doesn’t mean that they’re all awful. I’ll still have to see the conversions myself to judge them, I’m not going to take anyone’s word for it, but the writer does make a good point that converting to 3D in post (when not rushed) gives artists much more control over the shot. I still have to wonder how they would convert something like a panning shot of a tree or a field of grass; there’s just so much stuff there to worry about. But if I were a director, it would be much easier to worry about depth perception after shooting, instead of having it hinder my cinematographic decisions during shooting.

Also, though the writer mentions the rise in popularity of 3D TVs, I still think they flicker too much and I’d rather not wear clunky expensive battery-powered glasses. Gimme the cheap movie theater glasses. And raise those frame rates. Maybe they need to sell 3D projector systems?

Are 3D movies inherently bad?

Earlier this month I wrote a post about people’s arguments against 3D films. Roger Ebert recently wrote this blog post: Why 3D doesn’t work and never will. Case closed.

Case closed? As if that will stop people from arguing or as if that excuses you from having to further defend your position in any way?

Ebert starts off by writing:

I received a letter that ends, as far as I am concerned, the discussion about 3D. It doesn’t work with our brains and it never will.

The notion that we are asked to pay a premium to witness an inferior and inherently brain-confusing image is outrageous. The case is closed.

Firstly, notice the first sentence of the second paragraph there. Why does he feel the need to mention price? Isn’t that a different (albeit related) argument?

Secondly, nothing can be inherently brain-confusing. Confusion is a psychological response to something; it can’t exist if there’s no brain to be confused. Since it’s completely psychological, it’s also completely subjective. A majority can certainly share opinions since human brains do have a lot of similarities, but you can never objectively close a case about what is and isn’t confusing.

The post is really about Walter Murch’s letter to Ebert, so Ebert then goes into mentioning Murch’s credentials. I’m tempted to scoff at the idea of giving off credentials for something like this; after all, we can all go see 3D movies and make our own judgments, but then I remembered what Ebert’s job was. Oh yeah. He probably feels the need to validate letters like this with credentials, even though, in a case like this, they’re meaningless.

Murch’s argument:

The biggest problem with 3D, though, is the “convergence/focus” issue. A couple of the other issues — darkness and “smallness” — are at least theoretically solvable. But the deeper problem is that the audience must focus their eyes at the plane of the screen — say it is 80 feet away. This is constant no matter what.

But their eyes must converge at perhaps 10 feet away, then 60 feet, then 120 feet, and so on, depending on what the illusion is. So 3D films require us to focus at one distance and converge at another. And 600 million years of evolution has never presented this problem before. All living things with eyes have always focussed and converged at the same point.

If we look at the salt shaker on the table, close to us, we focus at six feet and our eyeballs converge (tilt in) at six feet. Imagine the base of a triangle between your eyes and the apex of the triangle resting on the thing you are looking at. But then look out the window and you focus at sixty feet and converge also at sixty feet. That imaginary triangle has now “opened up” so that your lines of sight are almost — almost — parallel to each other.

My counter-argument:

Nope, I don’t mind 3D!

Well, there you have it folks! You can’t say “here’s the physiological response of doing what you’re doing, therefore it’s innately bad.” I don’t give a $%@! if it gives you headaches or confuses you subconsciously. My brain feels fine, and unless you show me statistical evidence that 3D movies cause cancer or something, you’re not going to sway my opinion.

Yes, the extra price on top of already-too-high ticket prices is stupid, but if that’s your issue, focus on that. Murch’s argument only supports your anti-3D argument if you get headaches or feel other harmful physiological aspects in yourself while or after watching a 3D film.

It’s kind of funny that Murch writes:

[3D film audiences] are doing something that 600 million years of evolution never prepared them for.

In his book, In the Blink of an Eye, Murch mentions that the same is true for many sorts of editorial cuts in general! He mentions that it’s fascinating the eye can understand such cuts at all considering how, before films, the eye never had a chance to experience and adapt to such cuts before (like over-the-shoulder cuts during a two-way conversation). Of course, there are still limits to what looks good to most audiences and what will undoubtedly confuse them; there are still rules that film editors have to work with for whatever effect they want to achieve.

Considering Murch himself knows this, shouldn’t he at least guess that young eyes and brains might have the ability to adapt to 3D, or that it might cause minimal or no harm or confusion in some brain-eye systems, like, gee, I don’t know… mine?

Why do so many people hate 3D movies?

The few reasons I can think of:

1. Prices are stupid. The extra money isn’t for the glasses. In fact, I’m not sure what it’s for. Does the projector cost that much more money to run? I doubt it. The production companies are just stupid. Less people coming to the theater? Let’s jack up the prices! They might be happily traveling down the road that will kill them, especially as Internet movie distribution becomes more prevalent with Internet TVs. But who knows how much money they’re making? Maybe they have nothing to complain about. But, from an audience point of view, $13 or more is just not worth it for seeing a movie one time in a theater. So I think this argument is entirely valid.

2. You get motion sickness. I don’t, but some people do. Obviously you don’t want to watch a movie that makes you sick.

3. The glasses look dorky. I don’t understand this one. They are uncomfortable in their “one-size-fits-all” design. It would be nice to have a pair that are designed more like sunglasses. But if you think you look like a dork in them, that’s just your own self-conscious fault. You’re in a darkened theater. If you’re concerned how you look in a movie theater, you have bigger problems than how you look in a movie theater.

4. Aesthetic reasons. I can only partly understand this. From what I’ve seen, when they convert 2D to 3D, it looks cardboard-cutout-ish and awful. Looks much better if they shoot it in 3D, or if it’s already CGI and they can just move the virtual camera (as long as they do it right; you can’t just move it over a random distance to the side, obviously). Supposedly they’ve gotten better at converting 2D to 3D, but the examples I’ve seen so far have been awful.

I don’t understand the larger argument of a 3D movie in general being bad. The real world is in 3D after all. Do you get mad that a movie isn’t in black and white or isn’t silent?

If you’re distracted by the beauty of the 3D (I do sometimes find myself thinking “ooh, this looks so cool!” especially in a good theater), why is that a bad thing? You could be equally distracted by the beauty of a character, or a set, or the music, or the cinematography, etc. Maybe you will not be as conscious of those other elements because you are more used to them, in which case being distracted by 3D is simply a matter of experience with it. Would you claim that the story is the only part of a movie that is allowed to be beautiful, that is allowed to affect you emotionally?

If it distracts you because you think it is ugly, why do you think it’s ugly? Is it just unconvincing for some reason? As I said, the real world is in 3D and you probably don’t go around with one eye closed because you find 3D ugly. It should make the movie more immersive; from an audience point of view, that’s the entire point of 3D; it makes the world of the film look more tangible. I think that’s awesome, and I hope it doesn’t go away anytime soon. (And I do hope 3D TVs stop using that flicker technology; that’s just annoying. Find a way to get both images up there at once.)