3D Films: The World of Stereography

film in 3D

In their year-end report,  industry magazine The Hollywood Reporter coined 2010 as “The Year That Was Saved by 3D.”  Theater attendance had dropped by 5.2 % but 22 movies helped increased industry revenue, among them were Avatar, Toy Story 3 and Clash of the Titans. Soon 3D features were everywhere, in re-releases and first run film, in special television displays for sale at local electronics stores, even the porn industry was getting in on the 3D action.

3D films were popularized in the 1950s and have had a rollercoaster revival since. They are most famously paired with the monster/horror movie genre, but also with westerns and comedies.  Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder was produced for 3D, but released in 2D in order to bring in a greater profit due to the limited number of theaters with 3D capabilities.

In the old days of 3D, two prints of a particular film were needed; they had to be identical and often required two projectionists to operate.  In the mid-80s, companies like Disney and IMAX resuscitated the 3D genre with their advances in format and higher quality computer animation and CGI.  Today, just about any kind of film can be offered in the 3D format, but the question is how do you make 3D films anyway?

So called “Flat” films in the standard 2-deminsional format can be converted to 3D during the post-production process of filmmaking.  This is often the most cost-efficient way to meet 3DTV industry demands, thus there are many studios that developed their own conversion software.  However, conversion encounters problems in film grain, object borders and noise elements; points at which the film will look or sound fuzzy or just not match properly.

3D or stereography can be achieved in the production phase of a film through use of a professional stereography rig.  In this case, the Producer hires a Stereographer.  The modern stereographer works closely with the Director during the script breakdown to enhance blocking and action sequence for 3D optimization, and often with the Set and Costume designer to minimize use of colors that would cause fuzz or grain outcomes in the final production.  A good stereographer works in tandem with the cinematographer to create the best look for the film, but does not get in the cinematographers way.

Today most anticipated blockbuster features are produced in both the 2D and 3D format, to maximize profits and create the most enjoyable experience for the film going audience.  Yet it remains a skill you cannot learn without going to a good film school program.

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