Classification of 3D film

Hilversum, 26 May 2010

On 19 and 20 May in The Hague, NICAM organised a conference in which more than 30 film classification experts and representatives of film classification bodies from 11 European countries, as well as Australia and Singapore, took part. The participants from Europe came from England, Ireland, Germany, France, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Austria, Portugal , Hungary and the European Commission.
NICAM set up an intensive programme for the participants at the conference. On the first day, representatives from nine national film classification bodies reported on the latest developments in their countries. NICAM itself presented an overview of new activities, such as Buro240a and the pilot MediaSmarties project. 
Prof. Patti Valkenburg, a member of NICAM’s Science Committee, gave an presentation on the introduction of the 9 years age classification for Kijkwijzer.   
The second day of the conference took place partly at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, where implementation in the various European Member States of the recently issued European Directive Audiovisual Media Services was discussed. This discussion, chaired by Prof. Nico van Eijk, was introduced by Marcel Boulogne of the audiovisual policy unit of the European Commission, and was further explained by Prof. Madeleine de Cock Buning of the Media Authority.

The morning session of 20 May in Pathé Buitenhof focused on the spectacular development of 3D film and the potential consequences for film classification: a topic film classification bodies in several countries are currently grappling with. At present, there are more questions than answers in this particular area. In Sweden, separate classification of films brought out in 3D and 2D versions is being considered. In Portugal, the screening of 3D films such as Avatar has led to warnings in the media from medical specialists.  

University of Amsterdam professor and former member of NICAM’s Science Committee, Ed Tan, presented both the initial, provisional findings of his own research into the effects of 3D film screenings, and a number of partial results of a recent public survey carried out by NICAM. Although the number of adults and children who have seen a 3D film – and are therefore in a position to express an opinion – is growing, it is currently still a minority. 

Ed Tan has concluded that 3D can in fact have effects. These are principally related to greater impact,  for example in the form of exciting or frightening effects. Watching 3D images can also have physical consequences, and headaches are sometimes reported. The distance of the viewer from the screen is very important to the 3D experience, as has been demonstrated by Tan’s research. He has also concluded that there is at present not yet sufficient clarity to draw any definitive conclusions:  such as the long-term physical consequences of repeated exposure to 3D, and whether the effects can be related to the age of a child.

Parents not yet concerned
The NICAM survey revealed that a small majority (51%) of parents are not very concerned about the effects of 3D and see no reason to classify these films more strictly. 
According to Ed Tan, however, there are sufficient grounds to take a good look at the 3D phenomenon. In anticipation of the results of more thorough research, he proposes that the general public should in any event be clearly informed if a film is being screened in a 3D format. Because, in his opinion, we will see a lot more 3D in the future; it is not a temporary hype, but a growth area. 
The conference participants concluded that further research into and experience with 3D is needed, before we can conclude that 3D films should be classified differently from 2D films.

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