Wednesday, 7 October 2009

To Infinity... and Beyond

Today I went to see a film in the new generation of 3D for the first time.

I've been keen to see what all the fuss is about so when the opportunity to try it presented itself I jumped at the chance! Even more so, it was a chance to re-watch a film I love but hadn't seen in a long time!

So, what did I think? Well, going to the cinema has not be a cheap option for a long time, and there is a premium to pay for 3D, especially when choosing the "superior" seats. So for two people, off peak, with a large drink each and large popcorn to share there was precious little change out of £30.

After some disappointingly 2D adverts, we were instructed to put on our glasses. Don't imagine these as flimsy bits of card with red and green pieces of cellophane. These were plastic framed with special lenses, the colour of sunglasses. Indeed, while it may not seem cost effective to the industry to collect, sanitise and re-use these, it seems a waste to send people home with them when they will have no further use! Perhaps a discount for re-used glasses should be introduced.

Anyway, back to the cinema and, glasses now position comfortably over my real glasses, the trailers began and, well, the 3D experience was quite amazing. While there were some impressive effects bringing action out of the screen into the auditorium, in the way people typically expect 3D to be, the effect was more impressive when depth was created behind the screen.

There were a number of films trailed, including
Avatar, A Christmas Carol and Up!. Of these, Up!, which opens on Friday, looks the most promising. It may be that animation lends itself to the technology better, or it may be that the others tried too hard, but Up! appears to have understood that, while the scope for effects is stunning, they shouldn't distract from the story-telling experience.

The main feature was Toy Story. I had almost forgotten quite how good it is, with its central themes of jealousy, loyalty and friendship, a great soundtrack, humour (many of the jokes with adult undertones) and some very touching moments. It's a well rounded film which, re-rendered in 3D was even more rounded.

What the 3D system wasn't so good at doing was dealing with fast action. In these scenes, the crispness of the picture and depth-perception were somewhat lost. Perhaps this was a feature of the rendering process, or a reflection of the fact that the film wasn't made for this technology. It will be interesting to see how such scenes fare in custom-made 3D films.

So, while this may be an expensive way to have a cinema experience (particularly for 80 minute long animations!), the added dimension is enjoyable. As the technology develops, problems with action shots may diminish and film-makers will also learn how to effectively exploit the added possibilities without going over the top with special effects.

I want to see Up! and it will be interesting to watch a live action film too. And, of course, there's a re-rendered version of Toy Story 2 on the way ahead of Toy Story 3 next year. While it may not be yet be a technology which can fly, it certainly manages to fall with style...


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