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What's Holding 3D Back? Print E-mail
Wednesday, 10 February 2010
Article Index
What's Holding 3D Back?
Consumer Education and Glasses

It was almost ninety years ago, back in 1922, that the first 3D film was shown to a paying crowd.  They used red and green glasses at the time, but the idea was the same.  Add a third dimension to film – a field of depth – and give viewers an experience they’ve never had before.  

The Great Depression made it difficult to conduct expensive experiments like 3D film, and the technology lay dormant for thirty years.  In the 1950s, 3D film exploded back onto the scene and was on its way to becoming the primary form of theatrical entertainment.  High installation prices and another slumping economy meant that 3D would once again have to wait.

Since then there have been numerous 3D resurgences.  Theatergoers are always on the lookout for something new.  For younger generations, three dimensional films are a brand new experience; for older generations, they’re nostalgia.  3D film has experienced another big boom with James Cameron’s Avatar leading the way.  The next step – the step never successfully taken in the past – is to bring three dimensional viewing to television.  

Manufacturers gladly state that the era of 3D television is here. The reality is that there’s a treacherous road ahead for 3D, filled with potholes and bumps that need to be smoothed out before the general public is going to be willing to drive on it.

3d Audience

Changing Filmmaking Forever

Though it may sound boastful, when Cameron states that Avatar could change filmmaking forever, he’s absolutely right.  The success of his project means that 3D filmmaking is going to take the forefront.  Making a 3D movie isn’t as easy as filming a 2D movie with a different camera though, the old tricks don’t work anymore.

Movie making can be an artistic impression, true, but that doesn’t mean that each filmmaker paves their own way.  Just like all musicians work with the same twelve notes, all filmmakers have the same basic camera angles in their arsenals.  There are standard shots in film that have been used since the beginning, but in 3D they just don’t work.

Take a shot where the camera is looking through a chain link fence at two people having a conversation.  The fence obscures the subjects of the shot, the two characters.  When seen in two dimensions though, it’s simple to ignore the foreground and focus on the actors in the background.  The foreground is blurry and therefore not to be paid attention to.  In a 3D film, the blurry fence is right up close to the audience, and they stare straight at it, missing the action in the background.

Changing the craft of filmmaking is a bold endeavor, but some of the old guard may not have the desire to adapt.  If filmmakers simply shoot 2D movies with 3D cameras, instead of learning how to utilize the new tools of the trade, 3D may lose its appeal.

A Truly Immersive Experience

Immersion is the hot word for companies that are pushing 3D.  And why shouldn’t it be?  The audience wants to be immersed.  In the very best cases, a person watching a film can even live vicariously through a character, feeling what they feel.

Of course, immersive experiences are fleeting in the theater.  When a baby cries or when the guy in front of you checks his Blackberry, you‘re torn from the experience and back into the real world.  That’s where home theater comes in.   The elaborate setups with receivers, amplifiers, preamplifiers, 7.1 channels of sound and massive screens aren’t just there for casual television watching.  They’re made for total immersion.

When 3D is done right, the feeling of being immersed into a movie is easier to achieve, but it’s also much easier to break.  3D glasses get a bad reputation, but there’s a reason for it.  A smudge on the lenses, or a bad fitting pair of glasses can ruin the experience; an experience that can’t continue until the problem is fixed.

Glare becomes an even larger issue with 3D tech.  The glare on the screen is two dimensional, while the images on the screen (under the glare) are supposed to be popping out at the viewer.  It creates an odd effect that breaks the illusion completely. Traditional filmmaking comes into play again here too.  In a 2D movie, it’s perfectly acceptable to have a character that’s half out of frame.  It creates a certain effect.  In 3D, the viewer is left to look at half of a floating torso, which creates a completely different effect altogether.


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