Saturday, April 11, 2009

Jerry, the Captain and 3-D

Jerry Beck says all the drum-pounding for 3-D cinema is like, bogus.

... The recent 3-D propaganda, aimed at the general public and national movie chains, is really a push for digital conversion sooner rather than later. This is all well and good, but it has nothing to do with storytelling or good filmmaking.

The 3-D gimmick didn’t last in the 1950s, nor the 80s ...

I see Jerry's point, and he's probably ... ultimately ... right. But I think the current fad will last longer than the earlier 3-D mania, because a) more producers and creators are behind it b) the eyestrain will be way less, and c) in 2009 there is no equivalent format to 1950s' Cinemascope to take up the slack.

Then there is the propellant called "box office." If a gullible public turns out in droves to see stereo films, production companies will keep making them until the droves grow bored and drift away. My contention is the audience will hang around longer because there's no other gimmick on the horizon to lure them away ...

In the meantime, DreamWorks Animation has Captain 3-D to turn out its "intru3D" epics:

... [Phil] McNally is the stereoscopic supervisor on DreamWorks's box office-topping film "Monsters vs. Aliens," ... This during a year in which Hollywood plans to release more than a dozen 3-D films. But McNally came to animating a 50-foot-tall woman (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) after years of using stereo photography ...

What excites McNally about cutting-edge intru3D, though, is that there's no conversion. "Authoring in 3-D is the goal of any creative person" in this field, says McNally, who also was stereoscopic supervisor on "Kung Fu Panda." "You want to work with the material in its natural content."

McNally says intru3D marks "the first time we're using the depth as part of the flow and feel of the movie." The action in "Monsters vs. Aliens," however, isn't always in 3-D ... "Within a two-second shot, we go from 3-D to 2-D to 3-D," he says of these "hybrid shots." "We're artfully manipulating it to play down and then play up the 3-D" so the action reads smoothly.

Mr. Beck has a strong point that story trumps stereo images. But story also trumps color, and you don't see a hell of a lot of black-and-white films anymore. They're just not considered commercially viable, despite director John Ford's claim that black-and-white films are true cinema:

"Shooting in color is a snap ... But shooting in black and white, that takes real skill. You've got to know tonal values, how to lay in shadows. Black and white is art ..."

Art or not, black and white is as extinct as the passenger pigeon.

If studios can minimize the cost of 3-D, and grosses for stereo viewing hold up, movie producers will happily go on making the format. If it's just the latest cycle, we'll find out quickly enough, won't we?

21 comments:

robiscus said...

Sorry, but Jerry's points ring true to me(and I'm kinda old so I've seen a lot), while you seem to be reaching with a lot of your arguments.


Then there is the propellant called "box office."


There is also a repellant that goes by the same name. It only takes a few stinkers and we can probably count one from the recent batch of 3D.


And B&W is a technique that is far from dead and always has the potential for success. "Shindler's List" made $321 million worldwide and won 7 oscars.

Union Cheerleader said...

Steve is so right. As usual!

Steve Hulett said...

And B&W is a technique that is far from dead and always has the potential for success. "Shindler's List" made $321 million worldwide and won 7 oscars.


Yess. In 1993 or whenever it was.

And you can count the number of black-and-white pictures since on the feet of a two-toed sloth.

And sure, Jerry might be totally correct in his prediction of 3-D is a flash in the pan. It's hardly equivalent to the coming of sound.

But it's going to take 2-3 years before we know. And 2-3 years is almost longer than the original furur in the early fifties.

And there was another big technological deal that arrived around the same time: Cinemascope. And wide-screen cinema is with us still, six decades later.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve

Most of the 3D movies in the 50s were created between 52 - 54.

Polar express kicked off this round of 3D and that was over four years ago now and it is still building momentum. Having said that 3D has never really gone away...

http://www.3dmovielist.com/list.html

Interesting times...phil mcnally

Anonymous said...

It won't last. Not until a 3D film actually makes more money than traditional projection (which no film yet has done).

Union Cheerleader said...

>>It won't last. Not until a 3D film actually makes more money than traditional projection (which no film yet has done).<<

Unless you're talking per screen averages..?

Steve Hulett said...

A couple of semi off-topic points:

Director John Ford disliked color films, yet his color films won awards.

Ford disliked the wide screen format, yet he was good at making those features as well.

And he spent a couple of days ghost-directing "Hondo," a John Wayne 3-D western.

No word on what Ford thought of 3-D.

robiscus said...

Color is not a gimmick. It is an integral part of film. 3D is not.
...because if you want to see something that looks real , like you can reach out and touch it... there was this thing invented over a thousand years ago called "a play".

