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As 3D novelty wears off, some experts call for more extreme uses

3D’s days as a novelty are up. That was the message at the second 3D Storytelling Conference at London’s Ravensbourne college.

Chris Parks, founding partner of Vision3 – the London-based stereography company that has worked on projects including TT3D, John Carter and the forthcoming Jack The Giant Killer, said: “Up until this point the emphasis has been on the new, a lot of films have been made in 3D because it’s new. We’re now at a point where we need to concentrate on what’s good.”

“Features like Hugo are starting to push us out of this trough,” he said. The next wave of 3D films including Prometheus, Avatar 2, The Great Gatsby, and The Hobbit, will show the next stage in 3D’s evolution. (Most of those will be shown in 48-frames-per-second rates, which will “add a whole new level,” he added.)

The refrain of the conference was that the story must be paramount and 3D must further the story not distract from it.

Helen Jackson of training provider Talking Point noted: “As an industry we need to stop thinking of it as a technological add on, it’s part of the global picture.”

Vision 3’s head of production Adam May agreed: “It should be very organic…it’s the responsibility of a storyteller to understand how it [3D] can be used.”

“Studios are starting to see that they can’t use 3D to cover up a bad 2D film,” Parks said.

Director Julian Napier, who made the promotional short film for the London Eye as well as directing two 3D opera films, Carmen and Madam Butterfly, said: “With the opera, the aim is to simulate being there [in the theatre] but we don’t want Madam Butterfly lapdancing right in front of you. The first goal is comfortable viewing, the next stage for great storytelling is to make elegant 3D.”

It’s an industry that has been evolving rapidly and will continue to do so, the experts noted. “I’ve been doing it [3D production] for 10 years I’m I’m the first one to admit I’m still learning,” Napier said. “Everyone is still learning, and that’s the best part, every job reveals something new and interesting.”

Duncan Humphreys of production company Can Communicate,  which has worked on live 3D sports events such as the 2010 World Cup and 2011 Wimbledon, as well as dramas like the Sky commissioned 12-minute short Little Crackers, said that finding skilled crews was becoming easier with time. When they worked on the World Cup in 2010, having an educated crew was tough. Now, he says, “There’s a lot more savvy people, the whole industry is more aware now.”

Napier said that he’d notice skills levels and understanding of 3D coming on by leaps and bounds in recent years. “You can communicate your intention much much quicker now. The industry at large is adopting it, and people are skilling up.”

Vision3’s Parks advocated more extreme uses of 3D. “The mantra has become too much depth is bad,” whereas he’d like to see “more of the volume of the subjetcs.”

Parks said: “Directors find it difficult to accept the roundness of stereoscopic…But it’s our responsibility as people working in 3D to help to explain and break down some of these preconceptions.”

He doesn’t mean breaking the frame with one spectactular shot per film, but working with the depth and volume of 3D throughout a whole project. “Where we’ve got to movie it now is about shot by shot, scene by scene, the whole picture. It’s not just one shot here and there.”

Humphreys agreed that audiences might want more extreme use of 3D. “I am getting frustrated at paying an extra fiver to watch something at the cinema that is pretty much the same in 2D. I want more of a 3D experience…Hollywood has done some safe 3D productions and it’s time to widen that platform a little bit.”

Victor Riva, who worked on Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, takes another approach: “I’m a purist, I like gentle stereo, looking at stereo as if I’m looking through a window on the world.”  

Other topics at the conference included the need for increased levels of 3D training in the UK, not just for camera operators but for everyone involved in a production, especially directors and producers. Adam May of Vision 3, did note that the UK is “really competitive,” thanks in part to Sky’s work in 3D.

Ravensbourne recently worked with FILMCLUB to survey youngsters about their attitudes towards 3D, and revealed the results of that study at the end of the conference.

More than 400 children took part in the survey, which looked at attitudes and viewing habits of 3D films.

The survey found that 18.5% of the children aged 6-11 saw a 3D film in the cinema once a month, with 30% going every two to three months. For young people aged 12-19, 29% went to see a 3D film in cinema once a month with 35% going every two to three months. 11% of the kids had a 3D-capable TV at home, and 28% had a games console capable of playing 3D films.  The surveyed group also said they were willing to pay more for 3D films, on average £2 per cinema visit.

The reasons the kids liked 3D content was immersion in different worlds, images ‘popping out’ from the screen, and the ‘modernness’ of 3D.

Other speakers at the event included Sky 3D’s John Cassy, Deluxe Digital’s Jonathan Gardner, Prime Focus’ Matthew Bristowe, the BFI P&A Fund head Alex Stolz.

There was also a groundbreaking live, glasses-free 3D link-up between Ravensbourne and Russia’s Tomsk Polytechnic University.

Readers' comments (5)

  • All the conversions are waste of time, from Star Wars to Titanic, they have no purpose, and the films shot in 3d mostly go for depth which again is pointless the public want 3d in your face, things comin at ya. keep it for event and spectacle movies, great gatsby in 3d is not just stupid the 3d will detract from the drama, dramatic scenes just do not benefit from 3d, the persepective is wrong, 3d also reduces the size of the screen

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  • Converting films may be a waste of time but financially it's attractive and it's something that the studios are quickly adopting, for a number of reasons. They provide additional income to the studios in quieter periods of the year, for example Star Wars 3D (8.3M, Lion King 3D, 19M) etc and also the re-releases of these films reintroduces these titles back to audiences and thus in a way re-invigorates the other revenue streams.

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  • But I DO want Madame Butterfly dancin in my lap.

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  • Clyde DeSouza

    Another thing worth mentioning is that the Ravensbourne conference had a superb realtime live stream that made it possible for me to literally watch the talks and participate (via twitter).

    We need more such conferences internationally, to elevate the level of 3D as a medium of visual storytelling and to a larger extent electronic visual communication itself (teleconferencing, advertising, remote learning etc)

    Well done the team behind the conference.

    To the Anonymous (@2:44) Your right in that legacy titles stand to get a second showing, provided they are then with skill and care, like one of the old masters doing a painting...
    this is rarely the case (Titanic a probable exception).

    Meanwhile the problem stems from CURRENT films being treated like a 2 hour VFX shot, (which is what 2D to 3D is...a vfx tool to be used to fix problem shots)

    The result of current 2D films getting up-converted is equivalent to landing at a Gordon Ramsay Restaurant on a busy day,.. ordering a Filet Mignon and because the chef is to busy,,,he runs across the street, swipes 2 burger patties from the local McDonalds and spruces it up to serve the patron...

    ...while charging him a premium price... now if that doesnt leave a bitter taste in the movie-goer's mouth...

    Author: "Think in 3D"

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  • The 48 per second frame in some 3D films is to try and help stop giving people problems viewing 3D. But what the industry does not understand is that the audineces and many film makers do not want 3D. How many times do we need stuff popping out at us to say "oooh" This may make children laugh but after a while it feels flat. Action sequences just don't work in 3D. There has been other official surveys showing audiences do not want 3D. The point here is that the film studos and certain persons with great power are pushing 3D on the basis of money. Cinemas are forcing audiences to view films in 3D and put normal vison films into less or smaller screens. There are tv stations who have closed their 3D tv stations as audiences are not taking it up. Does anyone remember the the story of "The Emperpors Clothes" ? Go check it out, reminds me of the 3D bandwagon. Oh and look at the box office figures and see how many normal vision films are making a huge amount of money. As I've said before 3D is a gimmick and is frustrating everyone. Unfortunately companies have invested in 3D equipment and need to get their investment back. My only other question on this is, why are so many throughout the film industry sitting on the fence on the 3D issue?

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