Three-dimensional films a one-dimensional rip-off
If you don’t want to be ripped off this weekend, don’t watch Clash of the Titans or Alice in Wonderland in 3D.
Both films were shot ‘flat’ – two-dimensionally – and converted to 3D after the fact, an unsatisfactory process known as ‘up-conversion’ or ‘dimensionalising’.
If you’ve already watched Alice or Titans in 3D – and paid the premium 3D ticket price for the experience, thank you very much – you’ll know what I’m talking about.
The images don’t hold a genuine depth, as they did in Avatar or other 3D films shot with two lenses in order to mimic human vision.
Instead, each frame of these films was painstakingly etched into different planes. In Titans for example, a closeup of star Sam Worthington would be etched to create one plane, those rocks behind him would be etched into another, the background becomes another plane and so on…
Massive computers then separate the planes for a phony 3D effect more like a pop-up book for kids than a top-tier blockbuster worth a premium ticket price.
It’s uncomfortable to watch, distracts from the story and parts you with your cash without providing a benefit. No wonder Hollywood has fallen head-over-heels in love with the process.
And speaking of Hollywood, they’ve already won this round. Last weekend Titans took $7.8million here to set an Easter box-office record. Considering almost half of its sessions were in 3D, the extra $3 for a 3D ticket no doubt pushed it over the edge. Alice also broke sales records.
To make matters worse, Titans was shot and cut to be viewed two-dimensionally, which means certain lenses were used to emphasise the action and the editing rhythms were set to make the film play smoothly.
Much of that planning went out the window with up-conversion: the wedged-in 3D effect meddles with the film’s photography and the pace of the cutting is inappropriate for 3D projection, where your eyes need time to refocus between shots.
Alice in Wonderland fares slightly better because it was designed from the get-go as a 3D up-conversion… but the depth effect is still lousy and the ticket price is still high!
Dimensionalised versions of Terminator 2: Judgement Day and The Matrix are rumoured to be in the pipeline, with Hollywood likely to continue up-converting new releases as long as it makes business sense (it currently costs about US$8million to mangle a film into 3D at the last minute).
This up-conversion nonsense is a worry because genuine 3D is kind of a big deal. Avatar’s a knockout and top-end animated films such as Coraline and Up look great in the crisp new HD process.
Add to the mix imminent 3D sporting broadcasts and glassless 3D for mobile screens and it’s unfair not to label it a revolution.
Sure it might not be an artistic revolution on the scale of the early 1400s Renaissance artists who first painted in depth (Medieval art is exclusively 2D… true!), but the fact that the technology is so quickly being exploited financially with little regard for the quality of the final product is a problem.
Most troubling is that many cinemas around Australia are now ONLY playing the 3D versions of Titans and Alice, which means consumers aren’t even able to queue up and – forewarned by thepunch.com.au – go with the cheaper, better 2D option.
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