Tron: Legacy, 3D goggles, and embedded UA

The 3D edition of Tron: Legacy opens with embedded user assistance. The film starts with an iconic white-on-black command-prompt message exhorting viewers to keep their 3D glasses on throughout. I can’t quote it verbatim, and at the time of writing nor could anybody findable with 5 minutes of googling. But it was something like:

“Although parts of the movie are 2D, it was shot in 3D, and glasses should be worn at all times. This is how it was intended to be viewed”

Yeah – “intended”. That part is verbatim. Wow.

Now, I appreciate that even out of the small sub-set of readers who care a rat’s ass for critical theory, few will be quite so gung-ho for the whole “death of the author” shtick as I tend to be. And yes, this is ergonomic rather than interpretive, but really – telling an audience how you expect them to watch a movie? That’s up there with Big Steve’s “you’re holding it wrong

Even if it solves the problem, it’s pretty arrogant. If anything, it’s worse than RTFM. And if enough people are doing it wrong that you have to include the announcement, then maybe – just maybe – you’ve got a UX and/or design problem.

Plus, current 3D glasses are like sitting in a darkened room, cosplaying the lovechild of Spider Jerusalem and Jarvis Cocker.

Ok, so that observation was weirder than it was helpful; but seriously, nobody wants to wear the glasses if they don’t have to. They ruin the visual experience of the non-3D sections, and personally, I find them pretty disruptive to the suspension of disbelief.

This is an old, old, problem, and I’m carping on about it because Tron is enjoyable mass-market slush. It’s easier for me to say “no, I can’t just put some text on it. It’s fundamentally broken, redesign it.” in the middle of a small-ish, agile, software project than it would be for some beleaguered production assistant at the end of editing a $200 million movie. But lots of folks in software don’t even get to do that.

Way more people are going to see Tron, and be annoyed by this, than will ever read a technical communication blog. So hopefully, after two hours of being mildly annoyed, wanting to turn the brightness up, and slowly getting a headache, they’ll realise something very, very important: you just can’t document your way out of a shoddy UI.


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