Roger Ebert also touched on this and hit the nail on the head:

"Billions of people for a century have happily watched 2-D and imagined 3-D. Think of the desert in “Lawrence of Arabia.” The schools of fish in “Finding Nemo.” The great hall in “Citizen Kane.” Now that flawless screen surface is threatened with a gimmick, which, let’s face it, is intended primarily to raise ticket prices and make piracy more difficult. If its only purpose was artistic, do you think Hollywood would spend a dime on it?"

When you compare color to 3D the next line of reasoning in your argument must be that Lawrence Of Arabia would be more rich a visual experience if it was in 3D. A more preposterous premise can hardly be dreamed of.
The motivations for the resurgence in 3D are not as honorable as you are making them out to be and its importance to a viewing experience are dwarfed by the advent of color or widescreen. Its a sill argument.

Anonymous said...

I don't know...I'd be interested in seeing Lawrence of Arabia in 3D.

Steve Hulett said...

Robiscus, I would disagree with J. Katzenberg that 3-D is some great new level of movie making, but he's a showman and I don't know how much of his own hype he believes. Maybe all of it, maybe less.

I've seen some of the fifties 3-D stuff. Hitchcock's "Diam M for Murder" is the best of it, but I didn't think it was any great shakes.

The newer stuff is better. Doesn't give me a headache.

But all this is beside the point. If the congloms perceive that 3-D adds value to their bottom line, they'll keep doing it. If not, not.

It is, I think, as simple as that.

McNally up above is right. The latest 3-D "craze" has already lasted longer thant the '52-'54 outbreak.

Whether 3-D becomes a permanent fixture or not, I really have no idea. On an artistic level, I find the format okay, but I'm pretty much an agnostic. It jazzes me only a little.

The marketplace will determine if the format sticks around.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anon above. I'd like to see Lawrence in 3d!

Also Blade Runner. I'd like to see what Ridley Scott would do with it. I'd sure as hell love to see what Kubrick would have done with 3d.

Also, I've kind of noticed an attitude among some people posting here and at Cartoon Brew.. people who sound like they WANT 3d to fail.

Now, I understand not liking it. I can get that some people don't like it. What I don't get is wanting OTHER people not to like it enough that it goes away.

But I guess that's what passes for culture on the internet. Pissing on stuff to see if you can, by virtue of grousing about it online, make something go away forever.

Anonymous said...

"I'd sure as hell love to see what Kubrick would have done with 3d."

WOW. That makes my head hurt.

Do you also wonder what kind of blacklight poster Picasso would have made?

Anonymous said...

That's a pretty stupid comparision, but I bet Picasso would've loved to have made a blacklight poster and it would've kicked ass.

Anonymous said...

(I'm not the anon 8:44:00 AM, I'm the anon Sunday, April 12, 2009 9:05:00 PM)


"Do you also wonder what kind of blacklight poster Picasso would have made?"


It would probably look something like this:

http://imagecache5.art.com/p/LRG/27/2780/ALTTD00Z/gjon-mili-shirtless-artist-pablo-picasso-creating-light-drawing-of-vase-of-flowers.jpg


In this photo, I see an artist not confining himself to things he's done already. I see someone coming up with new ideas in new media.

Now, if you ask me, it seems that's what artists SHOULD do. To do the opposite is to be a critic, and not an artist. It's to say "I know all about (medium x), and I know, without exploration, that no art can be created there."

For heaven's sake, Hitchcock made a 3-D movie (though not a good one), but heaven forfend that the great Stanley Kubrick dabble in that cheap and tawdry format.

Throughout Hitchcock's career, we see him playing with the filmmakers toolset. Some of the artificialities he employs result in failure (Rope, Spellbound), but some result in such vivid success that we cannot imagine that they were experimental at all (Rear Window, Psycho). I think Hitch is at his best when he's discovering something in his technique. I think Kubrick was the same way.

Anonymous said...

For all you people who keep repeating "story" I have 3 words.

Read a book.

This is show business. And 3D is just a show. Get over it.

Anonymous said...

I agree.

Doubly so for animation. Animation is a visual medium. Face it, our bread and butter is in dazzling the audience visually.

Anonymous said...

"
For heaven's sake, Hitchcock made a 3-D movie (though not a good one), but heaven forfend that the great Stanley Kubrick dabble in that cheap and tawdry format.
"
but it IS a cheap and tawdry format. Its a gimmick and a distraction.

the illusion of 3D created when you wear paper glasses(and cut off all og your peripheral vision - where do i sign up?) is SO superficial that you can't even state its effects in words. By contrast "Blade Runner" has a rich and dark film noir style that creates a sense of foreboding with every shot.
^thats a description of the artistry with which the movie was directed. How are you going to describe "Monsters VS Aliens" direction?

The action sequences unfold with rapid fire editing that sweep you along and make you feel as though you are right there in the midst of it all....

