3D: how to make it work - All about the money
So we can agree that, viewed from a certain direction, things look bad for 3D right now – just like on a Nintendo 3DS. So what, you may ask, is going to cement 3D in the mainstream? And, in turn, what is going to make it into an artform rather than a fairground ride? What, in short, is going to make 3D not suck?
The answer to the latter questions we’ll come to on the next page. The answer to the first one is rather simple: money. And lots of it.
If you think after spending ten years making Avatar, James Cameron plans to retire quietly to spend more time with his money, you’re very much mistaken. In April this year, he and Vince Pace, Avatar’s director of photography, formed the Cameron/Pace Group to offer “slate to screen” support to would-be 3D filmmakers. The Group is lowering some of the barriers to 3D by offering workshops on how to use the kit and how to plan productions.
Patrick Campbell, chief technology officer for the Cameron/Pace Group, tells T3: “By supporting the filmmaker, we go beyond simply renting a rig and enter into the philosophy of successful 3D entertainment by supporting the entire process from first point of capture through editorial, visual effects, post production and broadcast.” Campbell is keen to spell out just how much cash 3D movies are already raking in.
“We’ve all heard it’s a fad and the 3D box office results are bad,” he says. “One of our recent Fusion 3D productions, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, was slammed for ‘not performing well’ in 3D. This production had a $250 million budget. It has made $985 million and become Disney’s biggest release of all time at the international box office. Tron: Legacy had a $170 million budget and resulted in $400m receipts.”
Could a “eureka” moment be just around the corner, where mega box office and critical acclaim combine for 3D? Bob Whitehill, Pixar’s stereoscopic supervisor, thinks so.
“As talent and interest pour into the medium, the results will continue to improve,” he says. “Who saw the ‘bullet time’ camera technique used in The Matrix coming? I have little doubt that there are genius visual and storytelling techniques that lie ahead in 3D, if it is given the time to breathe and develop.”
“I’m looking forward to The Amazing Spider-Man next year,” adds Chris Hewitt of film bible Empire. “That’s a character that swings towards the camera and does things at great heights. That means you can do lots with the depth of field and play with perspective, so it’s going to be tailored for 3D.”
The most important factor to safeguard 3D’s artistic future – as opposed to its moneymaking potential – is that truly visionary filmmakers start to use the tech.
Already we’ve seen European arthouse favourites Werner Herzog (My Son, My Son What Have Ye Done, Grizzly Man) and Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas, Buena Vista Social Club) try their hands. Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams made good use of 3D, with unprecedented access to the cave paintings in Chauvet, France.
Wenders’ Pina, however, was a true revelation of the possibilities of 3D. Although not for everyone in terms of its subject matter – contemporary dance – what was undeniable was that it showed off the beauty and skill of the dancers’ movements. The 3D allowed you to fully appreciate their use of space in relation to each other and the surroundings.
It gets better. Martin Scorsese is currently directing 3D children’s film Hugo Cabret, for which he has enlisted the help of – wait for it – the Cameron/Pace Group.
Hewitt is impressed. “When great artists like Wenders, Scorsese and Herzog are making movies in 3D, that’s when you sit up and say, ‘That’s not a gimmick,’” he adds. “These are true cinematic artists exploring a different side of the medium.”
Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Hobbit will also be shot using 30 Red Epic 5k-resolution cameras, paired up to capture images in 3D. The cameras will shoot at 48 frames per second – twice the normal movie frame rate – giving a never-before-seen smoothness.
Jackson says of 48fps shooting: “The image has hugely enhanced clarity and smoothness. Looking at 24 frames every second may seem okay – and we’ve all seen thousands of films like this – but there is often quite a lot of blur, during fast movements, and if the camera is moving around quickly, the image can judder or strobe. Shooting and projecting at 48fps does a lot to get rid of these issues. It looks more lifelike and easier to watch in 3D.
“I believe once this film hits the cinemas in 3D, it will change the way future films are shot. 24fps is just too few frames per second for the smooth motion required by 3D film making. It should also help with the eye strain and headaches associated with 3D viewing.”