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A case for 3D

By 2010/09/09December 27th, 2018The Gate

I’ve been working on FX prep for The Gate for the last year and change, and meeting most of the key players in the 3D field, running tests and doing a lot of R&D. It’s taught me a lot about 3D. There are many theories and proclamations out there about the technology that just feel wrong. Of course it’s all fairly subjective, but here’s my take on three of the most popular edicts on 3D:

1. The ‘Dictatorship of 3D’.

There is no ‘dictatorship of 3D’ as Bertrand Tavernier has claimed. Nor will Roger Ebert see his fear realized of a modern day David Lean (if only he existed, really…) having a modern day Lawrence of Arabia hitting the screens in 3D. 3D won’t take over adult cinema, just as the advent of TV didn’t kill the movies. It’s just another FX tool in an era of many FX tools. All of the hue and cry feels like a lot of misplaced fear and a longing for bygone days that are gone regardless of the advent of 3D. 3D is taking the heat for the studios making an exodus away from adult fare towards almost solely family-oriented, branded entertainment. That move is a fact, regardless of 3D. There may be a ‘dictatorship of tentpoles’ but not 3D. And in the world of family entertainment, 3D is a great tool.

2. Conversion doesn’t work.

Many shots in ‘Avatar’ were converted. By the same guys that converted ‘Clash of the Titans’. And ‘Avatar’ didn’t look better than ‘Clash’ because Cameron is a magical wizard who blew fairy dust onto the converting pixels, it looked better because the movie was designed for 3D and 3D was part of the process from start to finish, just like any effect in a VFX pipeline. ‘Clash’ looked crummy because the decision to convert came too late in the production process. This problem would impact any major effect in a movie, and 3D is just that, a major effect. For the record I thought the all-converted Alice looked fantastic in 3D.

On a side note, 3D guru Lenny Lipton says that the best use of the effect is gained by a combination of stereo-capture and conversion, decided on a shot-by-shot basis. But having seen extraordinary tests on all-converted media, i think the technology is gaining fast to produce all-converted movies that look perfect. And even Lipton appears to be coming over to the Conversion side.

3. 3D is a gimmick and must always be used subtly.

It has become an oft-spouted mantra that 3D movies ‘must never protrude objects into the audience’, how it ‘must remain held back and subtle and atmospheric at all times’. Really? Where’s the logic for such aesthetic rigidity and reductivism? When Hitchcock shot Dial M for Murder in 3D, he built a giant finger, and a trough around the set for deeper foregrounds, and thrust Grace Kelly’s hand, clutching a pair of scissors, right into frame. Why? Because it’s 3D! And he used it. Have you seen the movie in 3D? It’s amazing, and all kinds of objects are coming out of the screen. And it’s not gimmicky. It’s a blast. The demand for subtlety in 3D seems due to the fact that the effect has been poorly used in many low-grade movies. In a reactive attempt by filmmakers and producers to distance themselves from these poor-quality 3D movies, they are calling for a total repression of the 3D experience. Well, I want that Third D. In my face. On my lap. Elegantly done, sure. But give it to me. 3D is not a gimmick, it’s a tool. So use it. All of it.

That’s my two cents. And does this mean The Gate will have conversion and protruding objects in a family-oriented, branded remake? You betcha.

Updated 9.9.2010


  • depechemiami says:

    happy i decided to follow u on twitter. u always have food for thought.

  • Paul Gude says:

    I only have one gripe about 3D, and it’s not 3D’s fault. At the moment, my 4-year-old daughter will sit through a 2D movie, but hates wearing 3D glasses. She takes them off, then can’t see the picture. So, rather than having a good time at the movies, we’re wrestling with an extra bit of paraphernalia. It always culminates with us leaving. Once she’s older this problem will drop off, but for right now if we can’t find a 2D version we have to wait for the DVD.

    • alex says:

      Yeah, it’s hard for younger kids. In my opinion the sweet spot is 7-12, which is the core audience for family-oriented movies. Grown-ups who take their kids can also handle it of course. And then there’s another whole segment of the audience that will watch R-rated genre movies like Piranha 3D. But the jury’s still out on whether that audience is that interested in the 3D experience. While it’s clear that the 3D family movies do very well in. I think those are here to stay.