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Has 3D Film-Making Had Its Day? 436

dryriver sends this hopeful note from the BBC: "'It's three years since audiences around the world swarmed into cinemas to see James Cameron's Avatar. It rapidly became the biggest grossing film of all time, in part because of its ground-breaking digital 3D technology. But, in retrospect, Avatar now seems the high-point of 3D movie-making, with little since 2009 to challenge its achievement. Three years on, has the appeal of 3D gone flat? Nic Knowland has been a respected director of photography in Britain for 30 years. He's seen cinema trends and fads come and go, but never one for which he's had so little enthusiasm as 3D. 'From the cinematographer's perspective it may offer production value and scale to certain kinds of film. But for many movies it offers only distraction and some fairly uncomfortable viewing experiences for the audience. I haven't yet encountered a director of photography who's genuinely enthusiastic about it.'"
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Has 3D Film-Making Had Its Day?

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  • by GrumblyStuff ( 870046 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @03:57AM (#42392901)

    The use of such high visual fidelity should be for things where visuals trump all. Sports (god I hate sports) benefit because you're watching the action. Nature shows (various National Geographic things or the Planet Earth series) benefit because... it's fucking nature and the only sensory experience you can get from a TV is sight and sound. Action flicks or CGI wankfests (Transformers, blah), again, because you're watching the spectacles, not the shitpoor Bruckheimer dialogue & acting.

    But now what's the point of high FPS in a drama? Would Downton Abbey be that much better in 3D? Is a comedy going to be more hilarious in 1080p?

  • by Dyne09 ( 1305257 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @04:03AM (#42392933)
    As much as I hate to say it, the 3D format for film will probably be the future. Even if this current fad dies down, the next iteration of 3D technology will probably carry it forward into the future. It's essentially the next logical step in production, the same way colorization was when it first came out. This is not to say I LIKE the 3D element in films that have been produced recently - I have seen The Hobbit and the Life of Pi in the past two weeks, neither of which where really enhanced by 3D. In fact, when I saw the Avengers in 3D, I wanted to puke from the crappy usage of post rendering. However, if you look back at early usage of colorization, it was gimmicky, and often extremely unrealistic. It took many many years for it to develop into an actual viable tool. Before everyone starts whining about how awful 3D is, there are many techniques for proper 3D rendering that modern artists haven't mastered, or have actively chosen to ignore. As an example, using deep focus to prevent blurring of items in the frame helps the human eye in 3D movies, but it contradicts pretty much most of what modern film theory tells us so far, and as such it's how we've learned to both make and perceive film. It's going to take a great deal of re-working and re-imagining to make 3D an augmentation, and not just an attraction. And this isn't counting the technological constraints of 3D, which still haven't quite made it to critical mass yet. The point is, see The Hobbit in 2D. You'll be much happier.
  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @04:05AM (#42392941)

    Even if there were real 3D, how would you make use of this properly? Current story telling only works because you can limit and control what people see. How will a horror movie work if half the audience can already see the guy hiding behind the rock before he leaps out? (This is just one example of a ton of problems that would arise)

    I'm not sure that most people who want 3D know what they are actually asking for - personally I think 2D is perfect just leave it alone.

  • by TechyImmigrant ( 175943 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @04:06AM (#42392943) Homepage Journal

    The sooner it goes away the better.

    The primary deleterious effect of 3D in my local movie theaters is that the 2 or 3 popular movies at any time now occupy 4 or 6 screens, for the 3D and non 3D versions. This pushes out 2 or 3 other options, so there are fewer options available. This is not a good thing.

  • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pieroxy ( 222434 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @04:17AM (#42392985) Homepage

    I don't care much for stereoscopic imaging, mostly because of the ever increasingly uncomfortable glasses.

    However, the 48fps increase I await with much enthusiasm. It is not revolutionary at all but 24fps one of the things that annoy me most about movies these days. As soon as the scene is moving, everything is blurred out and choppy.

  • by IdahoEv ( 195056 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @04:21AM (#42393001) Homepage

    There are major, but short-lived, bursts of stereoscopic 3D movies seem to come every 15-20 years or so, as another new generation is available to be briefly wowed by a technology that's not new and that doesn't really add anything to the moviegoing experience. People get over it and we move on.

  • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @04:31AM (#42393041)

    Even if there were real 3D, how would you make use of this properly? Current story telling only works because you can limit and control what people see. How will a horror movie work if half the audience can already see the guy hiding behind the rock before he leaps out?

    I guess I was misinformed and all magicians only exist in 2 dimensions.

  • Re:TVs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nxtw ( 866177 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @04:31AM (#42393045)

    People aren't buying expensive TVs because they are 3D; they are buying high end TVs which mostly happen to have 3D.

    Now if these 3D TVs had real 120 Hz input (for two frames of 1080p60 in 3D using shutter glasses) it might be a useful feature to use without the glasses on. But so far I think they all only support two frames of 1080p30 at most - standard HDMI doesn't have enough bandwidth, and newer spec hardware and cables are required.

