On 2.17 I summarized the reactions of Roger Ebert and MCN’s David Poland to Titanic 3D (Paramount, 4.4), which they both saw at Valentine’s Day (2.14) preview screenings in Chicago and Burbank, respectively. Both were disappointed by the relative darkness of the image. Ebert called what he saw “a defacement,” partly due to low light levels, and Poland said “it’s like watching the movie through a filter.”

It appears that Ebert and Poland saw Titanic 3D, which was converted from 2D to stereoscopic for the RealD process, on either Sony or Christie 3D projectors at their respective plexes in Chicago and Burbank.

There are specific technical reasons for darkish, filtered-looking 3D. And to hear it from respected Chicago-based projection consultant James Bond (of Full Aperture Systems), there’s a technical way out of that, or at least a way to make 3D look a little better.

This could happen, Bond believes, if Titanic 3D were to be shown in concert with the Panavision 3D process, which is basically a 3D image-enhancement system that works with 3D projectors manufactured by Christie, Barco and NEC, all of which enjoy decent industry cred. Panavision 3D‘s system (a) involves no polarization, (b) allows exhibitors to project 3D on white or silver screens, and (c) allows for brighter 3D light levels (which are measured in foot lamberts) than what Bond says is the usual-usual, or 2.5 to 4 foot lamberts.

Panavision 3D, which has only been around for about a year, allows for something closer to 5 or 6 foot lamberts. This cuts into contrast, Bond says, but is nonetheless much more preferable to what most people are seeing with other lower-light-level systems.

Right now Panavison 3D is “the very best of all…a very seamless process,” Bond says.

The one 3D system that Panavision doesn’t work with, according to Panavision 3D rep Sean Lohan, is Sony’s, which is much less admired among high-end projection consultants. (The Regal Cinema chain, he notes, “has finalized a decision to remove any Sony 3D machines they have in the booth.”) And yet in 2009 it was reported that Sony’s 3D projectors are technologically allied with RealD, the 3D projection process that Titanic 3D will be shown through.

Ebert and Poland both saw Titanic 3D at AMC plexes — Ebert at Chicago’s AMC River East 21 and Poland at the AMC Burbank 16. I don’t know if Titanic 3D was shown in either venue on 2.14 with a Sony or a Christie 3D projector, but if a Sony projector was used that would explain a lot.

I do know that AMC’s reputation has been less than sterling among projection consultants in recent years. One told me three or four years ago that the acronym stands for “all movies compromised.”

Either way it would seem like a good idea to catch Titanic 3D commercially at a theatre using the Panavision 3D system. Except there are only two theatres in the general L.A. sprawl that have installed Panavision 3D, according to Lohan, and both are located about an hour south of downtown L.A.

Panavision 3D has been installed at the Ultra-Star Garden Walk in Anaheim (321 West Katella Avenue) and Ultra-star star Tower 10 in Temecula (7531 Ynez Rd). It hasn’t been installed in any Los Angeles county theatre, and, according to Lohan, hasn’t been installed in any high-end private industry projection room.

It always takes a while for a new idea or approach to make its way into the system.

Panavision 3D has also been installed at theatres in Rexburg, Idaho, and in Woodstock, Ontario, Lohan says.

I’ll soon be looking at Panavision 3D at Panavision’s headquarters in Woodland Hills. They run a demonstration every Wednesday at 2 pm.