07 August 2010

3D: The Wave of the Future?

"Avatar" was a great film-going experience (while not a great film) and the 3D format was fascinating -- so long as you did not tilt your head slightly sidewise, which I have an unfortunate tendency to do.

I am amazed how everyone is acting like 3D is some new breakthrough. Really? The 3D process was being experimented with as early as 1915, with the first actual feature length film ("The Power of Love" at five reels in length) coming out in 1922. Filmmakers dabbled in the 3D process in the 1930s and 1940s, but the format did not meet with any kind of real success until the 1950s -- and even that was short lived.

Along came "Avatar" and Hollywood panicked. It panicked just like it did in 1927 with the success of the partial talky "The Jazz Singer" (itself not the first sound film) retooling cinemas around the world with sound equipment; and with the advent of the widescreen CinemaScope process used in "The Robe" (1953, itself not the first wide-screen film) insisting cinemas needed to show wider films to combat competition from television.

Sound stayed with us, as did wider (but not as wide) films. As for 3D, it remains to be seen.

For one thing, there are higher costs associated with shooting a film in 3D. Then there are the limited number of screens that can project a film in 3D. Then there is the audience expectation about the experience -- which, judging from the recent slate of 3D releases that have bombed at the box office, may be the biggest hurdle of them all. But then, there is the issue of light. Until recently, I had no idea that the loss of light is the biggest factor working again the 3D process. (Lower light levels mean a darker screen.)

So, will we see more and better films made in 3D? Only time will tell.

You can read more about the issue of light here.

The box office figures for recent 3D films will be found here.

You can read the Hollywood spinmeisters working their logic on the falling box office here.


Anonymous said...

Both me and my girlfriend have a bad eye each*, therefore neither of us have ever been able to experience anything 3-D in our entire lives.

For me, the current 3-D craze is one big nothing.
I can't see it or experience the pleasures of it.
It basically doesn't exist.

peace - K

*little or no vision

Christopher said...

Thank you for sharing your story -- which is similar to an interesting piece of 3D film history: the 1953 film "House of Wax" is a famous 3D movie. Its director, Andre de Toth, was blind in one eye and also could not see the effect.