    With 48 fps movies, we may see more TVs using 240 Hz, but probably none with any high-bandwidth inputs, especially if 3D goes away.

  • Extreme "Meh" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by evil_aaronm ( 671521 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @04:51AM (#42393115)
    I don't care whether it's 2D or 3D, or even wowza effin' holograms: it doesn't matter. What matters is the story. Shit, son, I can be thoroughly entertained by a book - imagination required. The vehicle of delivery means naught if the story doesn't compel. If the story is compelling by itself, I don't need the video embellishments. One could say that if you, as a film maker, have to resort to some form of 3D to draw an audience, that you have failed: you should not rely on the presentation to rescue your ass. Unfortunately, we'll have to learn this lesson over and over again.
  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by forkazoo ( 138186 ) <wrosecrans@nospam.gmail.com> on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @04:57AM (#42393127) Homepage

    Now, stereoscopic filmmaking may be over, but that's hardly 3D except in the eyes of the bewildered.

    That's a very common opinion, but it's wrong. I've done everything from good old 2D 24 FPS through interactive live theater. Live theater is a close analog to what you are talking about, where you can move around and see shifts in perspective. The experience changes depending on what you do. It'll be an interesting tech demo when we get holoprojectors and holocameras. And, certainly there will be some people who use it to great effect.

    But, a key part of the reason that film is so much more popular of a medium than live theater is the fact that the director and cinematographer can ove the camera and make you look at exactly whatever they want you to see. It's an incredibly powerful storytelling tool to be able to show your audience a very specific image. If you look at the original "A Few Good Men" and the movie version, you will see that the writing had to change quite a lot. I think it's a particularly good example of how storytelling changes for the cinema. You didin't need as many expositional monologs in the movie version because the camera could just show you something. That "show" vs. "tell" distinction is fundamental to why just taking a play and shooting it doesn't make a good movie. And, that distinction is why taking away the Director's ability to show you very specific images doesn't improve storytelling, even if it is more 'natural' and more technologically sophisticated.

    Stereo cinematography isn't what it could be, but don't assume that it's just a technical problem. It's largely a business problem because doing a great 3D picture, where the cinematography isn't interesting in 2D simply isn't a good business plan. You need to be able to sell tickets in 2D theaters, and you need to be able to sell DVD's in order to make a profit. So, the 2D version has to have primacy, and that means that 3D cinematography takes a back seat. You won't see big studios really interested in 'artistic' stereo until stereo displays are ubiquitous enough that selling a 3D picture is a given.

  • Tired (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pecisk ( 688001 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @05:16AM (#42393175)

    I'm tired of another one trying to prove that 3D is money grab scheme, or just pompous extra to pay more for ticket. Essentially, *any* technical improvement ends in that bin, so please stop speculate. It all depends how it's used.

    I have seen quite a number of 3D movies for these last years and as usual, it all depends on talent. "Prometheus" was just so well done in 3D - you can discuss about acting, script, but 3D was awesomely done here. Thing there and there, not overdone, but done at right time and place it made wonders.

    "Hobit" 3D with all 48 FPS was also beautiful. It took time to adapt, but when I "forgot" that it moves too fast, it was amazing.

    "Transfomers 3" in same time was kinda shitty, only few scenes like done specially for 3D looked good, but also not immersion, but "ohh nice 3D demo" wise (not that I'm against nice 3D demos, but that's not worth the ticket).

    What about 3D scientific movies (nature movies, ocean movies)? What about Cirque du Soleil new 3D movie, which looks so artistic that I can't hardly see money maker there? What about Life of Pi?

    Look, 3D is technology, essentially it's a tool - as 48 FPS, or Doubly Surround. It all matters how it's used. 3D won't make shallow movie enjoyable to me. But it sure can make movie I like more spectacular.

  • by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @06:29AM (#42393343) Journal

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technicolor [wikipedia.org]

    When "Technicolor" was first announced to the world it was BIG NEWS.

    Folks flocked to watch movies shot in "Technicolor" just because they were not black and white.

    Even lousy movies, movies that are worthless/meaningless, raked in truckloads of cash, just because they were in color.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Films_shot_in_Technicolor [wikipedia.org]

    Then, the fancy died down.

    This 3D thing is of course no different.

  • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LostMyBeaver ( 1226054 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @06:36AM (#42393361)
    I think he has a point. Unless Hollywood can sort out the issue with how to perform cuts without forcing the eyes to refocus all the time, it will be disorienting and to some people even sickening. If 3D gets even more realistic, it'll be a bigger problem.

    Maybe it is less important to fix the problems with the 3D itself and more important to focus on transitions which are softer on the eyes and brain. Just watch films from before smooth transitions. You can see how much better films became when a simple smooth transition method came along.
  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GuldKalle ( 1065310 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @06:50AM (#42393399)

    You shouldn't downmod just because you disagree, anyway.

  • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @07:22AM (#42393481)
    "Talking pictures" were an immediate success, unlike 3D which the film industry has been trying to ram down our throats for almost 60 years...
  • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @07:53AM (#42393583) Homepage

    Difference is that color actually added to the ability to tell a story, using color to evoke emotion or focus the viewer's attention.
    I have yet to see any 3D scene where the 3D is used as a storytelling device rather than just a fancy special effect.

  • by fatphil ( 181876 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @08:14AM (#42393669) Homepage
    > scenes that are so obviously a gimmick for the 3D version

    Why are you blaming better technology for what is in essence just bad film-making?

    I hated the sounds of early CDs, I was a vinyl lover, and it was only later when talking to a hardware engineer who'd worked in the digital audio field that it was revealed to me why I hated the sound - because they were deliberately engineered to sound as unlike vinyl as possible. And in part, that meant deliberately screwing up the frequency response. So it wasn't the better technology that was to blame, it was humans making crappy products.

    You probably don't remember some of the tragically awful repeated pans that infested music production not long after stereo became popular - left - right - left - right - left - right - jeez, I get the message, I've got two ears and you've got a crack-monkey for an engineer, enough already.

    The technology is best when you *don't* notice it.

    Exactly the same with 3D cinematography. Just wait for the gimmick to wear off, then you won't have to put up with inane gimmickry.
  • by fyi101 ( 2715891 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @09:24AM (#42393975)
    What about the big effing elephant in the room: BRIGHTNESS? One of the things Cristopher Nolan doesn't like about 3D is that the polarized filters in the projector and glasses kills about 2/3 of the original brightness, and they didn't triple the luminance (or whatever) of the projectors to compensate. Everytime I see a 3D flick I feel like I'm going friggin' blind: some scenes in Avengers where apparently made for blind people (w/ dialog only), 'cause the only 5 things I could see where Capn' 'Merica, Thor, Loki, Jack, and Shit. Remember Avatar The Last Airbender? Might as well have been a BBC Radio Show like The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy for all people cared.

    What's the point of 3D when I'm seeing more details in the 2D version? We get 90% of depth information from 2D anyway, plus the 3D effects are fscking unnatural: hey is that the Avengers Airplane flying over the ocean, or a TOY AIRPLANE LEVITATING OVER A BUCKET? 'Cause I didn't know I could see stereoscopically that far, with the paralax and all...
  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @10:12AM (#42394203) Homepage Journal

    Since the 1950s there has been 3D after 3D after 3D but all anyone wants is the hologram of Princess Leia from the movie.

    There are lots of problems with stereoscopic "3D". Your eyes (actually your brain)determine distance both by rangefinding and focus. When the two don't match (and they seldom will in a stereoscopic movie), many people get headaches.

    Then there's the stupid glasses you have to wear.

    Then there's the fact that 3D isn't really necessary.

    But if you like 3D, never fear, it'll be back. It always is. As soon as a new crop of kids come around who think "3D" is new it will ressurect, just as it's done for over sixty years now.

  • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @11:54AM (#42394909)

    Not necessarily - as others have pointed out there ARE good 3D movies out there. I saw the IMAX 3D Oceans movie a while back and it was incredible. It's just the Hollywood directors that haven't figured it out, and that's almost to be expected. Look at what they've done with every other special effect technology to come along - do they use cheap 3D rendering to add quality special effects for a fraction of the cost and focus their budget on telling a better story? Very rarely - instead they spend even more on the effects to get this years biggest, most vivid explosions in a movie so bad they should be paying us for the time wasted watching it.

    Color took off right away and stuck around because even half-assed color cinematography will add something to your average film, and overdoing it like a lot of the early technicolor films doesn't really detract too much. 3D is a much more complicated beast, and as others have pointed out current technology only addresses binocular vision and not focus, so our brains tend to rebel at getting conflicting depth signals which becomes distracting and even painful when overdone. Restrict directors to a 3D camera with a fixed* 63mm (average adult pupil distance) between lenses so they can't easily screw it up and 3D might start to actually contribute something beyond novelty.

    * okay, so you'd probably actually want something tied to the zoom lens to create a proper close-up effect, but still. And even then you'd have problems since the stereoscopy would look flat to people with a larger pupil distance and overdone to people with a narrower one - our brains are wired to factor in our own biometrics when interpreting depth information. Short of a holographic screen or true 3D projection there's no way to make a stereoscopic film look right to a majority of your audience, any more than you can make a non-adjustable ergonomic chair to average dimensions and expect it to be anything but a torture device for most people.

  • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @12:29PM (#42395257)

    The parent says 3D isn't used as a storytelling device. And in an attempt to contradict him you use non-fictiaonal documentaries?

    You underlined his point.

    Likewise with IMAX. It's great for documentaries and experiences. Not much use for drama.

"Well, it don't make the sun shine, but at least it don't deepen the shit." -- Straiter Empy, in _Riddley_Walker_ by Russell Hoban