3D Movies as Vision Therapy

Some time ago, I came across an article from the BBC about a man named Bruce Bridgeman who went to see the movie “Hugo” in 3D. It was February 2012 and he thought it would be a waste of money because he was essentially stereoblind (unable to see in 3D, ie not able to perceive depth) since birth. The 67-year-old neuroscientist was surprised to find that he could see the characters leaping from the screen and was able to appreciate a whole new dimension of sight. To his surprise, the effects lasted after he left the theatre, and he continued to see in 3D. In his words “Riding to work on my bike, I look into a forest beside the road and see a riot of depth, every tree standing out from all the others.” I tried to track him down for an interview, and found only an obituary indicating he died on July 10, 2016 in a tragic accident in Taiwan. The entire BBC article about his 3D movie experience is available here: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20120719-awoken-from-a-2d-world.

I’m not remembering now whether I knew of his experience before I went to my first 3D movie, but I blogged about that initial experience where I saw a little depth in the movie, Life of Pi on May 9, 2013. I indicated in that blog that the decision was spurred by the experience of Lynda Rimke https://leavingflatland.wordpress.com/category/3d-movies-and-gaming/. She had seen some depth while using prism glasses and enjoyed Life of Pi very much. She also had blogged about Bruce Bridgeman’s experience and that may also be where I learned of him.

Although I experienced some 3D effects when watching Life of Pi, I didn’t try viewing 3D movies again until I had achieved some stereopsis. I have made it a point to consult the website CinemaBlend: To 3D or not to 3D, where they rate the movies for their 3D effects. Some of the movies that were available I chose not to see because the 3D effects were not considered to be very good. I figured it wouldn’t be a good test of my own 3D ability if there wasn’t much of anything to see.

Following my eye surgery, I started using 3D movies at the discount theatre as an excuse to have a movie date with my daughter who also completed her vision therapy. It became our vision therapy refresher and we both noticed enhanced 3D effects in the real world after viewing a movie in 3D. I remember in particular feeling amazed at how beautifully the trees defined the road, almost like a tunnel as I drove home, and alternately being a little anxious when the snow came at my windshield during a snowstorm. It had never had that depth and direction before.

Now, during the covid-19 pandemic, it’s become nearly impossible to see a 3D movie at the theatre. Interestingly enough, a few months ago (before covid hit), I decided to buy a used 3D TV for $150. It’s been an excellent investment, even though I currently only have 2 pairs of glasses (and they’re fairly pricey). I have begun investing in some of the best 3D movies and can now engage in my 3D movie vision therapy in the comfort of my own home!

There doesn’t seem to be much data about 3D movies as vision therapy. I’d love some feedback on whether you or someone you know has used 3D movies as vision therapy and what the results have been.

Strabismus in the movies: Mike Myers in “View from the Top”

I had not seen strabismus mentioned specifically in a movie until I watched View from the Top with Gwyneth Paltrow, Candice Bergen, Kelly Preston, Rob Lowe, Christina Applegate, Mark Ruffalo and comic Mike Myers. I frequently pick up movies at garage sales for $1 and was attracted to this 2003 movie because according to the packaging it’s “In the hilarious style of Legally Blonde and Sweet Home Alabama,”  movies which I enjoyed. I am not a big Mike Myers fan, but I like the movie’s other actors. I was caught off guard when Myers first appeared on screen, because of the marked strabismus he exhibited. His fans may have seen his cross-eyed antics, but it was new to me.

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View from the Top: left focus

There is a scene in the movie that was so familiar to me, where he is interviewing job applicants and they give him “that look.” You know, the one where they try to decide which eye he is looking at them with. There’s also the familiar “look over your shoulder to see if he’s looking at someone behind you” moment. The clip on youtube is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLm4oCbovsE. He makes the strabismus joke in this clip too. A strabismic can appreciate how true-to-life this moment really is. I felt his pain throughout the movie because his strabismus held him back from achieving his dream. And the movie is not even about him!

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Right focus

Other images of Myers on the internet don’t show this pronounced eye turn, so I speculated for a while on how he has the eye control to be that cross-eyed at will. A closer look at other photos indicate that he is right-eye dominant (like me) and his eyes look pretty straight when he uses his dominant eye. But, in this movie he chooses to use his left, non-dominant eye, and the turn is quite pronounced. I’m speculating because it’s something I have noticed in myself, but these photos illustrate what I’m talking about: focusing with the right eye vs. the left.

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Right focus

The clip on you tube that I referenced above actually cuts out Kelly Preston’s character’s last remark, which is also so accurate to what I have experienced. She mentions his eye and then says “Oh, I didn’t notice.” Yea, right.! It’s over the top in making fun of the airline industry as well as strabismus. Rated PG-13 for language and sexual references, I may let my younger children see it and fast forward through the objectionable parts. They were watching when I was looking for the clip though and thought it was “stupid.” In this type of comedy, that’s pretty much the point.  Legally Blonde is equally extreme in it’s characterizations and they love that one! I’m wondering if strabismus is not portrayed in movies because so many of us would potentially be offended if that were the case.

Another reason to see a 3D movie

I read a post Monday on the blog “Wide-Eyed Wonder: An artist’s musings on three-dimensional vision” where Lynda Rimke shares her experience seeing a 3D movie while still in vision therapy (http://leavingflatland.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/life-of-3-1415926535-8979323846-2643383279-etc/). Leaving the movie theatre, she actually experienced “float,” or three dimensional effects in real life. I was intrigued, and wondered if that would be possible for me. So at Tuesday’s vision therapy appointment I asked Dr. Davies about it. Lynda had recently gotten a new pair of glasses with prisms before this 3D movie experience. I have had some success while using a prism in therapy sessions, so I saw a possible connection. Dr. Davies gave me some stick on prisms for the 3D glasses and encouraged me to try it.

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As luck would have it, the very movie Lynda saw, Life of Pi, is currently showing at our local budget theatre in 3D for only $3.25. It has been years (maybe 10) since I took my kids to a 3D movie, mostly because I can’t see it, so it seemed like a big waste of money. In retrospect, I realize that was a fairly selfish way of looking at the 3D experience. I took four of my children (the ones currently at home) to yesterday’s matinee. Two of them finished vision therapy a few months ago and this was their first 3D movie experience since then. None of them remembered seeing a movie in 3D before.

My ten-year-old daughter was especially enthralled with the special effects. It really was a beautiful movie! I saw the “falling in” effects more than the things popping out and had a headache by the end. But I can see the potential. Things looked a little different when I exited the theatre. Without the prisms, my eyes soon reverted back to their regular way of seeing. And my eyes were really tired! However, I enjoyed the movie and especially appreciated my daughter’s delight at the 3D effects.

I have been wearing a pair of clear glasses (i.e. pink party glasses) that are taped to provide a bi-nasal patch. That way I can wear my contacts and take the glasses off at will. I bought an extra pair when I misplaced the first, so I had the brilliant realization that I could play around with the prisms on my extra pair. I’m thinking driving with prisms isn’t a good idea, but otherwise it gives me a different perspective that may encourage more fusion. Even if the 3D movie didn’t help me (and I’m hopeful it did), at least my children got to enjoy it!

UPDATE: Since achieving 3D vision, I got a 3D TV and bought the blue ray of Life of Pi in 3D. It’s so fun to enjoy it in the comfort of my home:) Here’s the Amazon link: https://amzn.to/3jTaUWr