Monday, October 3, 2011

Where Is All This 3D Going?

It seems that 3D is becoming the accepted norm of cinema. This once novelty approach to films is now being standardized. All the big budget films are released with a 3D counterpart, and many classic films are getting the 3D treatment. But why? Is this a quick grab for some extra bucks at the theater? Or is 3D going to be the new standard in movie viewing.

Sometimes, films move forward, and don't look back. Once Al Joleson's The Jazz Singer hit theaters, the silent film era gave way to the "talkies." Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz perfected coloring techniques that is the norm of film. Could 3D be the next evolution in film making? 

But wait, 3D isn't new, it's been around since the 1950's. The traditional red/blue glasses were used in b-movie horror and sci fi as a gimmick to sell more tickets. 3D was a gimmick to draw attention to the less-than-stellar films of the day. But today, 3D spans the gambit from low brow b-horror like the remake of Piranha, to big budget blockbusters like Transformers 3, Thor, Captain America and more. So why the sudden resurgence in this old gimmick?

There are many reasons, but most notably is the advancements in film making technology. Digital cameras on set, and digital projectors becoming standard since the late 90's have allowed directors to open the floodgates to visual effects like never before. With this advantage, 3D has returned, and is leaps and bounds better than your granddad's 3D. The 3D of yesteryear saw directors focusing on a single object, like a knife, that would get a steady shot so in post production, the knife appears to come right out of the screen. Nowadays, to sit in a 3D theater, your eyes are assaulted as a hundred different objects move about you in every direction. An exploding window has hundreds of shattered pieces of glass flying at you. With digital surround sound, you literally duck for cover.

As the 21st Century opened, theater owners saw a dwindling in overall attendance. With HBO, Netflix, PPV, and streaming video, movie goers have more options now than ever before. And going to a movie theater is unarguably the most inconvenient, and expensive option. Theater owners and studios embraced the new 3D technology as it would give audiences an experience they could not receive at home, or could they? In the last couple years, high end plasma and LCD tv manufacturers are coming out with 3D televisions, complete with glasses. This will most certainly usher in a slew of DVD's that like regular or blue-ray, will also have a 3D option. Even major cable companies are coming out with 3D stations.

Recently, not only are studios issuing films in 3D, but are converting older films. In an offense as terrible as the early 80's, when Ted Turner was looking to colorize old black and white films, today's film makers seem to be following suite with this new technology. Already announced is a Titanic 3D, the Star Wars Trilogy 3D, and more. Converting to 3D is expensive. Studios show an additional 10-30 million dollars are spent to convert. Surely such an investment isn't meant solely for theatrical release which can only yield a short term gain. But if the 3D can also be applied to the home, that's more DVDs sold, more licensing profits to Netflix and Hulu, as well as commercial revenue from network and cable stations.

3D sems like it's here to stay. But like 3D itself, this too may be an illusion. Recently, Sony sent letters to North American theater owners that as of May 12th, 2012, they will no longer be paying for then3D glasses that accompany their films. Other studios are expected to follow suit. 3D glasses account for 50 cents of a movie ticket, and cost a studio $5-10 million per tentpole picture. This move may put the US in line with the UK and Australian audiences who buy their 3D glasses. While 3D seems to be on the decline in the US, overseas not so much. However, a survey done in the UK by the BBC reported that only 19% of British moviegoers felt the 3D improved the movie experience. 41% still see it as just a gimmick, while 52% said they would be more inclined to see 3D, if they didn't have to wear the glasses.

So what's next? Holographic television?

No comments:

Post a Comment