With Avatar taking a billion dollars in the last couple of weeks there's loads of chatter online about the future of 3D and the creative possibilities it produces. I've not seen Avatar yet (a baby sitter is booked for this weekend though, yay!) so I can't comment directly on that one film but here are my thoughts on the future of 3D in general.
The main problem with shooting 3D films is not the need for 2 lenses but the need for three! We need one of these:
In traditional photography and filmmaking the director steers the attention of the audience to what they want us to look at by focusing the lens on it. Things behind or in front of the item will be out of focus so our eyes are naturally drawn to it. This is called shallow Depth of Field (DoF) and is the effect all budding film makers want to achieve as it gives our productions a "filmic look."
On the other hand, using a shallow depth of field with 3D doesn't really work. With two eyes we automatically adjust focus as we shift from near to far and unless we consciously try to perceive shallow DoF we just don't "see" it. But filmmakers still have to shoot with shallow DoF as the 2D version of the film will make up 90% of future profits (that percent made up by me).
To get around this dilemma each feature film SHOULD be shot with 3 cameras, two side by side for 3D and one on top for 2D! (I've just submitted the picture above to the patent office.)
Another problem is the stupid glasses you have to wear... (Insert your own rant here.)
Finally, there's a problem with the lack of immersion. Ok, some things stick out at you and others things fall away but real life is not restricted to 16:9 or even Imax (unless you're wearing a motor bike helmet). What happens when someone walks off screen? Do they just disappear? If something happens behind can you turn your head to look? Exactly like 2D, your head may as well be locked in the town square stocks as you still have to look exactly where the director is pointing the camera. This mean that although 3D may "look" and "feel" more immersive, no new story telling techniques are created.
To solve all these problems we need a camera which allows us to see in all directions at once and have a screen where we can control the direction we want to look! Some system that allows our eyes follow the action naturally without being forced to focus on the one bit of the screen dictated by the director! It would be like theatre in the round, but where the stage surrounds the audience, not the other way around.
There must be something like this I hear you ask? Oh there already is!
Check out the guys at yellowBird or to use their full web address: http://www.yellowbirdsdonthavewingsbuttheyflytomakeyouexperiencea3dreality.com They have developed a system using a Google Streetview type camera, a huge computer to crunch all the footage into super HD video file and Flash to display it on your computer screen! The results are spectacular. Its like Streetview meets 360spin meets Youtube!
I can't embed a video example here but go to their site now (or when you've finished here) to see it for your self.
Most, if not all, of their examples are of live events or documentary style footage but I have a couple of ideas about how to use it for live action, fiction, scripted storytelling as well. The short film would start with two people talking, but as they part you can choose which one to follow and see what they do, who they meet or if they leave the area entirely. It would be a murder mystery which you couldn't solve by only following one character. You'd have to go back and watch it at least three times, choosing to view it from a different angle to each time to piece the solution together.
Anyway, I think the potential ways of telling new stories in new ways is mind blowing! Any one got some spare cash they can throw my way to hire the rig and get it done? I'll only need a few tens of thousands. No? Why not? Avatar only cost three hundred million but has already made over a billion. You can't loose!
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