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3D: Is it worth it?

12th March 2012

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3D in film has been widely criticised, beaten down and branded as unnecessary and pointless. So, why do directors still insist on using it?

3DI remember a few years ago when seeing a film in 3D was a special occasion, but now it is everywhere. It was maybe only available at a distant IMAX cinema that would cost a fortune to go and see.

Now of course, we expect 3D and more and more films are falling into this risky category. Even Titanic has been re-mastered so that we can once again see Rose leave Jack to freeze to death, this time with the action coming out of the screen.

Some films are made for 3D and some are not. The James Cameron epic Avatar, and we’ll see if he transforms Titanic with similar success on 6th April.

Avatar and other vertigo inducing films use 3D to compensate for a fairly mundane storyline, and it is necessary for them to do so.

Final Destination 5 is another one that was perfectly suited to 3D because of its fast flying objects and frequent gory, splatters of blood coming from the screen. Films like this require 3D to make them interesting, when you focus on visuals more than story, you’ve got yourself a good three dimensional film.

The history of 3D goes back longer than you’d think. In 1894, William Friese Greene filed a patent for a process that would allow audiences to view films three dimensionally. It involved putting two screens side by side which would be united in the eyes of the audience via a large stereoscope headset.

This is not too different to the frustration of today’s glasses, presently they don’t weigh down your face, however, they certainly darken the screen and provide an unwanted nuisance to your cinema experience. 3D eventually climbed out of the mud and raised its ugly head in the fifties to display such films like It Came From Outer Space and Creature from the Black Lagoon. The format then fell into cinema history until it was once again revived by Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey in 1973; it then gradually became a permanent part of the world of cinema.

The eighties saw the beginning of the third 3D instalment phase. Films like Jaws 3 and Amityville 3 were all three dimensional, it of course makes sense to have all the last films in a trilogy in 3D because the title will be damn catchy, ironically, both films were deemed the worse in their franchise.

So, how much more does it cost to develop a film in this way? According to research done by False Creek Productions, it’s about 19%. When you have a film costing millions of dollars, this is a lot of money. Films like Avatar redefined 3D and James Cameron definitely revived the slow dying art.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon was also shot in 3D from the start and therefore is brilliant visually, but is it worth it? I guess it is subjective to each viewer but I personally don’t think it will be worth it until the art is perfected.

Sharp initially developed a system where you could have 3D without glasses, however, there has yet to be a system which can transfer on to the big screen. Even the advanced technology in the Nintendo 3DS hasn’t been ported into cinema.

A major critic of 3D films is the esteemed Dark Knight Director Christopher Nolan who believes that 3D films cut off 3 foot lamberts (unit of luminance), where 2D films display the full 16 foot lamberts.

Nolan is quoted as saying "I think it's a misnomer to call it 3D versus 2D. The whole point of cinematic imagery is it's three dimensional... You know 95% of our depth cues come from occlusion, resolution, colour and so forth, so the idea of calling a 2D movie a '2D movie' is a little misleading."

Nolan makes valid points here and ones that we can probably relate to. How many of you have been to a 3D film and have found it to be too dark? How many of you have found that halfway through the film, you’ve forgotten that stuff was even meant to be flying out of the screen?

I think that developing 3D is important, it could be amazing if the time is put into it. However, the re-mastering of films, alongside the unnecessary three dimensional movies that are only in 3D for the sake of it are damaging the image of this ‘would be’ great piece of cinema.

Next time you go to see a film, I suggest you research it before you go. If it’s shot from start to finish in 3D and is going to be an action-packed, thrill ride then it’ll probably be worth it but films like Titanic won’t be.

I guess we'll just have to see which way the overlords of film choose to take us mere paying customers...

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