That is the question... Honor here. The Colonel wanted to chime in on something he knows quite a bit about: 3-D. Being a colonel in the Army and all he deals with technology a great deal of the time. So in this battle of wills, this war of words about 3-D and conversion versus filming it, he wanted to set the field of battle for you...
Now that the “Green Hornet” is out in theaters, I thought this would be a perfect time to discuss the 3D conversion at length. While many Internet users and bloggers attack the 3D conversion process for over a year now (I vaguely remember how many people rallied that the upcoming “Priest was SHOT with 3D cameras after they saw the trailer at comic-con only to have an epic FAIL finding out that it was post-converted). The truth is finally beginning to rise to the surface and that is that 3D POST CONVERSION IS BETTER THAN SHOOTING IN NATIVE STEREO.
Yes, I said it, now let the hate mail come. People that have been screaming and writing that the 3D process is just a “gimmick” and it is “dead’ might as well stop reading this right now, and respond to that email from the Nigerian Prince who has a million dollars to give you if only you just send him a couple of thousands. 3D is here to stay, the numbers show it (”50%-70% of Box Office revenue is derived from stereoscopic 3D movies”. Price Waterhouse Cooper) as well as it might be the only thing to save the Blu-Ray format. Because streaming is becoming more and more popular, the DVD is going the way of the dodo bird, but not Blu-Ray and certainly not 3D Blu-Ray. In fact, 3D Blu-Ray will wind up saving the Blu-Ray format. Because you can’t pirate it (yes, the studios love this), and because it requires higher bandwith (much higher than what is available out there right now), and even if they get the bandwidth, they have to send a right eye, left eye file and that would be double the bandwidth, so Blu-Ray 3D will be the format for a long time to come. The content has just started to come out for the home market and it will double by the next year thanks to Disney (they are releasing 15 titles in the next year).
Many companies have begun to ‘retro-fit’ older properties (please don’t equate this with Ted Turner’s colorization, and in the end you have the original just the way you like it on pristine Blu-Ray, dvd or God forbid VHS), this helps bring in new revenue for the studios, and we know how they love to “double-dip”, well this would be “quadruple dipping”. In a few short years we will have the Star Wars Saga in 3D (and of course Lucas loves this because you will be paying money to see his flawed trilogy at the cinemas and then a year later they will be on Blu-ray 3D, not to mention the gift pack of 3D action figures exclusives at your local wal-mart), Indiana Jones (yes, Indy), Titanic 3D (Really Cameron? You are down on conversion but you are converting Titanic?). Maybe it’s because you want to sell more Pace cameras, Terminator, LOTR trilogy (3D Gandalf and Balrog just in time for a 3D Hobbit theatrical release), “Spider-Man” trilogy (so Sony can bundle with the TVs in 2012 when the Spidey reboot hits theaters nationwide) just to name a few. Those films mentioned will all be converted because they were shot in 2-D. I haven’t even mentioned “Matrix”, “Harry Potter” trilogies.
This is backed by the 3D TV market exploding this year (3D TVs were the number one item bought on black Friday). Now I get it, if you are older you may not enjoy 3D as much (we lose 1 diopter of eye coordination every 5 years after the age of 30. The older the person gets, the harder it is for them to see in stereo.), but we all know that the studios pander to the young crowd (16-35 males specifically), so you are not their target audience. But now that 3D has infiltrated video games and mobile devices, you can bet on that the generation “NOW” kids will be only used to 3D, just like they are to cell phones, ask them to remember a world without a laptop and iTunes and they will probably stare at you doe-eyed like a deer caught in headlights.
A lot has been said about shooting 3D rather than post converting. Just because some studios wanted to rush a conversion and the conversions came out poorly, people have just assumed that all conversion is poorly done. The way conversion should be used is just like any other art form, it should be viewed like cinematography, editing, sound, it is essential to the picture to be done right. “Conversion is a artistic process, not a technical one” – Jon Landau. I hear people cry over the Internet about how Avatar is so amazing and that everything 3D should be shot like that, but what they don’t know is that “Avatar” was 35% converted (and it was 50% animated but it won the Oscar for best live action cinematography, that will be another argument for another time).
