The Future Perspective of 3D Movies
Updated on March 12, 2008, 2:13 PM - Written by Tim Buttner
When movie goers seat themselves in front of the big screen in 2009 they are going to notice a significant change in the type of films they are going to see from the ones that were in exhibition before 2008, not to mention adjust the glasses on their nose. Over the course of the last ten years (1998-2008) home entertainment was changed forever by the DVD in the late 90's, television's expansion into higher quality with HD-TV, and in addition to a huge leap forward in 2006 with Blu-ray Hi-Def DVDs, movie goers were gifted with a smaller window between theatrical exhibition and home video release. This hasn't meant a decline in movies creativity and ingenuity, although certain trends furthered to such a decline in artistic integrity, because the years saw epic trilogies grow alongside indie hits but alas, saw fewer people in the seats due to rising ticket prices. Innovation answers the hero's call, but in a form of an old friend; once though, thought dead, it limped on and rebuilt it's legions of followers who in turn taught it new tricks. Evidence of it's reemergence have already proved there is a growing audience who agree that it is the future, and where better to be in the future than today with 3-D films (or should they be called features).
Promising epics that will forever last in film history as masterful tales proved that an audience enjoys seeing them progress their story in chapters at a time, very similar to the great novelists that fulfilled the imaginations of youths and adults alike. One epic trilogy came from the very pages of a tale of One Ring to Rule Them All, and proved to be One Movie to Rule Them All. The man behind The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) Peter Jackson is teaming up with the MAN behind Jaws (1975), Indiana Jones (1981-2008), and Jurassic Park (1993-2009) Steven Spielberg to release Europe's favorite Belgian comic-strip hero Tintin in a trilogy slated for release currently in 20091. This hero will be clinging on to the neck, as he rides the back, of another soaring hero because the filmmakers have decided that the three back-to-back movies "will be produced in full digital 3-D using performance capture technology."2
The epic trilogies of this last decade featured countless digital performers, starting with a not well received Jar Jar Binks, who swiftly was saved by Jedi Master Yoda in Star Wars Episodes I-III (1999-2005) and web slinging pal Spiderman (2002-2007), who didn't have to fight undead pirates, a Kraken, a massive Maelstrom as well as Davy Jones and crew, in Pirates of the Caribbean (2003-2007), but they all fought Peter Jackson's remake of the giant gorilla named King Kong (2005) and a hobbit turned sinister by The One Ring (Gollum, who was [like Kong] achieved using the same motion capture technology Jackson and Spielberg plan to use on Tintin), orcs, trolls, undead soldiers, Oliphants, Uruk-hai, and the Eye of Sauron from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit (2010) in the race for the Oscar in Visual Effects by each in trying to merge live action against digital landscapes and performers. In explaining way the characters of Tintin will be digital animation Spielberg defends "We want Tintin's adventures to have the reality of live-action film, and yet Peter and I felt that shooting them in a traditional live-action format would simply not honor the distinctive look of the characters and world that Herge created," instead, as Jackson says make "them look photorealistic; the fibers of their clothing, the pores of their skin and each individual hair. They look exactly like real people –– but real Herge people!"
This is a similar method to two features that have already come out in 3-D, although in very limited venues that were restricted to IMAX-Theaters and screens with Digital Projectors, The Polar Express (2004; $16,325,0763 IMAX 3-D only) and Beowulf (2007; $82,195,215– 3-D earnings included). Both were helmed by Back to the Future (1985-1990) director Robert Zemeckis, which Spielberg was an excutive-producer of that as well. Zemeckis in turn worked as Executive-Producer on Peter Jackson's The Frighteners (1996). Considering that Spielberg and Jackson have confirmed that each will direct one of the first two movies in the trilogy and that a to-be-named-later director will make the third, and knowing the connection that Robert Zemeckis shares between them and his knowledge of the 3-D technology it is a good guess that he is a likely candidate, and not to forget the man behind Star Wars (1977-2005), and creator and executive producer of Indian Jones, who in 2008 is releasing a new chapter of the Star Wars Saga in theaters as a 3-D Animated Feature to then be aired on Cartoon Network as a television series, is another likely candidate. Meanwhile a dormant old colleague has been perfecting his own 3-D technology through documentary filmmaking and crafting together two trilogies he plans to release on the world in the full 3-D movie experience.
In the 1980's the world was introduced to a visionary filmmaker who made his mark with The Terminator (1984-2008), made a sequel to another filmmaker's successful Sci-Fi Horror film as a Sci-Fi Action Adventure in Aliens (1986), took a daring journey into The Abyss (1989), and created a spy adventure True Lies (1994) all before finding worldwide success, and Oscar gold, with Titanic (1997). James Cameron disappeared from the cinematic world, but continued to work with a television series "Dark Angel" (2001-2002), and documentaries where he further tested 3-D technology with Ghosts of the Abyss (2003) and Aliens of the Deep (2005). These documentaries utilize the advances of digital technology and a custom built camera designed by James Cameron and Vincent Pace called the Fusion Digital 3-D Camera, of which Cameron says, "We wanted to kick up to the next level of cinematographic precision the 3-D live-action photography we had been using on the documentary films. We refined the second generation of the Fusion camera."4 These documentaries were not the first time Cameron had made a 3-D feature as in 1996 he released T2 3-D: Battle Across Time as an attraction for the Universal Theme Park, but this he shot using 65mm Film and a duel-strip 3-D cinematic process and costing an estimated $60,000,000 for the 12-minute Action Short. Shooting with the Fusion Digital 3-D Camera is cheaper than film whether it be 35mm or 65mm, and Cameron has assured that his Avatar (2009) 3-D feature, which combines live action with animation, as costing no more than $190,000,000 (Titanic cost $200,000,00).
Avatar is the first movie Cameron is making in a planned trilogy alongside Battle Angel (2009), the first installment of another, which Cameron claims that his plan of release is, "the more logical way to do it is like ['Pirates']. When you have a hit film, you want to make two sequels to it. You make them back-to-back, shoot them at the same time, and then do all the special effects; release one, then release the other."5 A formula started by George Lucas with Star Wars, except he never shot any back-to-back, and one that Cameron hopes is "...going to blow you to the back wall of the theater in a way you haven't seen for a long time. My goal is to rekindle those amazing mystical moments my generation felt when we first saw '2001: A Space Odyssey,' or the next generation's 'Star Wars.' It took me 10 years to find something hard enough to be interesting." The two major trilogies indeed pack the kind of power Cameron seeks by joining the ranks of General 3-D, who is eying on more theaters in the next year according to the Internet Movie Data Base, "The major studios are close to reaching agreement with the major exhibitors on a deal that would bring digital cinema to some 14,000 movie screens within the next year, Reuters reported on Sunday, noting that the changeover will cost an estimated $1.1 billion. A total of about 37,000 screens exist in the U.S. The 14,000 involved in the deal are owned by Regal Entertainment, Cinemark, and AMC Entertainment. Once in place digital projection systems could also be upgraded to show 3-D movies, the Reuters report observed. It quoted Michael Lewis, chairman of Real D projection systems, as saying, '3-D is the big game changer and the compelling reason for doing digital cinema.' Currently there are fewer than 1,000 theaters capable of showing movies using the 3-D digital system.6" This after it was announced from Fox, the studio releasing Avatar and Battle Angel, that it would be pushing the release of Avatar to December 18, 2009 to allow Cameron more time in post-production to achieve the photorealism visual effects he wants and to get more 3-D digital theaters installed around the world for a wider release, which brings Avatar's post-production time-frame to a record breaking two full years.
Since 3-D has been around since the 1950's it comes as a shock to several people that 1) it's making a come-back, and 2) it's reliance on digital technology is the only obstacle preventing it from enveloping the public. When first introduced in 1953 alongside Bwana Devil, 3-D was more of a gimmick that annoyed movie-goers because it relied on two projectors projecting two images onto a screen that then had to be viewed with special glasses. The glasses remain in todays digital 3-D, but gone will be the synchronization problems because digital technology is capable of keeping the two projected images timed together without the need for multiple projectionists to be constantly maintaining the system up in the booth. Despite the technical difficulties, most 3-D features of those days were lesser movies because of their failure to have an interesting plot with captivating performances. Only one managed to stand out and that was from masterful filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, who had been given a choice of a feature in widescreen or 3-D, who in turn released Dial M for Murder (1954) onto the public. 3-D lost it's battle against widescreen, although now their merging together, but movies were saved from the television that had started to steal away its audience. The distinguishing 3-D technique used in Dial M for Murder by Hitchcock was the way he set the movie up similar to the play it was based upon and almost always had an object between the audience and the players so that it felt to them as though they were spying in on the lives of these characters. An innovative and artistically creative way for 3-D to escape its gimmicks, the filmmakers didn't bite the bait and 3-D withered into obscurity... until now.
With the new leaps in technology 3-D is now, "filmed with a dual lens stereoscopic camera co-developed by James Cameron. The camera has two lenses separated by the same distance that our human eyes are. The lenses are able to focus on a close object by slanting inward, the same way your eyes do when you are able to attempt to look at your own nose. The end result should be the most convincing 3D cinematic experience ever.7" The innovations of this 3-D system is not being kept secret from other filmmakers wishing to make 3-D features by Cameron, instead he has revealed that, "We have had great success, and other filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson have worked on our virtual stage doing tests for their upcoming films, and given high praise to the system.8"
The course of the next year into 2009 should proved interesting for the leaps and bounds of the revolution that is 3-Dimensional Cinema bringing about a new era in the artistic movement that started in 1903 with The Great Train Robbery and has continued throughout the 20th Century into the 21st, where the canvas these artists draw will become more realistic. Out of the old shall rise the youth, who will bring about fresh and new ideas, changing the way in which movies are watched... Yet now, with the means to make a more realistic experience, one must say that movies are not watched, but instead they are an encounter with a life's experiences that are not your own.
2 Spielberg, Jackson team for Tintin. McClintock, Pamela & Thompson, Anne. Variety.com, Posted Mon., May 14, 2007.
4 Cameron Sets Live-Action, CG Epic for 2009. Thompson, Anne. The Hollywood Reporter, January 9, 2007.
6 Studio Briefing on Internet Movie Data Base, imdb.com. Posted & Accessed March 10, 2008.
7 Avatar FAQ on imdb.com
8 James Cameron on the Cutting Edge. Business Week, April 2, 2007.
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