March 14, 2010

3D Technology Bursts Off Screen

Print More

Last Thursday, I attended a lecture in Willard Straight by Phil “Captain 3D” McNally, the person in charge of the three dimensional (3D) effects for the film giant, DreamWorks Pictures. I admit that I, like most people, viewed 3D as a visual gimmick.I thought it was, at best, a cool way to make pretty pictures and, at worst, a painful, funky experience with those red and blue glasses that give me a headache. AsI expected, the lecture began with an explanation of the 3D technology. I love an explanation about polarized light, multiple cameras and eye strain as much as the next geek, but it was nothing new. It was the last portion of the lecture that grabbed my attention: a slideshow with 3D photographs as well as the same two dimensional (2D) photos. The two images were not the same; they had a neat visual effect tacked on. They were truly distinct! It’s hard to put to words the exact difference between 2D and 3D images, but as one would expect, it hinges on how space is represented. In 2D, dimensions and space must be carefully defined so the viewer can tell where everything is, but in 3D, that sense of space comes naturally and lends to everything, even the blades of grass on the ground. The other important difference between 2D and 3D is the emotional impact of space. With a well defined sense of depth, spacing ceases to be something photographers or directors have to strive to achieve, and becomes its own storytelling tool. The best way I can explain this phenomenon, since I can’t actually show a 3D picture, is to describe an example. One photograph that sticks in my mind is the image of a student in Ho Plaza, outside Willard Straight. This camera looked over the shoulder of a student, in the foreground, revealing the multitude of students in the background. The 2D image did not really tell the viewer all that much. It seemed, as though, all the action in the background was just noise. However, in 3D, the student in the foreground seemed separated and alone, because of his relative position, close to the camera perspective. It’s this sort storytelling that excited me. I can’t wait to see the future of 3D. James Cameron’s Avatar, as well as a plethora of other 3D films, signals that 3D technology exists, but I still think that the artistic future has not happened … yet. I look forward to watching real artists adapt and incorporate this new tool into future filmmaking.

Original Author: Brendan Hammond