Is that because of the 3D? Is that true without the 3D? How does the 3D compare to Beowulf? Is it better?.. or "MORE 3D"?

It like looking at a sculpture from one angle with specific lighting. Don't you want to see it in sunlight? Don't you want to be able to walk around it?

3D is a gimmick and it will never be anything more. Its a distraction of the art form. Whats next - are we going to start reprinting Chris Van Allsberg's books as Pop Up books?

I'd like to see how the artist resents his piece in its natural medium. 3D isn't controlled by the artist, its a static process done after the fact with the same predictable results for every film.

Its almost like the comments in here are made by a bunch of CalArts grads who never had a real survey course in Art history.

Anonymous said...

"but it IS a cheap and tawdry format. Its a gimmick and a distraction."

I know people who would say that about animation itself. Tastes vary.

"and cut off all og your peripheral vision - where do i sign up?"

You use your peripheral vision when watching a movie? You sitting in the front row of the cinerama dome?

"How are you going to describe "Monsters VS Aliens" direction?"

Cheap laughs and good fun in a movie theater.

But I'd describe Coraline in 3d as being a revelation in a new artform: spacial animation. It transports the viewer into a magical realm. It brings the viewer into a world that invites a reach and a touch. Not so, the artifically flattened monoscopic version of the film.

"How does the 3D compare to Beowulf?"

I notice you're using some pretty crummy movies as examples...Beowulf would suck no matter how many D's you added or subtracted!

"It like looking at a sculpture from one angle with specific lighting. Don't you want to see it in sunlight? Don't you want to be able to walk around it?"

It's like looking at a flat painting with no depth! Don't you want to see how deep it is? Don't you want to reach out and see how far away it is?!!

"3D is a gimmick and it will never be anything more."

Assertions made without evidence can be dismissed without regard.

"Whats next - are we going to start reprinting Chris Van Allsberg's books as Pop Up books?"

And what would be wrong with that?

"3D isn't controlled by the artist, its a static process done after the fact"

Really? Shows what you know. Coraline wasn't post-dimentionalized. Neither was Bolt. Neither was Monsters vs. Aliens.






Again, I'm noticing that you aren't arguing that people don't like it. You're arguing that people SHOULDN'T like it. Strange. Why not let people vote with their ticket-buying?

Anonymous said...

No I'm arguing against its artistic merit. People like Reality Shows and the "theater of humiliation" that we see on tv every night - but that doesn't make them quality programming.

I don't measure the aesthetic of an art form based on how popular they are. If that were the case then Harry Potter books would be considered better than the works of Dickens. But they aren't. More popular yes, not better. Popularity is not he end all be all(well to the incredibly stupid it is)


"It's like looking at a flat painting with no depth! Don't you want to see how deep it is?"NO. Its a freaking painting. Its SUPPOSED to be flat. Its the artists job to create the illusion that it has depth in the same way that it is the director's job to lure the viewer into great expanses with just a film projected on a screen. Anything else is a crutch and a gimmick.

Gimmicks don't last no matter how desperate studios are to push them.

Anonymous said...

"NO. Its a freaking painting. Its SUPPOSED to be flat."

Who says film is supposed to be flat? God?

Why isn't flat film supposed to be flat, and 3D film supposed to be 3d? Are you the person who Made the Rules on what film is and isn't?

It just sounds like to me you're making excuses about a medium that you don't like, and you're making up reasons why nobody could ever make anything of worth out of it.


It's a medium. Why so hostile? That's like a painter yelling at his paints.

"Gimmicks don't last no matter how desperate studios are to push them."

I don't know. I'd say Hollywood filmmaking is mostly gimmick.

Still, for the most part it is fun and entertaining.

"If that were the case then Harry Potter books would be considered better than the works of Dickens. But they aren't. More popular yes, not better."

100 years ago critics used the same formulation to put down the works of Dickens. And I'm pretty sure people did the same thing to Shakespeare in his own time, calling his work vulgar popular entertainments.

I'm not going to say what is better, Dickens or Rowling. I actually think some of Dickens' work is ham-fisted and overly melodramatic. But then again so is Rowling. In that way, you have compared two writers who I think are actually quite well-matched for each other, and very similar in their strengths and weaknesses.

But back to 3d. Dickens would have loved it.

Anonymous said...

Lol, Dickens.

That Charles Dickens. Instead of publishing Oliver Twist as a novel, he serialized it and published it in a cheap and tawdry joke and cartoon magazine. The stupid public masses ate it up.

What a cheap gimmick. A real novel wouldn't have to resort to cheap cliffhangers and gotcha twists. Those may entertain the drooling masses, but it ain't art! Won't Dickens learn, gimmicks never last!

Site Meter