“This isn’t your Grandfather’s 3D”. A response to the Murch / Ebert critique.

photo credit: http://animalswithglasses.tumblr.com/post/947379213

old dog...new trick

Of Evolution, Human Habit and Stereoscopic 3D:

Before I begin, I have to clarify the uneasy title. This is NOT meant as any personal attack on these two personalities, and to further make light of the title, on a bad day when I’m unshaven, copious amounts of gray show as well.

However, the statement “This is not your Grandfather’s 3D” is actually quite popular in marketing the renaissance of Stereo 3D movies, and it is not without reason. We can now say that technology has finally caught up for creation and presentation of Stereo 3D material in Cinemas and even homes. Whether or not it is being judiciously implemented is another question, but suffice to say that most of the common ailments that plagued the widespread adoption of 3d movies in the past, have now been addressed.

This bring us to the article and views by respected Film personalities, Walter Murch and Roger Ebert in the latter’s blog post titled “Why 3D doesn’t work and never will. Case closed.

At the end of that article are credits of films that Walter Murch has worked on.  Most of them are my all time favorites, so his genius at his craft is un-questionable. Roger Ebert is also a highly respected film critic.

But just as “film” has evolved to Digital ones and zeros and there is no celluloid and emulsion layers to today’s 4K digital files, so has the art and craft of story-telling… the evolution as it were, to 3D Cinema.

Does Age matter in Stereoscopic 3D perception?

In the article linked to above, there is talk of evolution…what is not addressed but assumed is that “age” does not matter in stereoscopic 3D perception and adaption. Although not statistically proven, we have to take these valid considerations into mind when  making “Finalistic” statements on the future of Stereoscopic 3D movies.

  • As we age, are our eyes equally ambidextrous as before?
  • Do our focusing muscles tire more than that of kids, teenagers and people in their 30′s and 40s? (quite a chunk of movie going audiences)
  • Being professionals with legacy track records, are we still keeping track of modern technology and its RAPID pace of evolution or has experience bias crept in?.
  • Are we still on “top of our craft?” – Editing has now moved from splicing or NLE (offline / online) to completely different workflows for Stereo 3D.

Are we keeping pace with our Craft?:

I’d like to think that I’m really up to date on the progress of stereoscopic 3D movie making, from the equipment used, the 3D rigs, the cameras to the software being pumped out. Yet I would be fooling myself to think that I really know everything about all the background research being done on Depth map capture cameras that will allow for “sculpting” the 3D volume to taste, or the myriad research being done on new autostereoscopic screens that are going beyond what I know of based on lenticular and barrier displays..

..how about if I were to be challenged in some of my beliefs on stereoscopic 3D story telling by a graduate amateur film maker in his/her teens?  A teenager making films? Why not. Previously Directors, DPs etc had to have industry funding, today a 4k camera can be bought for a few thousand or rented for much less, and editing is the very same machine that does your word-processing.

What I’m getting at is, as we think of ourselves as established and on top of our game, Technology and communication is brining out rapid changes  in the creation of movies, and we have to learn that “Case Closed” to us, is not the same case for whole new generation of Editors, and Stereo 3D film makers who are currently graduating from Film Schools where the grammar of the shot is being re-written.

The Evolution of Editing and Presenting Stereo 3D movies:

In the same article, the cumbersome-ness of 3D is mentioned, from cramping the style of editing (no fast cuts) to the converge – focus dilemma.

What is worth mentioning is that todays Stereoscopic 3D movie Editor and exhibitor has tools at his/her disposal to do everything from:

Old Habits die hard

Old Habits die Hard:

In every sphere of life, experience does count over qualification. But what we have not come to terms with is, how never before in the past 600 million years, Technology has  both, evolved and become cheaper at the same time.

The old adage, “Tools does not a good Carpenter make” might have been true in the past, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that today, at least in Stereoscopic 3D production, it’s the tools that allow us to perfect the art, from on location visualization of excessive positive parallax (which is what causes a lot of eye strain), to realtime geometry correction of 3D capture, all the way down to post cleanup, 2D to 3D correction options, Color and tone balancing…to creative editing using depth blending, floating windows, EVEN 3D volume reshaping.

I’ll reasonably wager that the two respected professionals do not (yet) have first hand experience in these techniques and workflows that allow for better Stereoscopic 3D movie making.

Just as there will always be Directors who insist that celluloid film is better, or some DPs that think that 3D is just another tool and not a medium or language, there will always be finalistic opinions and predictions from Stalwarts in the industry on the doom of 3D.

One recent animated 3D movie currently playing in cinemas (with turtles and snakes), shows how even Stereographers with decades of experience still have not given up bad habits of the past, producing in-your-face 3D that may be ok for a 10 minute ride film, but disastrous when done on feature length productions. This shows that old habits do die hard.

It’s human nature to resist change… and it gets heightened with age. This is why I envy the younger generation of movie makers who are not yet crippled by “experience”, and hopefully I can still keep pace with new insights that they bring to the art of stereo 3D movies.