Friday, November 18, 2011

Third dimension in movies - The adventures of Tintin in 3D

Sometimes we like the whole movie or sometimes we like it in parts - with 'The Adventures of Tintin - The Secret of Unicorn' it was both. On the whole, the movie was good but it was most enjoyable in parts however, I could not figure out how 3D had added to the cinematic experience. After watching the movie I really wished it was not in 3D, wonder if the next two movies of the proposed Tintin trilogy by Spielberg will also be in 3D. The movie had enough live action for a fast-paced-Indiana Jones-style-mystery-thriller-entertainer using motion capture technology.The drawings of Herge' were completely reengineered and taken to incredible heights with whatever best could be done for the digital medium.

From comic book to 3D movie
The transformation from the medium of print to digital should not be seen as an adaptation and it should not invite comparisons for these two media are as different as chalk and cheese. The only common aspect is the storyline serving as a base to explore, experiment and enthrall the audience. When the character and the story (as famous as Tintin) has enough for that rare cinematic treatment, why was the movie made in 3D? How did it add value from entertainment point of view? It would have been better in 2D itself .

These days, with the invasion of 3D movies, one is forced to watch them whether we like it or not -not all animation movies have the 2D option. For the movie Rio, I preferred the 2D version and avoided 3D. Avatar in 3D was a strict no-no! But there was no option for Tintin.... Perhaps, 3D is a selling point for some but it makes a strenuous viewing for many. The only movie I thoroughly enjoyed watching in 3D (IMAX version) was The Polar Express. I felt the use of 3D in this movie was every effective in creating the larger-than-life feel of the story. Others 3Ds movies like Toy Story 3, Despicable Me and Shrek 3 left me with mixed feelings coz I ended up with a headache after watching them.

My team member Arun Kaushik, who has a Masters in Animation from IDC, IIT-Bombay, oftens shares his ideas and expertise on film making and animation films. Occasionally, I chat up with him on technical aspects of such movies, especially motion capture techniques, and this time I approached him to share his thoughts on 3D. This is what Arun has to say:

When does 3D suit the most?
"I think 3D works really well when coupled with movies that allow the viewer to experience grand expanses or complex volumes at a leisurely pace. Grand expanses, because cramped spaces might as well be shot on 2D, and leisurely pace, because frenetic editing and camera movement ends up forcing your eyes to refocus faster than the brain can handle. I imagine watching documentaries on Mt. Everest or about outer space should be an amazing experience with 3D."

Advantages of 3D in movies
"3D helps you experience spaces to a greater extent. If the 3D is effective, you can actually feel the distance between an object close the camera and an one that is a kilometer away. I think that is essentially the feature that people like Cameron and Spielberg are excited about, and trying to capitalize on. And since it offers a tangible advantage over 2D, I think 3D is here to stay in it's inferior form, until the technicians manage to fine tune it over the next few years to remove the elements that cause headaches."

Side effects and appropriate use of 3D
"For an excellent explanation of why one gets headaches when watching 3D movies, I'll direct you to this letter from Walter Murch (arguably the greatest living film editor) to Roger Ebert (an extremely popular film reviewer). I don't think anybody can offer a clearer explanation."

Going by what Arun has to say, I wonder what it would be like to watch 3D film on a TV, now with advanced technology you don't need to wear the 3D glasses!

However, wouldn't it be better if the third dimension is left to the viewer to figure out, create, imagine or visualize - at least in some movies?


Dominic M said...

Good post. I was wondering of the same on Saturday when seeing Tintin. I even removed the glasses for some portion of the movie just to check and found it good even in 2D. But somehow I always put the glasses back on.

Avatar is another story altogether. I cannot imagine Avatar without 3D. It was different for me. The depth that gave me the great experience, not the on-your-face thrill that is usually associated with "normal" 3D.

Madhuri Dubey said...

Hi Dominic, thanks for reading my post and sharing your views. Ok, may be I should watch Avatar in 3D, earlier I avoided it because of its length and of course the headaches:)