What Does 2D Mean in Movies? Is it Better Than 3D?

With words like “IMAX,” “Cinemark XD,” “RPX,” “4D,” and “Dolby Cinema” being thrown around, it’s no wonder that people are having trouble keeping up with the latest thing in filmmaking.

The “It Girl” format of Hollywood cinema changes like the wind, and every so often, a new film shakes it up, and everyone in Hollywood remembers that they’re supposed to be a creative field. 

However, just because a number has more digits and zeroes doesn’t mean something is better. Several factors influence the format a movie is shot and edited in.

Older films need to be remastered in newer designs to allow new audiences to view them, but different forms present different challenges when restoring them for a modern audience. It can be easier to outright remake a movie for a new format in many cases. 

So, what are all the formats you can view a movie in? Here are some of the ones you might see advertised around your hometown. 

Quick Answer: What Does 2D Mean in Movies?

In the context of movies, 2D stands for “two-dimensional.” It refers to the traditional movie-viewing experience where the audience watches flat images being displayed on a screen, much like watching a show on a home television or computer.

In simplest terms, you can think of a 2D movie as not 3D.

Number+D Formats 

When you see a dimension format like 2D, 3D, and so on, this refers to how much effort is put into immersing the viewers in the experience of the movie. Movies have been focusing on immersion rather than passive watching in more recent times. Rather than have you be a passive spectator, they want you to feel like you’re part of the action. 

Here’s what all the dimensional formats bring to the table. 


This is the default. So, no need for this to be marked. Any film not marked with another Number + D combo should be assumed to be 2D. 2D stands for “two-dimensional” and is the default movie experience where you watch the action on a screen.

2D movie viewing is similar to the image that you see on your home television or home computer. Basically, images being displayed on a flat screen.


3D is a relatively common alternative to 2D. The image is given depth with three-dimensional movie viewing as if it were jumping out of the screen. Standard 2D movies have distance but remain flat images no matter how hard you try.  

Three-Dimensional movies usually require peripheral eyewear that distorts the images to appear to have depth when viewed through the glasses. Most of us remember the dorky blue and red “3D glasses,” but this technology and design has improved in recent years.


Four-dimensional movies incorporate movement into the viewing experience as their “fourth dimension.” 4D theaters are generally built with this in mind and include a dynamic seat system that shifts along with the movie’s flow and enhances the immersive experience. 


This is a four-dimensional movie that includes sensation as the fifth dimension. Attendees of these films may be spritzed with water, blustered by wind, or even be wafted with aromas to enhance the viewing experience further and immerse the viewer in the film’s story. 


You might be thinking, “what happened to 6D” and all I can tell you is, “Don’t sweat the small stuff, mate.”

7D experiences go beyond watching. They don’t want you to be a spectator any longer. 7D experiences incorporate interactivity into the mix. In a 7D experience, the audience can lead the show. Certain sections may allow the audience to interact with the movie by pointing out objects or other interactive experiences. 

Remember when Steve from Blue’s Clues would ask you questions, and you would answer, then he would answer your question, and as a toddler, it blew your mind how the man on the TV knew what you said? 7D movies do this on a massive scale, enabling people to guide the film to different endings depending on how they interact with the movie. 


Yes, it does get bigger and better. 9D movies incorporate full-scale virtual reality. Viewers of these movies can walk around sets and get different vantage points in the shot that you wouldn’t be able to include in a standard, non-VR film. 

To view these movies in their glory, you’ll need to wear a special VR headset that will fully immerse you in the experience at hand. The audience in these movies is brought with the crew to the film’s set, where they are engaged in the whole venture of the world of the movie. 

10D (XD) 

10D films, also known as XD films, offer a superior immersive experience that incorporates lessons learned from 3, 4, 5, 7, and 9D adventures. 

Which Format Is the Best? 

There is no “best format.” It’s primarily personal preference whether someone enjoys a certain dimensional format. While some people might find sensations or movement exciting and immersive, some others may find it a nuisance that distracts them. 

How Can I Improve My Film-Watching Experience? 

There isn’t one definitive way that you can improve your experience as a movie-goer. Every person is unique and will find different experiences enjoyable. For instance, while some may find that the VR headsets in 9D movies offer additional immersion, others may find they get motion sick while wearing them. 

The first step to improving your movie-watching experience is to find the movie format that you like the most. There’s no harm in enjoying the classics, and 2D movie experiences aren’t going anywhere! So if you’re a fan of the good old stuff, don’t feel pressured to change that habit! 

Once you’ve found the best way for you to enjoy your movies, adjust based on the format you prefer. For instance, 3D movie-goers have the option of sitting in the front or the back of the theater; where they sit will influence the 3D image depth. So, don’t be afraid to experiment with different placements and theaters. 

What Is the Best Seat in the Movie Theater? 

