18 April, 2008

A supercharged sense of reality

So here's the thing.

I just wanted to quickly point to this interview with James Cameron where he talks about the recent rise of 3-D in movies (he's made a number of 3-D documentaries for Imax screens, and his new film, "Avatar" is also 3-D), and the potential for the technology. It's a fascinating interview, technical at some points, but still very accessible. It's well worth reading.

I found these comments particularly interesting:


When most people think of 3-D films, they think first of the gimmick shots -- objects or characters flying, floating or poking out into the audience. In fact, in a good [3-D] movie, these shots should be the exception rather than the rule. Watching a [3-D] movie is looking into an alternate reality through a window. It is intuitive to the film industry that this immersive quality is perfect for action, fantasy, and animation. What's less obvious is that the enhanced sense of presence and realism works in all types of scenes, even intimate dramatic moments.

Right now, 3-D is pretty much being used for films that have some spectacle in them, whether it's "Journey to the Center of the Earth" or "U2 3D"; nobody's talking about using it for domestic dramas. But there are people wondering whether it will actually enhance the impact of character-driven stories. What are your thoughts on how 3-D changes the experience of watching actors act?

I plan to shoot a small dramatic film in 3-D, just to prove this point, after "Avatar." In "Avatar," there are a number of scenes that are straight dramatic scenes, no action, no effects. They play very well, and in fact seem to be enhanced by the stereo viewing experience. So I think this can work for the full length of a dramatic feature. However, filmmakers and studios will have to weigh the added cost of shooting in 3-D against the increased marketing value for that type of film.


A few years ago, a cinema here showed a couple of 1950s era 3-D films - one was the Vincent Price "House of Wax", which was a typical throw-things-at-the-audience 3-D film. But the other one was Hitchcock's "Dial M For Murder". That film only features one such moment - the pivotal scene where Grace Kelly is being strangled, and her hand lunges out towards the audience, straining to reach for a weapon. Most of the time, Hitchcock used the three dimensions in a more subtle way, giving prominance to particular objects or characters, or just creating an environment that just feels more immersive, more real.

So I like the idea of trying to show the potential of 3-D for telling normal stories. I'm a bit worried about Cameron doing it - because he is a spectacle director, not a small story director. (Thinking recently about Titanic, I realised my main problem with the film is the first 100 minutes - once the boat hits the iceberg, it is a brilliant film, and the only reason I don't feel any real compulsion to watch the film is because of the clumsy love story that comes first.) But it's still a nice idea, and an experiment I hope works. I'm certainly looking forward to seeing it.

No comments: