When seeing Alice in Wonderland recently, it was the first 3D film I saw in cinema. I may have had brief 3D stints in the 1980s with those red and green glasses before – but this seems to be an entirely new wave of ‘3D’ cinema.
And a better one at that. Not only because you can have real colours when they aren’t used to encode which part of the image should go to which eye, but also because the film business seems to have smelled some extra money they can make with this and they seem to be putting quite a bit of effort into creating new 3D films and talking cinemas into upgrading their technology to handle them.
It appears that, technically, 3D films does require a moderate extra effort for the cinemas because of the equipment that is required and because the technology doesn’t seem to work in the front rows, reducing capacity. The polarisation based technique they are using is rather painless and I found the cheap plastic 3D ‘glasses’ they give you to be large enough to be worn in front of my proper glasses.
For film makers it sounds like there may be many different forms of extra efforts required. I suppose that for animated films that are created in 3D software anyway, creating a ‘3D’ copy of the film could be as simple as choosing a different export option in the software. Once real cameras are involved, things stop being that easy and film-makers have to use two of them to capture the additional information needed for a ‘3D’ picture. Another approach – which has been used for decades and apparently was used in Alice in Wonderland as well – is to film as usual, or otherwise create the movie, and then ‘fake’ the 3D into it later on.
I didn’t spot the ‘fake’ aspect while watching Alice in Wonderland. So that may be a hint on how much effort this is. Or rather, on how clumsy one’s 3D perception is. Usually 2D images contain plenty of information about objects’ arrangement in the third dimension and one can deduce the necessary details from them. Film-makers have known how to exploit that for ages.
The added ‘3D’ component in the film doesn’t seem to be about mere information but more the ‘feeling’ of it. While you would have been able to extrapolate the depth information from a 2D image as well, you can properly see and perceive it in a ‘3D’ setup. Yet, again, this is most apparent when things are moving quickly or the effects are extreme. When the Dormouse through a little pin right at me in Alice in Wonderland, I was shocked. Presumably because our 3D sense hasn’t been dulled down enough in movies to know that things flying towards us in the image won’t be able to hurt us.
A further danger of the modern ‘3D’ techniques could be seen in the trailers before the film. The message to take from this is that one should let the annoying advertising people get ‘3D’ technology into their dirty fingers or we’ll end up with things flying around us for more reliable distraction. I don’t see any good reason why a logo or a film’s name needs to float in the middle of the room or very close to me. It’s just as informative and less intrusive flat on the screen.
In total I thought the ‘3D’ stuff was amusing with a few fun effects happening. But I didn’t find it groundbreaking and neither do I see how it actually improves the film. Perhaps that is because this wave of 3D technology is still young and film-makers only use it for the a-ha. But as I’m already quite capable of immersing into a 2D film, I do wonder what exactly they’d need to do to make ‘3D’ seem compelling. The way it seems to me, it may make action-rich films more ‘exciting’ and that’s fair enough. But it’s usually not why I’d go to the cinema.
I think it’s worth remembering how we ended up with the first wave of 3D films and things like “smell-O-vision” and all that kooky stuff in the 1950s — namely, studios and exhibitors were terrified that audiences would just stay home and watch TV instead of seeing things in theaters. With HD and Blu-ray and 7.1 sound in the home now, I think we’re seeing the latest iteration of this impulse.
I can agree with the concerns of someone like Ebert when it comes to things like image brightness. So far it seems mostly confined to “popcorn movies” where stuff blows up real good, so I can’t say it impacts my viewing a whole lot. My only concern is if it squeezes “quieter” films out of the theaters.
Bonus funny action movie link: http://l.freeke.org/kbncr
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