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Outside the D-Box Thinking: Technology and Movies

June 6, 2011 Leave a comment

First of all, I appreciate everyone coming to the site lately and making the ‘Film vs. Movies’ blog a huge success. The site has been a little inactive lately on my end as some large projects have gone out the door, but now I’m back and the regular updates will resume!

During my brief time off from the blog, I took in my first ever D-Box experience. It was Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011), and the integration blew me away. Combining the 3D experience with the moving seats brought me into the film far more than I could have imagined. This was an interactive experience closer to the Disneyland ride on which the films are based, than the 2D predecessors of this film.

That’s not to comment at all on the movie, but simply the experience in the theatre. It did get me thinking, however, about the recent technological innovations and how they are impacting the motion picture art form.

Let’s assume that 3D was the innovation that started it all. Not the new-fangled stereoscopic 3D, but the original red/blue lenses 3D. How did that affect cinema? It was a massive craze that eventually died as the hype ran out. Films like Jaws 3D (1983) and Amityville 3D (1983) were released, but it never made it into a mainstream film audience.

The Poster for Jaws 3-D (1983)

Fast forward about forty years when people started experimenting with Stereo 3D. My first experience with this was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007). The 3D was only implemented uncertain scenes, but something had changed. Instead of using 3D to have something jump at the audience, the 3D was implemented to increase the depth of the location. Instead of a jarring experience, I became more immersed in the film.

Avatar (2009)

Moving forward further came the 3D epic Avatar (2009). Years in development gave us a fantasy film with 3D cameras made specifically for this movie. Many will argue that this is the most impressive usage of 3D yet.

But what about Tron: Legacy (2010) the following year? Another excellent implementation of 3D, but drastically different. Instead of shooting the entire movie in 3D, Tron: Legacy shot all the scenes in the normal world in 2D. Once the film transitions into the digital universe, the 3D is implemented to bring the audience even further into the film.

3D was only implemented inside the grid in Tron: Legacy (2010)

That, more or less, brings us up to the D-Box era. Now, in addition to 3D, films will be programmed with seats that jump and move with every motion in the film. The question becomes where is the limit for these innovations? As fantastic as they are, not every film is in need of 3D or D-Box.

Films coming out now will have to face the question of which of these innovations to implement, if any. Audiences will have to vote with their dollars on if it’s worth seeing films in 3D or D-Box. But it doesn’t stop there.

We are seeing several films now being re-released in 3D. Disney is getting set to premiere one of their all-time classics, The Lion King (1994), in 3D. With this trend, the rerelease of films in D-Box can’t be far behind either. Films like Desperado (1995) and The Terminator (1984) may offer a great opportunity for retrograding, but is it necessary for films like Bull Durham (1988) or Midnight Cowboy (1969)?

Can you imagine this scene in 3D?

I don’t mean to demean the technology, I am in favor of creating the most immersive movie experience possible. All I am pointing out is that sometimes the most immersive experience doesn’t include the new bells and whistles.

In the end it comes down to story and pre-production. Develop a film with 3D in mind and you are far better off than deciding in a later stage to post-process to the format. Know your movie, and make that movie. Don’t force your movie to be something it’s not.

And, please, no 3D or D-Box re-releases for Casablanca (1942) please.

Zac Hogle is a writer/director who has worked on several nationally broadcast series and documentaries. You can follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/zhogle.

All images and videos are the copyright and property of their respective holders. No infringement is intended.

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Categories: Movies, Technology

The Importance of Continuing Education

December 29, 2010 Leave a comment

In my last blog post I briefly went over some of the major changes in the post-production world in 2010. Particularly I chronicled the arrivals of Avid Media Composer 5 and Adobe Creative Suite 5. This has raised an interesting follow-up topic: how important is it to keep up with modern innovations in production technology? In one simple answer: very.

As the production world continues to change and adapt around us in the digital age, it is incredibly important to keep up with those changes. It wasn’t that long ago that nobody had even heard of an iPod, and now we’re using iPhones to shoot, edit and output HD films. A clear understanding of the technology around us is crucial to remain a relevant member of any production team.

This is probably most evident with camera operators and post-production crew. For the most part, they are the ones dealing with rapidly changing technology the most. Camera operators are now faced with the challenges created by new formats and cameras, namely changing from film based to digital, but lets not forget that the shift to HD for television is still a relatively recent switch as well. We’ve gone from SD to HD to 4K in an incredibly short period of time. With cameras like the RED Scarlet and ARRI Alexa now, we can expect the trend to continue as digital quality swells, while prices and camera sizes fall.

When I say post-production crew, I am referring most specifically to editors and VFX artists (including graphics). It seems every day there is some new piece of technology coming out that can improve the workflow or abilities of the post-production crew. MC5 and CS5 this year are large sweeping examples of this, but it’s the specialist companies that keep the industry constantly changing. Companies like Red Giant Software, as one example, have revolutionized time and again the post-production process time and again by utilizing the idea of plug-ins. For a post-production crew member, these plug-ins are easy to install into your existing software and can offer incredible levels of control over video. Magic Bullet Looks, for example, allows anyone to easily and quickly create engaging, cinematic looks for their footage. They have presets for this plug-in, but an in depth understanding of how the Looks Suite works allows you to set your work apart from those who use only the presets. Another fine example is the work done by Andrew Kramer over at Video Copilot, who has taken full advantage of plug-ins to create affordable effects filters for After Effects.

While camera operators and post-production crews are the most directly affected by this rapidly changing technology, producers, writers and all members of a production need to have at least some understanding of how the process works. This allows a team to work together more smoothly. Every editor has been told that an edit should only take them so long to do by a producer that has no real grasp on how editing works. Learning new technologies doesn’t only allow those directly involved to use the technologies more efficiently, but it can create a culture of respect if those using the technology know those in charge of the production have taken the time to learn how their process works. Once we’re all speaking the same language, we can all realistically set goals and workflows.

Luckily, the modern technology has also made keeping up with technology far simpler. No longer do we have to take time off to learn all these new workflows, though seminars and trade shows are still excellent options, instead we can take to the internet (or the cloud as the new buzz phrase would have it) and search out affordable training and tutorials on any specific piece we need.

With training and education at our fingertips, there is really no reason to allow technology to pass us by.

So what do you think? Is technology moving too fast for our own good, or is it pushing us to where we need to go with our productions? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

This blog was made possible by NewMediaWebinars.com, creators of online seminars for digital filmmakers.


Categories: Editing, Movies, Shooting
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