Monday, July 16, 2012

3-D, Frames Per Minute, and the Clash of the Titans

The titans being Peter Jackson and James Cameron. Roger Ebert has an interesting piece on film quality, 3D, movie length, and much more at his journal.
Throughout movie history Hollywood has bragged about ever more stupendous motion picture "events." It has used technical innovations like sound, color and widescreen to increase its impact in theaters. The era of 70mm "roadshows" produced some great movies. Now it appears that 3D has its claws in certain kinds of new productions, and even a director like Martin Scorsese has embraced it.

I think there may be a marketing error here. Moviegoers are growing less attentive to picture quality at a time when many are actually willing to watch a movie on a cellphone, and lower-def streaming occupies more than half the bandwidth on the Internet in the evening. While there will always be an audience for "The Hobbit" or "Avatar 2," at least as long as Jackson and Cameron maintain their standards, I believe there is lessening consumer enthusiasm for paying extra to see "Kung Fu Panda" merely because it is in 3D.

I've seen a lot of 3D movies lately. I no longer routinely devote a paragraph at the end of my reviews to comments about the 3D. That was getting boring. But this fact remains: No matter what they tell you, current 3D involves a loss of picture brightness of at least 20%. Watching one of these movies is like sitting though a film using a projector whose bulb is near the end of its life span.

I have a little ritual I invariably perform during 3D movies. I lift the 3D glasses off my eyes and see how bright the picture would look without them. That is a reminder of what the movie is supposed to look like.
That trick with the glasses is what I kept doing during Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. The 3D was so very dark.

Do go read his column if you are a movie lover.

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