Why not 3D, Part Deux

When I first started putting info out about “Outside In”, especially as it made its way onto YouTube, I got a ton of questions about why I was not using 3D models/textures of Saturn and space instead of my plan to using only still photographs. Some 3D artists even sent me their best attempts at Saturn models.

The bottom line was that it looks better, feels better, especially to audiences, and its faster and cheaper to use stills. It’s tedious work to some (fortunately not to me) and limits eye candy shots, but I think those issues help the film not hurt it. To help illustrate this, I made a short “Why Not 3D?” video to explain.

But there is another “3D” to consider. 3D projection is experiencing a resurgence from it’s heyday in the 50s and 60s. I’ve been mulling over, testing and trying to decide if I want to create a 3D version of “Outside In” for projection.

Previously, when I was trying to pitch the film as a investor-funded project, 3D projection was part of the plan as 3D IMAX films get roughly twice the box office of 2D films. Of course, since they require 2 film prints and much more work, they cost a lot more which is a very big issue now that the film is non-profit, donation funded.

Plus, 3D projection has some issues, so I’ve been trying to see IMAX 3D films when possible and just got back from seeing U2 3D at the IMAX in Raleigh and my first look at the new digital 3D stuff. First, the movie is great – it helps that I like U2 a lot but even if it were Hanson, it still would have been one of the better concert films as far as angle, style, coverage, editing.

The concert level audio via the IMAX sound system was a big plus as well and they obviously worked really hard at the audio mix – pretty stunning sound all-around.

But to the real issue – 3D. My bottom line is I think digital 3D like this is probably the future of concert films and many other live event stuff though sports might be a bit tricky as 3D throws off apparent depth at times. But it was a great choice for a U2 IMAX concert film.

However, unlike some stuff I’ve been reading, I think it’s still a quite gimmicky for narrative filmmaking, even action films. I spent about 15 minutes of the 85 minute film looking without glasses vs. with the glasses and it was very revealing..

First, it can be somewhat of waste to do an IMAX 3D as 3D to my eye make the screen seem small – the 3D effect is only strong when subjects are a few feet from the camera which creates the impression stuff is right in front of your face, which is cool but looks “small” or “ordinary-sized” whereas 2D IMAX feels “huge” “larger than life”. Less than 20% of “Outside In” as shots where the subjects are closer than thousands or millions of miles from the camera – only one 4 minute sequence of being close and the camera is pretty still.

Second, it really degrades detail, especially fine detail while at the same time the deep depth of field/focus and 3D effect make it easily to get distracted by details of clothing, items on stage etc. This creates a look that does not guide the eye as narrative filmmaking does. Great for concerts, but I’m not sure it’s great for stories on film or visual art that needs more control.

Third, it’s hyper-real-ultra-3D. 3D fans often say we see the world in 3D, why should we not see it that way in movies? But the 3D on screen is not like real vision and it’s especially noticeable when camera lenses other than ones that mimic the human eyes field of view are used.

You would have to greatly limit the kind of shots and lenses used to avoid the strange stuff you get with 3D. Even though this digital 3D tech in this film is much better than film based 3D I’ve seen before (though it was still projected on film), it still has various artifacts (like foreground objects getting unnaturally flat in telephoto shots) that I don’t care for.

However, despite my misgivings about it, technology will improve and it definitely has it’s place especially when used as well as in U2 3D.

But my conclusion is that I’m leaving Outside In as a strictly 2D project and unless something radical changes in the next couple of years, will only release it as 2D. I can’t ever see using it for a narrative film. Being a Jim Cameron admirer, I’m obviously dying to see why he thinks it’s a great tool for narrative filmmaking as his new sci-fi action film Avatar is a 3D project. He’s obviously seeing something I don’t see at this point.

The good news is that there are a number of ways for me to reverse course, even after the film is finished and create a 3D version of the film – it’s all being created digitally, so I don’t have reshoot anything.

But most importantly, the film does not need 3D – it does need a big screen and 2D IMAX is perfect for that.

  • Alex
    Posted at 23:10h, 08 May

    Hi, I just read your post on ProvideoCoalition where you mentioned uprezzing with the DVX100. I have one too and was wondering what you’re using for the uprez. I’ve tried playing with BorisFX, but their download demo refused to work. I’m looking for a good, professional looking solution. Any advice would be much apreciated.


  • stephenv2
    Posted at 23:17h, 08 May

    I actually used my NLE, Sony Vegas, which has an excellent stretching algorithm. I’ve been pleased with taking 480p to 720p with it.

    Digital Anarchy Resizer and Red Giant Instant HD are two plugin choices that also give decent result.

  • Alex
    Posted at 23:18h, 08 May

    Ah great. Thanks very much for the quick reply. I’ll check it out.

  • IMAX in a Basement » STOP THE PRESSES!!! - I agree with Michael Bay
    Posted at 14:57h, 07 April

    […] disagree. I did a some testing and research on 3D for “Outside In” which you can read here. While I see the new 3D here to stay and continue to get better, 2D has some huge advantages that […]

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