To 3-D Or Not To 3-D

Hello all.  Here we go with Blog #2.  If you recall, last week we had Austin’s blog about the various goings-on of pop culture, mentioning bands, movies, TV, and the like, but I’m going to focus a little more on some technical aspects of what we do and what we like (or don’t like).  So I figured that the first thing to write about would be a topic that I believe splits the filmmaking and film loving community right down the middle.  3-D.

For several years now, we’ve seen 3-D make quite the comeback, and it seems that almost every movie released has the option to view in 3-D.  The cynic in me feels that this seems to be, more or less, a studio funded endeavor that gives them and movie theaters an opportunity to charge more money per ticket and in some cases rerelease movies specifically for viewing in the third dimension (I’m looking at you, George Lucas.  Just stop it already!).  So, where do I stand on this split?  Well, that’s a hard thing to nail down.  When I went to see The Avengers recently, I opted to see it in 2-D, and I feel I was able to enjoy the entire experience more.  I felt there was no reason for the 3-D in this story other than “that’s what is expected of big summer blockbusters these days.”  But when it comes to something like A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas or My Bloody Valentine 3D, I would strap on those glasses in a heartbeat.  Those movies, while not exactly Oscar worthy, knew exactly what they were and what they were going for.  They used 3-D as a way of adding to the experience.  It’s the difference of having fun with the technology presented and tacking it on for the sake of money (Aren’t you rich enough, Lucas?).

Personally, I’m not very fond of current 3-D for one reason in particular.  The glasses.  With tech the way it is today, putting on those glasses to achieve 3-D does one thing that completely ruins a movie for me: Darkens the screen and degrades the image quality.  Being an independent filmmaker, starting from nothing and with no money, my goal thus far as a cinematographer has been all about improving the image quality by any means necessary.  Unfortunately, I don’t have access to RED cameras, or actual film cameras, so every time we make a film, it is a lesson in creativity to take what we have and attempt to transform it into something greater. That has been my focus for the past couple of years on the technical side of filmmaking.  So when you add in a feature that degrades that, that forces you to take a step backward, to sacrifice the hard work of some DP or cinematographer, I have a hard time getting behind that.  

Of course, you can’t talk about 3-D and not mention the movie that started the craze.  Avatar did it right.  It is the movie to blame for the influx in 3-D these days.  And I will concede that the truest way to see that film is in IMAX 3-D.  The difference is this: Say what you will about his storytelling ability, but James Cameron is a technical genius.  If there is one thing he knows, it is the camera, how to use it, and the how to push it beyond its abilities.  It has been said before, but the work Cameron did on Avatar, particularly with 3-D, was, and still is, groundbreaking.  Until the industry can either get up to that level with regards to understanding 3-D, or until we find a way to get rid of the glasses cheaply so that most movie theaters can upgrade their equipment, I just can’t jump on that bandwagon.  

This is not to say I hate the idea of 3-D.  Any method that helps audience members lose themselves in a story or world is okay in my book.  In fact, there are glimmers of hope out there.  This is a story written up by AV Club about Barry Sonnenfeld and his postproduction conversion of MIB3.  Can’t wait to see what he does with it.  But unless we can find a way to stop detracting from a movie, I don’t believe that 3-D will benefit the world of film in the long run.