3D or no 3D? That is the question ...
|FEATURES - MOVIES|
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings, arrows and pointy things jumping out at you ...
... or to take arms against a sea of troubles - those of 3D.
As I wrote this article, heated debates broke out between my brother and I - he being strongly pro-3D and I anti-3D. He thinks within five years most movies will be filmed and projected in 3D; I disagree, stating 3D shall go the way of the dodo (once again). The 'pro' contingency believes 3D films are a better experience and far more enjoyable than 2D (normal vision). What a load of hype! It’s all to do with money. Don’t get me wrong - if people don’t attend cinemas the movie industry makes no profits and collapses – and I am definitely against this. I just say we don’t need 3D gimmicks to experience a true cinema experience. Some say 3D is a revolutionary change in the history of cinema just like the transformation from silent to sound films and black & white to color. However, if this was the case, wouldn't 3D have caught on a long, long time ago?
2012 is about to roll in with Titanic 3D (a re-release of the original converted into 3D at a cost of millions.), The Amazing Spider-Man 3D, The Hobbit 3D, The Great Gatsby 3D, Beauty And The Beast 3D (Disney’s original converted into 3D), The Avengers in 3D, Men In Black III 3D, Prometheus in 3D, all the Star Wars movies re-released in 3D (one per year) and more on the way. But trouble brews in the movie industry as audience figures decline in 3D movie attendance and serious questions are asked as to whether 3D will succeed.
In the past, Hollywood used 3D films to increase cinema attendance, especially when the Threat of Television arrived. Around the 1980’s 3D popped up again and the crowd “oohed”, “ahhed”, “wowed” and laughed. Similar films kept appearing. I was in my teens and a visit to the cinema with friends meant watching ‘things’ jump out from a 3D screen. Gradually boredom set in across cinema goers. Nobody enjoyed wearing 3D glasses and over time audiences felt 3D was used by cinemas to cash in from an uncomfortable gimmick – 3D faded away.
In 2009, James Cameron, using an improved 3D technique, created and released Avatar in 3D, which became highest grossing film of all time, with box office takings around $2.7 billion dollars plus - starting a frenzied gold rush by movie studios. (I have to say I do like James Cameron’s work but I don’t enjoy 3D. I actually saw Avatar on DVD, which was enjoyable, but nowhere as good as Aliens 2. Cut to present day – since 2009 the Hollywood 3D bandwagon rolled out films shot in 3D or shot in 2D (normal vision) and then converted into 3D. Once again the audiences flocked to the cinema, and “oooh” “ahhh” “woww” could be heard across auditoriums. Déjà vu anyone?
We are now being told 3D is the future – James Cameron believes this so much that he says will no longer film in 2D. He has converted his film Titanic into 3D through his company Cameron Pace Group (and many others are using his company for 3D, not bad for extra revenue if you can get it!) Other established film-makers such as Steven Spielberg (Tintin), Peter Jackson (The Hobbit), Michael Bay (Transformers 3), Martin Scorsese (Hugo) and a few others are in the process of creating their first 3D picture or have already released in 3D. The cost of 3D film production is expensive and time consuming - and what are the real benefits? Disney recently re-released The Lion King in 3D which made money. But I think it would of done so even if it had just a normal (2D) re-release as its in a small group of classic family animated movies whose appeal on re-release is not necessarily tied to the 3D gimmick.
3D films to date have taken in far, far less than Avatar's $2.7 billion creating a serious air of disappointment in the movie world. 3D production is still going ahead, but the audience is losing interest. We are being told 3D is the future but if so, why are audiences opting to watch more normal versions (2D) of films? Here are some reasons:
3D causes headaches, eye strain and nausea. 3D is a gimmick - it feels like a roller-coaster ride in a theme park and not much more. Ticket prices, already rising, are even more expensive for 3D films. 3D glasses are uncomfortable; people don’t like wearing them, and the tinted 3D glasses make the picture darker. Additionally, people with eye problems cannot experience 3D. Finally, 3D detracts from atmosphere and emotions of the film.
Try it out: watch a 3D film then view normal version - or the other way around - and test this theory, you’ll be surprised how the 2D version has greater emotion and is more satisfying. I remember watching Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs in 3D where I laughed a little, felt unemotional, distracted and irritable. When I eventually watched the DVD release (normal vision), the film burst into life, was much funnier, colourful, emotional and was thoroughly enjoyable.
Fast action sequences in 3D create problems as the image turns blurry and flattens out the 3D effect. 3D framing and filming is very different, if you get it wrong, it really does affect the outcome in a bad way. A 3D shot covering action must last longer on screen before cutting to the next image; too fast and the brain does not register the depth of the scene.
A camera assistant who worked on one of the latest 3D movies explained that some parts of a 3D film might be shot in 2D (normal vision and on film generally) for scenes containing a sunset or sunrise. 3D can’t handle the way some light is reflected and processed within 3D cameras.
If you ask me as a film maker (or as an audience member), do I want to film in 3D, enjoy 3D or think this is the future of cinema, I would say no.
Recently I attended a charity preview of Puss In Boots 3D with my 6 and 8 year old niece and nephew. The wows, oohs, and ahhs by the audience at items flying out of the screen throughout the film came on like clockwork. A little later, some children removed their 3D glasses and seemed to be losing interest. People kept readjusting their 3D glasses - mine showed double vision on the edges - result; less emotion and less enjoyment! The film itself was very good but spoiled by the 3D. The kids commented that it was 'more fun to watch films without glasses'.
The question remains, will the public walk away in large numbers again to end the current 3D domination? Time will tell. Influential directors like Christopher Nolan and Tom Hooper have chosen to make their next projects exclusively in 2D - nether The Dark Knight Returns nor Les Miserables will be available in 3D. Nolan stated, regarding 3D, "On a technical level, it's fascinating, but on an experiential level, I find the dimness of the image extremely alienating." Hooper, similarly, said, "With a two-and-a-half hour film, I didn't want to make something that anyone might think 'That's not for me, because I don't like the medium." Totally agree.
Worse, we seem to be at a stage in the movie world where some film makers are being pressured into using 3D. J.J. Abrams, who reportedly was against using 3D to film Star Trek 2, has changed his mind after discussions with Paramount. IMajor film brands are to follow in 3D, and some are being shot at 48 frames per second (The Hobbit being one of the first). The idea behind changing from 24 frames per second norm to 48 frames per second is to give the audience a more ‘real’ experience. Is this addition onto 3D another way to push us further into that camp? Will the 3D saga continue? Do I care what happens next..?
Yes, for I believe cinema is a great medium for powerful emotional stories for ALL - without gimmicks. Technology is changing all the time, and should help enhance a movie project - not overwhelm it for the sake of technology. The next two years will be extremely important for the movie world as the results unfold: 3D or no 3D? That is my question. (And I’m still debating heatedly with my brother!). What’s your view point?
IF YOU ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE HELP SUPPORT OUR SITE, AT NO COST WITH ONE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK 'LIKE' BUTTON BELOW:
If you're interested in writing for Shadowlocked (disc and screening reviews, etc, or just getting some extra coverage for your extraordinary writing talent, get in touch with us.