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Tony Grist

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3D [Jan. 10th, 2010|12:37 pm]
Tony Grist
They say that 3D is the future of TV and the movies. I don't know. It's not as if it hasn't been tried before.

3D has been with us almost as long as photography and much longer than moving pictures. There was a mid-Victorian vogue for stereoscopy.  It faded. I don't know why. Maybe because the equipment was too bulky.  My wealthy cousins owned a Victorian stereoscope- a large wooden box with viewing ports- I loved it- but it wasn't something you could easily carry from room to room.

It's the same with the movies. Stereoscopy has always been the next big thing- and has always turned out to be nothing more than a novelty. Again that's a lot to do with how fiddly it is, the special (silly) glasses and all. Other innovations have caught on and stayed in place- the talkies, colour, widescreen- but not 3D.

And here's an odd thing. 3D has never engaged the interest of artists. None of the great Victorian photographers worked with it. And none of the great film directors either- with the exception of Hitchcock- who made Dial M For Murder to fulfill a contractual obligation. Stereoscopy has been with us for over 150 years- and in all that time there's never been a great photograph or a great movie that threatened to put your eyes out.

Why?  I  think  it's because stereoscopy is just a trick- a trick that soon becomes stale. The promise is that it'll put you there- inside the action- only it doesn't- it's a cheat. Your position is fixed- and controlled by someone else. You can't roam freely through those ever so life-like spaces. If the ultimate goal is the totally immersive experience- with the viewer becoming a player- as on the StarTrek holodeck- then video games are already miles ahead- and there's no way conventional cinema can catch up. All it can offer is the same old passive viewing experience with illusory knobs on.

Perhaps Avatar is going to turn things round, but if I were a Hollywood studio chief I'd be nervous of throwing too much money at this particular latest thing. 
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Comments:
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-01-10 02:41 pm (UTC)
I think you're right. 3D smells of desperation. Avatar is clearly a must-see movie, but I'm not sure that's going to be the case with what comes after. I think the success of this one film has a lot to do with it being a James Cameron movie. Cameron is a very rare case of the film director as star.
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[User Picture]From: wolfshift
2010-01-10 06:00 pm (UTC)
I would think the logical next step for the technology is 3D video games, not 3D movies or TV.

Apparently 3D-capable TVs are pretty close to being marketable, but Dad's point last night was that there's not actually that much television programming for which 3D would be applicable, let alone worthwhile. Who needs to watch the news in 3D? Soap operas? Some sports and some nature documentaries would be interesting in 3D, but for a lot of what's out there it would hardly add anything to the viewer's experience. As you said, it's still passive and non-interactive, so what's the point?

It will be interesting to see what happens in Avatar's wake, but it was also a very expensive film to make, so I expect it'll be a while before there are many 3D films on the market. There's a Shrek sequel coming out in 3D, but I fear that may suffer for trying to extend that series too far.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-01-10 08:17 pm (UTC)
3D is being pushed aggressively, but is there any evidence that people want it? I'm perfectly happy with 2D movies and TV, though I agree it could be fun to watch sports in 3D.

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[User Picture]From: wolfshift
2010-01-10 11:11 pm (UTC)
I'm wondering the same thing. Do consumers really want it, or is it just another way to push fancier, more expensive gadgets? I know I don't need 3D for almost anything I ever watch.

And there's almost no point in it unless the screen is very large.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-01-11 10:15 am (UTC)
And increasingly we're watching movies on our little screens at home- or on our phones or wristwatches. What we ultimately want from the movies is good story-telling- and 3D is irrelevant to this.
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From: tinceiri
2010-01-10 11:56 pm (UTC)
It's difficult to be "abstract" with 3D. That's the shortest answer that I can give for it.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-01-11 10:20 am (UTC)
Yes. 3D effectively destroys traditional cinematography- and for what?
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[User Picture]From: happydog
2010-01-11 03:56 am (UTC)
I'm with you, I don't think 3-D is going to take off. I think the telling point is that Cameron made the movie in a 2-D version, and that many places in the U.S., it was shown as 2-D. And quite honestly, it still works as a 2-D movie; the innovations in the effects are such that it's impressive either way.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-01-11 10:23 am (UTC)
Good point. 3D is an inessential add-on.
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