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3rD Leap

Posted in Cinema, Science & Tech by Suganth on June 22, 2009

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With Hollywood taking to 3-D in a big way, does it represent the future of cinema? More importantly, should Tamil cinema join the 3-D bandwagon? CT explores…

As the meteor hurtles across the sky towards Earth in a scene at the start of the 3-D film Monsters Vs Aliens, it is not just the film’s characters who get ready to flee. The entire audience too withdraws in fear. That perhaps is what 3-D does – shocking you and at the same time leaving you in awe.

At a time when movie attendance has dropped and piracy rampant (thanks to the innumerable torrent sites), 3-D has become the carrot for Hollywood moguls to attract audiences to the theatre.

Says Jayendra Panchapakesan, co-founder of a Chennai-based media technology firm, “Today, there is very little difference between viewing cinema at a theatre and at home. So, cinema wants to differentiate itself from the home theatre experience. 3-D on a large screen can be that big differentiator.”

Agreeing with him is cinematographer Ravi Varman, who says, “3-D is certainly a thrilling experience for the audience. In these times when very few people make it a point to watch movies in theatres, it will definitely bring in the crowd. But on the down side, the thrill will be short-lived.”

Ram Gopal Varma, who is working on India’s first 3-D horror film, when asked in an interview on his switch to the 3-D format has said that 3-D gives an extraordinary experience. “The viewers are no longer removed from the happenings on screen. They would feel that they are up there on the location along with the characters and will feel that they are in as much danger as the cast,” he said.

But, 3-D is not something new to cinema. It has been in vogue since the early 20s. In fact, it was at it’s peak in the 50s. So, the current phenomenon is almost the second coming of the technology. But what has caused this surge?

“Digital technology has taken 3-D several notches higher than what it was before,” says Jayendra, while Tan Ngaronga, COO of a popular multiplex in the city feels that the IMAX technology is even better than 3D.

“There is still nothing that compares to the IMAX big screen experience, both in 2D and 3D. Due to the aspect ratio of the IMAX format and the size of the screen, most people are not able to see the entire screen with their full peripheral vision. As such, the effect makes you feel like you are right in the middle of the action. There is definitely a difference from your standard cinema digital 3D and the IMAX 3D format,” he says.

However, 3-D has its fair share of critics as well, who say that films don’t need to be 3-D! They just need to be good in the first place. Popular US film critic Roger Ebert puts forth this argument against 3-D in his blog. “There is a mistaken belief that 3-D is ‘realistic.’ Not at all. In real life we perceive in three dimensions, yes, but we do not perceive parts of our vision dislodging themselves from the rest and leaping at us,” he writes.

Even Ravi Varman has his doubts. “Realism will be lost when you employ 3-D. But it also depends on how we use the technology. If we take a half-baked approach, it would just become a gimmick. If we’re able to create a separate format for 3-D films in terms of storytelling, it would be an interesting technology that can be used for advancement of cinema,” he feels.

Jayendra sums it up, “When you give a new tool to our filmmakers, they tend to play with their new toy for sometime. It is inevitable. But, with less gimmicks and a mature handling, 3-D will definitely work. If you look at the number of films that Hollywood is hugely betting on, 3-D is very much the future.”

In the 3-D pipeline

  • Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs – Carlos Saldanha
  • Up – Pete Docter
  • Avatar – James Cameron
  • The Adventures of Tintin – Steven Spielberg/Peter Jackson
  • A Christmas Carol – Robert Zemeckis
  • Shrek 4 – Mike Mitchell
  • Toy Story 3 – Lee Unkrich
  • Warning – Ram Gopal Varma

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