Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Jeffrey K. spoke at the 3-D Entertainment Summit today. And the press was not fawning.

... [W]hen Katzenberg spoke at the third annual 3-D Entertainment Summit Wednesday, the DreamWorks Animation chief was sounding awfully defensive, trying to compare 3-D skeptics to the Luddites who opposed sound and color movies. ...

This triggered a memory of a quote from a well-known Hollywood Luddite:

"[Color] is a cinch to work in, if you've any eye at all ... but black and white is pretty tough. You've got to know your job and be very careful to lay your shadows properly and get the perspective right. In color -- there it is, but it can go awfully wrong and throw a picture off. There are certain pictures that call for color ... For a good, dramatic story, though, I much prefer to work in black and white. You'll probably say I'm old-fashioned, but black and white is real photography*. ...

-- Director John Ford to Peter Bogdanovich.

Count me as a 3-D Luddite. After sitting through a half-dozen dimensional extravaganzas, I cheerfully admit that the DreamWorks Animation offerings have the best stereo viewing.

But the technology still leaves me saying "Henh." However, Moving View Master doesn't look as though it's going away anytime soon.

Depending on the reports you read, 3D box office predicts either the slow death of the format or the eventual triumph of the 3D revolution. ...

But a close look of the existing data suggests the noise around 3D isn't a death rattle but the sound of an infant format growing up. ...

I suppose in the fullness of time we'll know if Three Dee is gasping on a hospital bed ... or fussing inside its crib.


Anonymous said...

Technically, the original Luddites destroyed machinery because they were afraid it would put them out of a job--
They did not destroy machinery because it was sloppily made, nonsensically employed, or being greedily ground out in a glut of supply over demand. ;)

(Trust Jeffrey to jump for the awfully over-defensive excuse again...)

Anonymous said...

I have said this many times before, colour and sound were passive advancements. The audience did not have to do anything extra to experience it. S3D is an active (and I use this word loosely) "advancement", as in the audience has to alter how they experience the film with the use of an object (glasses). You can't compare them. JK knows this, but is trying to make his point anyway.

Though not all "advancements" are successful, anyone remember Smell-o-Vision?

Tim said...

3D is also a luxury enhancement. By that I mean that it isn't necessary for most films to have it to be able to tell a compelling story.

Yes, action films benefit from the added spectacle of depth, but for many movies (possibly most movies) it is an unnecessary expense that would get in the way of the story. Can you imagine "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" in 3D? "Juno"? "Grand Torino"? "Napoleon Dynamite"? "There Will Be Blood"? "Kramer vs Kramer"? Etc...

Yes, 3D is here to stay. Hopefully, it will get even better and easier to view. However, I am pretty sure it won't take over the industry in the same way color did.

(P.S. I think that Broadway should jump on the craze and advertise all of their productions as "Now in 3D!")

Justin said...

Then color and sound are also luxury enhancements as they are also not necessary for telling a compelling story. Schindler's List was a wonderful movie told in black and white, and Charlie Chaplin made a ton of great movies with no talking. Yet sound and color are both here to stay.

Anonymous said...

There hasnt been a development as important as when they put sound to picture. It was only natural that humans mechanize the ability to do that, and so soon after the invention of filmstock being pulled through a projector. This means it was meant to be. Now, after all these years, 3D is being tinkered with again and again, and is it working? I say the best three-dee was what Max Fleischer did in the Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons. Makes you want to look INTO the scene and move around it.
Isn't that what it's for? Perhaps that is as good as 3D shall ever get.

Anonymous said...

Though not all "advancements" are successful, anyone remember Smell-o-Vision?

...I remember Sensurround, does that help? :)

Tim said...

Justin, you are right, and my sentence was inadequate for what I was trying to say.
(For the record, I prefer black & white photography, and I have collected Charlie Chaplin's major films on DVD, plus I am an avid collector of ViewMaster reels and other stereoscopic images).

Sound and color can be used to help tell the story, however. Obviously through dialog and music, as well as use of color palette to communicate emotion.

I just think that the use of perceived depth would a lot more difficult to use as an element that could be irrevocably tied to the plot. That said, I am willing to accept that I have a lack of creative vision in that area.

I guess what I am trying to say is that while I love 3D (as box office results indicate that audiences to as well), I can't see the effect taking over the industry. As I foresee it, it will likely continue to be used in a fraction of larger budget films. But it won't invade the average movie, and definitely not many independent films.

Then again, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

Floyd Norman said...

The answer is obvious. Make the darn thing work without glasses - or give it up.

3D offers me nothing, and I avoid the films that exploit it. While I love technological advancement - this isn't one of them. The sooner it dies, the better. And, trust me, it will again.

Anonymous said...

"I just think that the use of perceived depth would a lot more difficult to use as an element that could be irrevocably tied to the plot."

Tim, you are right. The use of colour and sound to tell story points are so much better than the use of depth.

For example: In a dimly lit room, the camera is looking at the floor and slowly pushes forward to reveal red blood pooling on the floor.

Or: A character is walking forward with their back to the screen. We hear some scary scratching sounds and the character stops, their posture expressing intense fear.

Colour and sound both help the story along by adding unique ways of entertaining the audience. I doubt there is a single shot in any film ever made where the use of S3D was necessary in conveying a story point. It's a cosmetic distraction, nothing more.

Anonymous said...

For example: In a dimly lit room, the camera is looking at the floor and slowly pushes forward to reveal red blood pooling on the floor.

Speaking of which, some of us will never get the chance to see Hitchcock's original "Dial M for Murder" in 50's 3-D.
(Although I'd settle for "Kiss Me, Kate".)

Steve Hulett said...

I was privileged to see "Dial M For Murder" in glorious Three Dee twenty-five years ago. It was playing at the NuArt in downtown L.A.

I remember being impressed that Hitchcock didn't use many dimensional gimmicks. Discipline!

Anonymous said...

I watched a Hitchcock movie last night called "Sabatoge". At the beginning of the movie, the credits said: Cartoon sequence by Walt Disney. The movie revolved around the life of an owner of a movie theater. The cartoon you see on the screen is "Who Killed Cock Robin". It clearly shows the cock getting cacked. Meant to show the upset reaction of the theater-owners wife.

Anonymous said...

I was privileged to see "Dial M For Murder" in glorious Three Dee twenty-five years ago. It was playing at the NuArt in downtown L.A.

Just for the record:

The Nuart is and always has been in West L.A., not downtown (in fact it's as far from downtown as it's possible to get and still be in L.A.).

The Vagabond was in the Westlake district near downtown, and might have showed Dial M in 3D on some occasion, but it's more likely you saw it at either the Encore in Hollywood or perhaps the Vista(which showed it in revival in the early 80s). On the other hand, around 1978 or so the Tiffany on Sunset Bl. had a major 3D retrospective with films like "Kiss Me Kate", "The French Line" and Dial M For Murder" shown as originally intended.

In the late 70s/early 80s The Nuart, the Gordon, the Tiffany, the Vagabond, The Encore, The Vista, the Fox Venice and the New Beverly were ALL operating at the same time as revival(i.e. "old") movie theaters showing films 7 days a week. No new films, just vintage ones.

TCM is great but it isn't the same as the opportunities those theaters gave us to watch films as they were meant to be seen. RIP.

Steve Hulett said...

You could be right.

I get my revival houses (many now defunct) mixed up.

Sorry for any confusion. But I DID see Grace Kelly stab her attacker with those scissors in 3-D.

Anonymous said...

Are you sure it wasn't the SIlent Movie Theater on Fairfax (which often plays talkies)? I saw Dial M for Murder there in 3D not more than a decade ago...

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