One way you can improve your movie-going experience is to sit in different seats. Different areas of the movie theater offer different benefits to the movie experience. Most people would suggest a center placement, right in the middle of the theater. A center seat allows you to be equidistant from all the surround sound speakers and get a more comprehensive sound profile when you watch movies.  

Additionally, side placements can land you underneath the speakers and leave you in a situation where the other speakers are being drowned out by the speaker you’re closest to. You’ll get a very flat sound profile from a seat directly beneath a side speaker because you won’t be able to hear all the other speakers as equally as the one you’re close to. 

Sitting in the center also reduces keystone distortion. Keystone distortion is a type of distortion that occurs when you project an image onto a flat surface. The projection will need to be corrected to prevent the image from appearing slanted on the screen.  

Even after correction, some keystone distortion will still be visible. The keystone distortion in a well-corrected projection will be most visible when the image is viewed from an angle, such as the one created when you view a movie from an off center seat.

For further reading on choosing the best seat in the theater, see our guides for 4DX, Dolby Cinema, 3D, and IMAX.

Adding Fourth and Fifth Dimensions 

When you add movement and sensation into the movie-watching experience, it changes the dynamics of the seating arrangement. You’ll want to sit close to the center, but near nodes that provide sensation to feel most immersed in the sensation portions of the movie experience. 

Since these theaters still use a fairly standard surround sound system, finding the spot in the center of the theater that has the best sensation could take a few tries, but don’t lose hope! 

How to Find the Center of the Theater 

Since theaters don’t have a standard size and shape, it can be hard to determine what the “center” of the theater is meant to be. The good news is that it’s pretty easy to figure out where the center is. There’s only one main step: draw an X connecting all four corners of the theater on a map. 

You can do this while on the seat selection page for theaters that allow you to pre-book seats in the theater. Where the X intersects is the center of the theater. So, choose a seat around that intersection for the best sound and picture quality. 

What to Do If No Center Seats are Available 

If no center seats are available, you’ll have to decide if picture quality or sound quality is more important. If you are more conscious of picture quality, you’ll want to sit in the back corner of the movie theater. From this vantage point, the keystone distortion will be almost negligible, and the experience will be like sitting in the center. 

If sound quality is the most important thing to you, grab a seat as close to the center as you can get, moving left to right across the theater. This will ensure that you have the most comprehensive sound profile you can get from the movie, 

Embracing Audio Formats in Cinemas

Besides the visually immersive formats, audio technology plays a massive role in bringing life to cinema. We’ve evolved from mono to stereo to surround sound, each iteration enhancing the viewers’ experience by creating an audible environment that matches the on-screen action.

Two major audio systems are currently dominating cinemas: Dolby Atmos and Barco Auro 11.1.

Dolby Atmos, a creation of the well-known audio company Dolby, breaks the traditional channel-based sound design and allows sound designers to place audio in a three-dimensional space. This technology provides a sense of movement and depth that greatly enhances the realism of a movie, making you feel like you’re right in the midst of the action.

Barco Auro 11.1, on the other hand, presents a different approach to sound. It uses an additional layer of speakers above the existing surround sound setup. This “height layer” creates a more realistic and immersive sound field by providing sound sources from above, delivering an experience similar to real-life sound perception.

It’s fascinating to see how far audio technology in cinemas has come. As filmmakers and audio engineers continue to push the boundaries, we can expect even more immersive and captivating experiences in the future.

The Impact of Room Acoustics

One element of your movie-watching experience that is often overlooked is the theater room’s acoustics. The size, shape, and materials used in a movie theater can significantly influence sound quality, and thus, your overall experience.

In a properly designed cinema, the walls, ceiling, and even the seats are meticulously crafted to manage the reflection, absorption, and diffusion of sound waves. A combination of hard surfaces (to reflect sound) and soft materials (to absorb sound) ensures that the audio reaches all parts of the theater evenly.

Meanwhile, diffusers scattered across the room scatter the sound waves in different directions, eliminating the problem of “hot spots” or “dead zones.” This careful orchestration of acoustics prevents echoes and maintains a balanced, immersive sound field throughout the theater.

So, next time you walk into a movie theater, remember that there’s an entire science working behind the scenes to ensure your experience is nothing short of amazing!

Final Thoughts 

It can be hard to keep up with the changing times, but that doesn’t mean you have to get left in the dust! There are all kinds of movie-going experiences that you can try out to find the most immersive and enjoyable experience for you! 


What is the difference between 4D and 5D cinema formats?

4D cinema incorporates movement into the viewing experience as the “fourth dimension” where 4D theaters have a dynamic seat system that moves with the movie’s flow. 5D cinema takes it a step further by adding sensation as the fifth dimension, such as spritzing water or wafting aromas, to enhance the viewing experience.

Do all movies release in all these formats like 3D, 4D, 5D, etc.?

No, not all movies release in all these formats. The release formats are decided by the production and distribution companies based on factors like budget, target audience, and the nature of the film.