Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #476: 3D or Not 3D?

Welcome to the show folks...

You know Hollywood has gone completely off its collective nut when Michael Bay and James Cameron come across as the voices of reason.

Allow me to explain.

Right now Hollywood is on a Gold Rush that makes the California 49'ers look like people who take things calmly, and deliberately, and don't fall for fads. Hell, they're making Dutch tulip buyers of the 1630s look downright sensible.

The gold that's in dem dar hills comes in the form of a number and a letter, I'm talking about

You see 3D movies have been making a lot of money lately, because the tickets to see them cost more than regular 2D movies. So now Hollywood wants every single movie released in the next 100 years to be 3D whether it's a full immersion fantasy like
Avatar or Alice & Wonderland, or just Johnny Knoxville getting tasered in the testes in Jackass 3D.

The problem is that most of the movies that are being released weren't shot in 3D, and henceforth have to be converted to 3D, which is why Michael Bay and James Cameron are a little gun-shy on the issue. Cameron's iffy because he shot Avatar in 3D right from the get-go complete with special cameras, so there was no conversion needed. His main worry is that a flood of low quality converted 3D films will hurt his next 3D movie.

Michael Bay's concern, and refusal to convert Transformers 3 into Transformer 3D, is that the process would hinder his normally hyper-kinetic style, because he will be compelled to linger on grand 3D vistas like Avatar, instead of cutting right to the big robots beating the snot out of each other. He considered shooting the movie in 3D, but eventually passed, because he thought the cameras were to unwieldy, but also thinks the conversion costs will be prohibitive, and I have to say I think he's right about that.

Let me get into a little more detail:

1. The costs are prohibitive to convert regular 2D movies to 3D. The conservative estimate puts it at $100,000 per minute of movie, while some say the real costs are closer to $120,000-$150,000 per minute. This means that an average 2 hour (or 120 minute) movie will have an extra $12,000,000-$30,000,000 added to the budget before dropping tens of millions more on prints and advertising. Ouch.

2. The type of movie that excels in 3D is prohibitive. We're seeing that what works best in 3D are the sort of full immersion fantasies where literally everything is composed out of pure imagination. Folks may not want to pay extra to see a regular car explode on a regular street in 3D.

3. The nature of 3D is prohibitive. A lot of people don't like having to wear glasses every time they go to a theater, and a lot of people get motion sick watching 3D movies. Then there's the home video market, be it on DVD or download, people aren't going to put on glasses to watch TV, and they're not going to the effort and expense if the stories don't meet the expectations laid out by the visuals.

Then comes the artistic limitations of 3D. You can't do as many quick cuts in your montages, because the studio really wants you to linger on that special effects shot to make it worth the $150,000+ a minute.

And in time the novelty of 3D will wear off. How can I be so certain? Because it's happened before in the 1950s. Faced with competition from TV the studios went whole hog into big screens, full technicolor, and 3D movies. Now I know that the technology is light years ahead of the cardboard and plastic of that era, but the whole sense of novelty and mania is still the same.

I remember the late 1990s and early 2000s, and everything was going to be interactive virtual reality. One guy was even pitching "interactive" movies as the future, where the audiences use computers to vote on the outcomes of the stories.

Where are all those wonderful predictions now?

They're all safely nestled in the dustbin of history with jet-packs, and flying cars.

And they're all waiting for 3D to join them.


Because they all involved the audience working at getting their stories, and while that may catch on for a while, it can't last. People just like to sit back and have you tell them story too much for it to go on forever.

That's what I think, what do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Because they all involved the audience working at getting their stories, and while that may catch on for a while, it can't last. People just like to sit back and have you tell them story too much for it to go on forever.

    As I said on my blog: movies & TV have to survive by offering people what they can't get elsewhere. If people want to work to get their stories, there's a medium for that: VIDEO GAMES. Unfortunately we seem to have a trend nowadays of games becoming more like movies and movies becoming more like games without either seeing the problem there.

    You should remind hollywood of that most basic of all capitalist principles: "find a need and fill it".