Sunday, July 25, 2010

A new dimension in whatever

There's another update here from San Diego Comic-Con. The news here is that people involved in the movie industry are expressing skepticism about the future of 3D movies. I tend to agree with them, and I don't think this is nostalgia or fear of change on my part.

Here's the thing. Synchronized sound was invented in the late twenties. It was adopted almost immediately in all American films. The talkies took over not in FDR's time, but in Hoover's. Filming in color became possible at around the same time. It took a little longer to hit its sttride, because of the Depression and World War II. It took off after the war, becoming the norm in about another five years.

So the two biggest changes implemented in film to date were phased in--respectively--over periods of about two years and something like fifteen.

By contrast 3-D has been an option for about sixty years without catching on. Now, things have changed and the technology is more sophisticated now. Duh. Telephones are now glowing all-purpose robot pals that you carry on your person at all times. But the problem with three dimensional film has never been technical. It's psychological. For the technology to seem worth the effort to the audience, there have to be effects and scenes that make unique use of the third dimension. And these are almost always so cheesy as to become more of a laughingstock than a draw. Which is one reason most of the big 3-D movies of the recent past and near future are 2-d movies converted without the approvial of their directors, Tim Burton and Michel Gondry included in this number.

This is just musing, and I could be wrong. If every movie within five years becomes a giant moving snowglobe, what will I do? As Kevin Costner said in The Untouchables, have a drink.


susan said...

I think the movie industry is making a desperate attempt to get people away from their home movie systems and netflix (streaming or otherwise). I agree with you and also with Roger Ebert who wrote an excellent overview about 3-d a couple of months ago. Avatar was good in 3-d but equally enjoyable a few months later when we watched it at home in regular d.

Ben said...

Ah, thank you for both the comment and the link. And you reminded me of something I wanted to say earlier. Yes, Avatar is an amazing accomplishment. But what most people don't know is that James Cameron spent more than 15 years on it. He had most of the movie in his notebook before he started shooting Titanic. So if the majority of directors had zillion dollar budgets and infinite lifespans then yeah, this might sweep the world. But that ain't really so.