Thursday, March 25, 2010

The (not so) Great 3D Conversion

Even as Avatar fell short in the major categories at the Oscars, 3D has begun to grow in popularity amongst not just fans, but studio heads looking for increased revenue streams. As movie studios salivate over dreams of Avatar-size paydays, the technology is beginning to get a major look from producers of not just schlocky kids movies, but big-budget films, as well.

This recent push for more 3D in our movie theaters was bolstered by the success of Tim Burton's take on Alice in Wonderland. Unlike a film such as Avatar, though, Alice was not originally intended to be 3D fare. Instead, the movie was converted into the burgeoning format after being shot. It is currently being speculated that other films, such as the newest installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise as well as the Lord of the Rings prequels that comprise The Hobbit, are next in line for a 3D conversion. The films, shot on regular 2D equipment, can be retrofitted by studios to include the 3D elements that helped make Avatar pop to the tune of over $2.5bln worldwide.

There has been a push, however, against such conversions, and against a major rush to 3D, by man. Leading the charge, as unlikely as it seems, are none other than James Cameron--Avatar's creator--and Michael Bay.

Yes, you read correctly. Michael. Bay.

The "mastermind" behind Pearl Harbor and the Transformers films, is against the rush to make 3D a mainstay and begin converting 2D films into 3D. Bay's argument is that the technology, particularly that of conversion in post-production, is not tested enough, and may harm his (admittedly) technically complicated films.

Words I never thought I would say in my entire life: Michael right.

As beautiful as Pocahontas 2 Avatar was, Cameron spent years perfecting the look of the film. It didn't just become the 3D magic that won the world overnight in post-production. Cameron shot the whole thing in 3D, and always intended for it to be done that way. When we start rushing to put everything into 3D, just because studios can squeeze an extra $3 per ticket out of it, the art form -- of both 3D and cinema -- loses it's touch. Innovation comes in second place behind profit. From this, we may never actually gather how great 3D could be (if Avatar was the beginning, what's on the horizon?) if we stifle it by throwing it onto everything and driving audiences away by making them sick and tired of the concept and using easy methods instead of the right ones.

A hardly tested method should always lose out against true artistic development and innovation.

When even Michael Bay thinks so, it's probably best we stand back and let 3D develop a little more before we convert everything into the medium.

--Tommy Morgan Jr.