Wednesday, December 10, 2008

3D and DreamWorks

Jeffrey Katzenberg was in Toronto last Monday, talking about DreamWorks' commitment to stereoscopic 3D and showing clips from the forthcoming film Monsters vs. Aliens.

Katzenberg believes that in 5-8 years, all movies will be projected in 3D. He stated that there were 10 or 11 films (both live and animated) slated for release in 2009 and two dozen for 2010. All future DreamWorks releases are slated to be 3D, starting with Monsters vs. Aliens. Dreamworks' features currently cost $150 million, and 3D will add an additional $15 million to their price tag.

Bloomberg news reports specifics about what 3D films are coming:
Next year's 3-D releases include a version of the original "Toy Story" from Disney and James Cameron's "Avatar" from News Corp., the director's first feature film since "Titanic" in 1997. Disney plans five 3-D films, the most of any studio. In February, NBC Universal will release "Coraline," based on the book by Neil Gaiman. "Monsters vs. Aliens" is set for March, DreamWorks Animation's only movie of the year.
Katzenberg foresees theatres adding a $5 surcharge over regular admission rates for the 3D experience. There are currently 1000 screens in North America able to project 3D. In 4 months, there will be 2500 and by 2010 there are expected to be 7500. The Bloomberg article implies that the current economic downturn is going to slow the spread of 3D venues.
Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp., a supplier of software to run digital theaters, had planned to convert as many as 1,500 screens by March 2009. Now, with funds on hold, the company expects 100 to 200, chief executive Bud Mayo said.
While box office grosses have gone up, movie attendance has gone down. The increase in ticket prices is responsible for the increased grosses. The same economic downturn that's slowing down installation of 3D projection may also cut into 3D box office if the theatres charge more for the dimensional versions.

Because not all screens are currently equipped for 3D, DreamWorks will continue to release its films in flat versions to theatres and for home formats such as DVD. Katzenberg acknowledges that films are going to have to be satisfying experiences without 3D and that 3D will be the icing on the cake. He does foresee 3D becoming available at home in the future and expects that its first successful home application will be in gaming.

Katzenberg admitted that it was going to be up to the audience to determine if 3D would become the dominant projection method, but that he was excited about the possibilities since seeing The Polar Express in 3D.

I found the first clip from Monsters vs. Aliens to have some problems, though I'm not sure if it was the clip itself or my need to adjust. 3D imagery contains more information than a standard movie in that the viewer is taking in depth information in addition to everything else. I found the cutting in the first sequence, where the President confronts the alien, to be too fast. I couldn't decipher some shots before they were replaced by others.

However, I found the later two excerpts, the first introducing the monsters and the second a battle on the Golden Gate bridge, worked better for me. I don't know if it was the nature of the direction and cutting in those sequences or if by that time I had seen enough that my brain was more in tune with reading the images.

Certainly, as a society, we take in visual information faster now than in the past. I remember reading an interview with Ward Kimball who talked about having to trim older Disney shorts when they played on television as they were paced too slowly for the TV audience. I don't doubt that with greater exposure to 3D imagery, the audience as a whole will be better at deciphering what's in front of them, but I do think there's a danger of cutting too quickly for the time being.

3D has been tried many times before. Katzenberg said that he felt the move to digital was going to make the difference in terms of audience acceptance. Maybe 3D will be a way for studios to attract more people to theatres in the current economy or maybe bad economic news will prevent that. For now, Hollywood is betting heavily on 3D. Only time will tell if it becomes the new standard or remains an occasional novelty.

No comments:

Post a Comment