People love a fight, and they want to make it out like the HD vs. Film war, or the HD vs. Blu-Ray, but what really is happening is that shooting native 3D and post converting 3D will go hand in hand. Some movies will be shot in 3D, but some sequences of the film will be post converted because conversion is like having 1000 cameras on set and being able manipulate every pixel and sub-pixel is far advantageous than just shooting everything on set. In fact, it makes sense especially with the blockbusters that are using mo-cap or heavy fx, why would you want to shoot Optimus Prime or Yogi Bear twice by dual rendering? You have to shoot the left and than the right, instead you can just wait till the fx are done, hand the material over and then post convert it. Shooting a film in 3D is only right for the big boys, the studio tent poles, it costs over 30% more (sometimes up to 50%) to shoot a 3D show, where as converting is a fraction of that cost. And just because “Titans” and other hack job conversions are done, that doesn’t mean they should all be done that way. That is like judging “Batman and Robin” was a bad film, so nobody should see “The Dark Knight” because Batman sucks.
Don’t judge the conversion process by one, two or even five films, when the technology is so new and fresh. And that is the exciting thing about 3D, is we are on the cutting edge of technology. 3D gets us away from the music video Michael Bay like cinematography and makes us focus more on the classic style of film-making. 3D is a check and balances, because it makes the filmmaker focus on the frame and everything in it, makes them think before shooting –
“Every shot is rethinking cinema,” rethinking narrative – how to tell a story with a picture.” – Martin Scorsese.
Shooting has its variety of problems, the rigs are huge, and you are using two cameras at once. Now I understand there is the new EPIC RED camera that Spidey is using but let’s wait and see when they get into post before we judge shall we? According to my sources, Transformers are in trouble, along with the other films that were shot with the pace cameras. The other bummer is you can’t shoot on film, so say goodbye 35mm and hello digital capture. It is also a fact that the way the cameras record the info, it distorts the face if the actor is standing 5ft away, so you can say adios to close-ups, unless you want your main movie star’s face to look like it was rolled like a fruit roll up. If anybody has made a movie, then they can tell you how hard it is to make a great 2D film, let alone a 3D one.
With conversion, the artists are left alone to concentrate on creation, rather than throwing another technical monkey wrench into the mix – “Shooting 3D can put you under enormous pressure” – Oliver Stone. With many new 3D conversions coming out – “Thor”, “Captain America”, “Priest” audiences will be able to have more of a variety to compare to instead of just a 6 week conversion of “Clash”. If studios and filmmakers alike treat 3D as a integral part of the story, and give it the time it needs, than post conversion 3D solves many problems and takes all the headaches away from shooting 3D.
Most directors are control freaks, I understand it is their baby, but I think shooting 3D comes from a place of fear, rather than knowledge. As Cameron once said “Technology should come to the filmmaker – not the filmmaker go to the technology”, shooting 3D makes the filmmaker succumb to the burden that he/she does not need. If Filmmakers take their time in post, they find the movie there with the editing, enrich it with sound, make it come alive, then they too should post convert 3D because it is another tool that allows them the time they need to get it right. Yes, you should make your movie with 3D in mind. That is what Michele Gondry did with “The Green Hornet”. His ‘Kato vision” is exactly what 3D was intended for. But that is not what 3D is all about either. 3D is best used when it is submersive, when it allows the audience to partake in the story with the characters, inhabit the world they live in.
Now the audience can live, breathe with the characters and look at the story through a “window” as James Cameron says. I can understand that there is a need for films like “Piranha 3D” , but that is like just shooting a movie all handheld because it looks cool, or if it’s good enough for Bourne it is good enough for me. But in the end I guess this article is moot because what is the underlying factor of this be it 2D, 3D, 4D or smellovision is script. In real estate it is location, location, location but in the film business it is script, script, script (yes, I am quoting Lucas but it was during the golden days of “New Hope and “Empire”, before the dark times) and without a good story with enriched characters, 3D means nothing. But when a story has layers, 3D has layers, it has subtext and meaning and if you use those qualities wisely, than it can be an experience that we will never forget.
After all we see the world in 3D, why shouldn’t we see our films the same way?