Monday, May 10, 2010

The Hurdles for 3D Filmmaking and the Possibilities of Overcoming Them

Let me start with I love 3D movies. I think its a great new (updated) medium and has a lot of potential. With that said, I think there is a serious flaw currently with the films that are being released. In order to make 3D work properly in movies, the number 1 piece of equipment that needs to change is the lenses movies are shot with. Let me explain my thinking.

When you look around the room, your eye is naturally able to focus on whatever it wants. If you pay attention to your peripheral vision, you will notice that everything you do not focus on goes blurry, out of focus. The farther off in the distance you look, the more out of focus the foreground goes.

Lenses work in the same manner. They have multiple layers of glass in them that are able to pull light through and project the image onto the imager. The simplest for being a pinhole camera. I don't want to turn this post into one long lesson on how lenses work but the focus and work very similar to the human eye. The "tighter" the lens, meaning the closer it focuses on a subject, the "shallower" the depth of field. This means that everything around the lens falls out of focus.

For decades, depth of field (DOF) has been used as a movie making tool to control where the director wanted the audience to focus their attention. For 3D, this needs to change. By using DOF as a tool in 3D movies, this is hurting the overall experience. The entire picture needs to be in focus.

Creating lenses that are able to focus infinitely while not needing loads and loads of additional lighting may be a big deal to overcome. Several alternatives may show themselves besides just lenses becoming faster such as imaging chip sensitivity but it needs to happen fast in order for 3D movies to be a lasting experience at the box office and not just a fad.

A lot of filmmakers may gasp at this idea as it means they may not be able to control where a viewer is looking all the time but it means solid composition, sets and use of color become more important - as it was hundreds of years ago with the master painters. They also need to depend on the audience to focus where they should and create that depth of field with their own eyes naturally. I think it opens up a whole new level of storytelling options. Think about the possibility of not just seeing a blurry vision of a killer sneaking up on the victim on the phone but actually allowing the audience the privilege of being able to focus back and forth between the two.

By opening up the frame, I think it can also open up the moviegoing experience. New theater experiences could be created by allowing viewers to move around more and by moving, seeing a change in parallax. This can only go as far as the cameras that film the scene but by throwing out DOF, that allows the cameras to shift apart wider and opening that new possibility up. Overcome the current challenges and you open up a real, new world of entertainment.

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