As a filmmaker the question I am most asked is; will my next film be filmed in 3D? To be honest I'm astonished by this question for I really only have one film to my name and while I'm gearing up for my second I'm still just trying to get my bearings as it pertains to the technology I chose to use when making a movie; 4K. Though, despite my relative inexperience, people still want to know how I feel about 3D. I recently had a conversation with the president of a major theater chain regarding this very topic. I'm going to paraphrase but the gentleman told me that if I were to film Dancing Carl (my next film) in 3D he'd be more apt to book me on a greater number of screens. Sounds good, at least to an independent filmmaker like myself however I had to respond by saying, when I feel that I can use 3D as a story telling tool then I'll use it but I don't simply want to film in 3D for the sake of 3D.
Case in point, I recently screened the latest Pixar movie Up in both 3D and non 3D and I have to admit, Up didn't need to be released in 3D. I'm not going to discuss the merits of the film as a whole, but simply look at the reasoning behind releasing it in 3D. Let's face it, 3D is Hollywood's version of Moses come down from the mountain top for it is going to re-energize audiences to want to return to the theaters. This is true, I guess, but I'd argue that good movies or event movies will energize audience to want to sit in a theater not a gimmick like 3D.
Up did not benefit in anyway, in my opinion, by being shown in 3D, in fact, I quite enjoyed the non-3D version of the film more. In 3D, Up was nauseating at times and once you get past the first few balloons flying towards your face the effect gets somewhat old and cumbersome for there are limits to what 3D can do. First of all, for 3D to be successful (in its current form) your field of vision has to remain fairly still for the effect to be convincing, which can be frustrating not to mention tiresome. Secondly, for me, it creates a sort of diorama like effect where by there is an extreme foreground, middle and background but never shall the three meet, which is weird to sit through for 90 minutes. Lastly, at least with the film Up, a large portion of the film wasn't even in 3D and could be viewed without the glasses proving to me that this "effect" was an after thought versus an artistic decision.
In comparison, viewing Up in its non 3D form was a far more engaging and rewarding experience, not to mention cheaper in terms of ticket prices. The image was absolutely stunning and the clarity and color was a sight to behold something the 3D version is robbed of. While cinematography is not often discussed with CG movies Up proved to be one of the most beautifully shot films I've seen in a long while. The whole film had a very classic, old school feel (as did the story) and it's an aspect of the film I missed out on via the 3D technology. While the 3D version had artificial "depth" the traditional version had real depth and when projected digitally (in my theater) the image itself felt more dimensional and real than the 3D version did.
Now, I'm not going to be an old curmudgeon and say 3D is a fad or that the world doesn't need 3D. I'm simply saying not every film needs to be 3D. I know it's all the rage at the moment and seemingly every film that can be made to be 3D is, but I think, like any Hollywood gimmick, time will temper people's excitement and 3D will be used more judiciously if not more artistically. I absolutely think 3D has a purpose in filmmaking and I don't want to see it go away, I just feel it needs to be viewed as a story telling device versus another way for studios and theaters to charge you an extra two to five dollars for your ticket without giving you two to five dollars worth of added enjoyment.
At the end of the day audiences become immersed in good story telling, which Up has in spades, not in gimmicks. If Hollywood would focus more on getting back to telling solid stories and not finding new and interesting ways of inducing seizures from their audience people may be more apt to return to the theaters. Going to a movie theater is supposed to be special however films are becoming less and less special competing with themselves in an endless battle for our YouTube span attentions. Fewer movies made to higher standards that engage audiences more of the time is what Hollywood needs. Do that and then let's look at what 3D brings to the table.