Friday, September 3, 2010

Dear adversaries of 3D...

3D has been getting a fair amount of flack from both critics of cinema and other filmmakers who refuse to embrace the technology. More often it is dismissed as nothing more than a gimmick and a ploy to unfairly increase ticket prices beyond what is necessary to recover the cost of the projectors needed to show these films.

I'm here to say once and for all that 3D is not the death knell to the cinema experience. The only threat to erode the majesty of the the cinema experience is the same threat we've been facing for the past several decades: poor application.

Technology (ironically the thing that evolves and allows film to exist, provide maximum clarity, and make productions increasingly affordable/less risky) is always the scapegoat used to draw attention from the real culprit: poor application.

Think of 3D technology in the way we view CGI. The application of CGI in "I am Legend" is a great example. The work that went into making NYC a desolate, post-apocalyptic no man's land was quite stunning; however, in that very same movie, the cartoonish nocturnal creatures felt about as real as the best XBOX 360 character.

The issue is not with technology's existence but with its application.

Nomenclature clarification: It is misleading to label a film "3D" when essentially we are viewing a "stereoscopic" image. Any movie image projected onto a 2D surface appears in 3-dimensional space to our eyes. "3D" is still an image on a flat, 2-dimensional surface.

Essentially, we're watching "Stereoscopic" movies, not 3D movies. "3D" is a marketing term. It doesn't require defining. The layman can understand the concept. "Stereoscopic" however requires an explanation.

So now that we know what we're looking at, why is it bad? Well, it's not. Stereoscopic imagery is really cool. Unless you're an unshakeable, stubborn, blow-hard who views such touches to be glossy, style-over-substance gimmicks to bewilder the audience into overlooking the movie's real lack of content, you have to admit, stereoscopic imaging is fun to look at.

If you can admit that then what is the real criticism?
• Ticket price
• Headaches/Nausea
• Reduction in overall screen brightness

First of all, the most valid criticism is the DOUBLED price of admission. The projection equipment is generally paid for if the movie makes money. If "UP" made money, rest assured that nothing is still owed on the projection equipment by the time "Pirana 3D" came out.

Second of all, headaches and nausea: I've never experienced this. I've also never experienced nausea on a thrill ride which is exactly what I equate the 3D movie experience to: an immersive "ride." Avatar was absolutely an amusement park ride. Some people criticize it for that, I, however, happened to enjoy that ride.

Complaining about nausea is like complaining about shaky-cam, or faux-documentary movies where hand-held techniques are utilized. Would "Blair Witch" have been the same if every shot was locked down? Hell no! The movie required us to take a leap and believe that we were watching "found footage." To cater to the motion sickness crowd would be an unnecessary concession that would have rendered the film impotent.

Those sensitive-types know damn-well who they are and shouldn't set foot in a 3D movie, a "Cloverfield," or a Six Flags.

Finally, luminance: The chief complaint is actually quite ridiculous and you will ONLY hear this from filmmakers and those who have studied production: 3D results in a dimmer image.

Guess what? Your eyes are NOT light meters! That's right film nerds. You're talking about a reduction in luminance that only matters to EQUIPMENT and NOT the human EYE! After sitting in a darkened theatre for several minutes your eyes adjust because your pupils expand. You may have experienced this… oh, I dunno… EVERY NIGHT upon going to bed.

Here's an article that actually uses film to compare the awesome adaptive capabilities of the eye.

The brightness argument is a complete throwaway argument and a nit-picky one at that!

Look guys, I cringe just like you when I see a plethora of "3D for the sake of 3D" movies being produced, Pirana 3D perhaps being the epitome of 3D indulgence. Not to mention the awful, blurry mess that is "post conversion." But for anyone to maintain an unshakeable, arbitrary aversion to stereoscopy is just plain stubborn.

Here' what Roger Ebert had to say on the matter.

“I’m not opposed to 3-D as an option. I’m opposed to it as a way of life for Hollywood, where it seems to be skewing major studio output away from the kinds of films we think of as Oscar-worthy…I have the sense that younger Hollywood is losing the instinctive feeling for story and quality that generations of executives possessed. It’s all about the marketing…”

Yes Roger, younger hollywood is obsessed with John Woo/Guy Ritchie shoot-em-ups, zombie movies, and slasher films (or as you coined, "Dead teenager movies"). It's called "lowest common denominator" for a reason. If 3D trending is amplifying their penchant for sagging plot-lines and under-developed characters, I can't say. I will say that neither of us have any statistical data to back up our claims and mine is this: the affordability and access to prosumer tools is going to offset any gimmicky hollywood trend by placing these tools in the hands of people who DO care about character and story.

I'm with you in opposition of 3D as a way of life but I would say, "get used to it." It's a big shit sandwich and we all have to take a bite. Just like CGI, it can be used to enhance or completely ruin the medium. I'm confident that we will see both.

In conclusion, sweeping statements about the negative impacts of 3D technology is cart-before-the-horse thinking. Disposable stories with elaborate visual gags, and built-in marketability existed BEFORE 3D and even before CGI.

by Samuel David Farmer
Chance In Hell productions

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