It’s all the rage. All the cool studios are doing it. What’s not to like about 3-D movies and TV? Well, a lot, but I just don’t want to be a naysayer. It’s possible that 3-D will stick around this time for it to develop into something still only seen in SF movies.
You know, it’s really cool to say that. It seems that we, who live in the future, have been running out of SF tropes to strive for. At present, the grail seems to be with capturing that third dimension.
Shooting With Intent
A key to watchable 3-D is that the filmmakers have to shoot it with 3-D intended as the end product. None of this multi-planar stuff that seems like little more than an adult-sized View-Master, we need actual stereoscopic images.
Also (and I can’t emphasize this enough), the techniques have to be sufficiently evolved that we stop trying to enhance the “coming at you” 3-D effect. It’s trite. It’s been trite. If you need that trick to make your 3-D film special, then maybe you need to rethink your reasons for needing 3-D at all. If, instead, you are about totally immersing the audience in the experience, then perhaps you have the right vehicle.
A Problem of Depth
A key component of all photography is the focal plane and the depth of field surrounding it. Directors of Photography have long been adept at controlling the amount of a scene that appears to be in focus. A major problem with 3-D is that we don’t yet have a method for translating that into a stereo world. How much of the image should be sharp?
This is no small consideration. Your attention will be focused on the sharpest elements of a scene. By throwing other parts of the scene out of focus, the DP ensures that the audience’s eyes are most likely landing on what the director intended. BUT, if other parts of the scene are of interest, you (the audience member) would like to focus on those…this being 3-D and all. So that suggests those need to be sharp as well. But that detracts from the scene as a whole and… well, you get the point.
Those Frakkin’ Glasses
My feeling is that 3-D will never be popularly viable until we can rid ourselves of the need for those special glasses. In the best of cases they are awkward and often result in dimmed viewing. For people like me, who already wear glasses, having to improvise a way to reasonably wear another pair of glasses results in removing any immersive aspect from the experience. It’s that uncomfortable.
Even with a group of people with perfect, no-correction-needed vision, the 3-D glasses are a pain. You have to have enough for everyone, they have to be compatible with the 3-D system being displayed, and you have to tend to the hygiene problem when it comes to sharing.
Where Do We Go From Here?
If 3-D persists, the current forms will need to evolve. The highest priority, I believe, is to remove the need for the glasses. If you can’t have the casual passer-by see the 3-D effect, you are still in “beta”.
Back in the 80s, I had the idea that if you shot through a lenticular curve (think a fly’s eyes), and then rear-projected it through a matched lenticular screen, you could possibly achieve a “true” 3-D experience. People on the right side of a viewing area would have a somewhat different experience than those on the left side. Thus, to a degree, you could walk around (or over/under) objects to see them from different angles.
I didn’t do much with that except do some quick figuring in a notebook. Optics was never my strongest suit. Since then, I believe something similar was patented, but that would have expired by now.
Still, if 3-D is to find utility, then it needs to break free of its current limitations. It’s not just hardware but artistic. It’s also a question of the public’s aesthetic. Other than for occasional special programming, do we gain anything? Is the expense worth the end result? I ask this because the brain is remarkably adaptive when it comes to its ability to take 2-D images and interpreting them into 3-D for us–particularly when the images move.