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Potential of 3D – Respect the Frame



Through glasses darkly


Potential of  3D – Respect the Frame

If the argument I have put forward in my review* is valid then the medium with the most to gain from 3D is not the cinema – but Television. Most immediate applications of the process will be in sport. Here the necessarily ‘point-and-shoot’ style of filming will mean that there is no time for the novelty ‘jump-out-of-the–screen’ shots to be set up. Also the essence of drama in sport is radically different than in fiction which dominates movies. Sport fascinates and excites because of the dramatic uncertainty of outcome; the thrill of the unexpected; the passion of the unrepeatable moment of achievement – the goal, the putt, the service, the try – the momentary event that wins or sometimes loses the game.

The experience of sport in 3D should be greatly enhanced because the increased depth of visual field should help to break down the unmistakable ‘flatness’ of the TV image. Some of the most distorting effects of the limitations of camera angle and shot undermine our appreciation of moments in sport: the paradigm here is perhaps golf where the undulations and slant of the green and sense of distance of the putt are all lost to the current 2D camera. Filming the constantly repeated dramatic moment of the putt is always a compromise: for example to see the line to the hole and thus experience the tension of will it, won’t it go in, the director is driven to a head on shot which dramatically foreshortens the image removing the element of tension derived from the distance the ball must be hit.

We can think of a whole host of similar moments in different sports where enhanced depth should make a big difference to the overall ‘truthfulness’ of the image.

Thus the constraints of television filming deny for practical reasons the misuse of the 3D process that I have argued most film-makers have so far displayed. While I argue that the director should deny himself the indulgence of selecting certain kinds of 3D effect; the television director simply doesn’t have the choice. Add to this the fact that the ‘frame’ is much more intrusive with TV and harder to ‘lose’, then the contrast between the benefits of watching TV in 3D and in a movie should be greater – as long as my argued principle is observed. The Movie director has to choose to ‘respect the frame’; the TV director has no choice.

The paradox of the use of 3D so far is that the demands of promotion and marketing, asking increased prices etc – all drive those making 3D movies to make the process as noticeable as possible. Literally, as we might say, ‘in-your-face’. I argue however that the most aesthetically effective, beneficial use of 3D is defined by the opposite: making the process unobtrusive; thus removing the distorting and disturbing effect of the novelty use upon our absorption in the film and engagement with the story and dramatic events portrayed.

As with most things in the rigorously commercial movie business, the future of the current 3D process will be decided by money: notably the increased cost of production. The different aesthetic limitations imposed by the process on the director’s familiar practice may also have some initial effect.

My hunch is people are already getting a bit fed-up with the formulaic structure of novelty-process 3D films and I suspect the premium price structure will be the first to go. Then without the increased revenue stream from the 3D premium, the only justification for using the more expensive and possibly technically more limiting process will be aesthetic. 3D will have succeeded only when it is the process of choice for most movies: in my view that will not, cannot happen with the obtrusive, in-your-face’ novelty use’. When Directors learn how to release the dramatic possibilities of unobtrusive increased depth of the 3D image, my hunch is they’ll want to use it.

Whether any of this is true I don’t know. I have not yet seen a 3D TV image. There the commercial drive is immense because of the multi-billion £ market for new sets. When the already existing technology for glasses-free 3D becomes economic then one of the other remaining barriers to user satisfaction with the 3D experience will be removed.

I guess it’s a question of ‘watch this space’: my only suggestion is do it within the screen – not in front of it.Respect the frame – that is where our imaginations and the art of the movie-maker always have, and always should, connect.

* See Review: The Adventures of Tintin – Stevel Spielberg (below)

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