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.