Last night I saw an advertisement for ballet broadcast on Fathom Events in 3D. Really?
I’m completely over the 3D trend. Technology has advanced to make 3D production easier. With a few blockbuster successes like Avatar everyone thinks they can make money with 3D.
The biggest problem is that most producer/directors don’t really understand the subtleties of 3D. Avatar was a success because James Cameron does understand.
The sense of 3D is an extension of "persistence of vision." This idea describes how the eyes & brain create the illusion of motion when images are shown at a fast enough frame rate. The entire film industry is based on this. For 3D, each eye sees a slightly different image giving us a sense of depth. The problem is that many directors don’t allow for the exposure time for the brain to process the images and create the 3D sense.
I worked on a project that was a great example of this problem. The director of a 3D film wanted many explosions during a chase scene, with objects flying forward at the viewer. The objects flew so fast it was hard to perceive them. Most were on the screen for only a few frames. Many directors try the gimmick of sticking a sword or something at the audience. The ones held for a few seconds can work. Those pulled back to soon lose the effect. One of the original 3D films, “The Creature from the Black Lagoon,” had a good example of holding the screen time when we first see the creature’s hand coming out of the screen toward us. It seems like longer screen time should be a simple concept but it gets lost the fast paced editing of today’s films.
Cameron didn’t rely on gimmicks in Avatar. He used his understanding of 3D to create an entire world of depth. Nearly every scene uses multiple layers of depth: from the control room with screens at various distances; and the forest scenes; to flying through the floating mountains. He gave you the time to perceive the depth AND appreciate it.
Some of the best 3D shots I’ve seen recently are in slow motion. It gives the brain the time to assemble the depth, explore everything in the frame, and enjoy it.
Another problem in 3D cinema, even for Cameron, is the lack of control over the 3D glasses. I went to see Avatar at an IMAX theater. I struggled to find a clean, un-warped pair of glasses to view the film. I went through nearly a dozen pairs. I’m also one of many that normally wear glasses and find it difficult to use the 3D glasses over my own. All the 3D expertise in the world means nothing if you can’t control the final viewing process.
Many companies are trying to create the glasses free 3D experience. I haven’t seen one type that works without dramatic viewing restrictions. The physics and physiology of perception described above are working against them.
I am impressed with some new experiments in head tracking for game consoles and tablets. Check out the video below. They create a nice sense of 3D from computer created images. The technology has limitations of working for only one viewer at a time, and will only work for computer generated images not live action. It will definitely influence the future in a big way.
Advances in technology have made it very easy for anyone to make bad 3D. There are even phones on the way with 3D cameras on them. God help us from the horrors of YouTube3D!
If you feel like me remember your dollars act as votes. If you continue to throw down money on 3D films, producers will continue to make them. If you choose the 2D version, maybe they’ll start to get the message.