- November 26th, 2007
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Europe’s succumbed to the new 3d fad. Last week Beowulf entered 12 theaters in Belgium, using the new Dolby3d system. A month or something before, one could allready “enjoy” another 3d animation in 3d (how many ‘D’ is that then?), ‘Meet the Robinsons’.
Although 3d cinema is nothing new (Muhka media in Antwerp recently screened Hitchcock’s 1954 ‘Dial M for murder’ in it’s originally intended 3d version), it looks like a genuine effort is being made by the filmindustry to bring it to as much theaters as possible this time.
In this respect it is yet another attempt of the industry to lure the crowds back to the movies, just like color, cinemascope, surround sound were.
Original patents for 3d film were granted as early as the 1890s, around the same time as the screening of the Lumière brothers ‘L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat’. The movie, showing a train entering the station as filmed from the platform, would’ve made an excellent 3d film in terms of the perspective. As the myth goes the audience was scared to death, which makes you wonder how they would’ve reacted to a 3d version of it.
How it actually works, one can read about on the internet. There’s plenty of resources available which explain the differences between anaglyphic systems, using the cyan and red colored lenses. ChromaDepth with very unrealistic colors, where red is closest, blue furthest and everything in between, well, in between. There’s polarization systems, both linear and circular and finally there’s techniques using shutterglasses.
All of these require the viewer to wear glasses of some sort, which is one of the major drawbacks.
The two systems now competing are Dolby3d and RealD. The first uses a colour-filtering technique developed by Infinitec, the latter uses circular polarisation.
This is all fun and whatever system wins, well, as a consumer you’ll have little say in it and probably won’t notice a thing.
What matters though is how long it will take before the 3d systems get out of their ‘gimmick’ stage, and move from novelty to genuine artistic parameter. The system has noticeable disadvantages over normal 2d cinematography: sideways motion is very uneasy to watch as opposed to movement in depth. The latter being used extensively in Beowulf e.g.
Another cinematographic parameter which suffers from 3d systems is depth of field. As long as everything is within the depth of field, it works. But when things are out of focus, e.g. with an overshoulder shot, it gets confusing. This is of course due to the fact that the clever use of depth of field in traditional cinema was used to shift or aim the attention to specific positions in the distance. Since 3d cinema creates the illusion of depth, the user himself decides where to look whitin the frame.
A third aspect which becomes problematic is the offscreen space, or hors-champ. The added illusion of a third dimension is brutally interupted when it reaches the side of the screen. The frame becomes a more prominent entity and the cut-off of elements is now stressed in an extra dimension.
Naturally it offers a lot of possibilities. But since we intend to compare “new” media to old ones, I thought I’d indulge into exactly this.