Note: the following news is courtesy of our friends at THE NEW YORK TIMES »
3D: It Leaps (Gasp!) off the Screen, out of the 1950's
By Dave Kehr (Aug 12, 2010)
Does 3-D represent the future of the movies?
After a few months of ambiguous box-office results for stereoscopic movies, that's a question Hollywood executives would love answered in the affirmative, because of the higher ticket prices they can charge. We won't really know the answer for a year or so, when audiences respond — or fail to respond — to the big-budget 3-D films now entering the production pipeline, all chasing the phenomenal figures generated by Avatar. But 3-D is definitely part of the cinema's past — never as gloriously and gaudily as in the approximately 45 stereographic features released by the American film industry between 1952 and 1955.
Fifteen of those vintage films, filled with flaming arrows, pointy surgical instruments, guys in gorilla suits and high-kicking chorines all hurtling from the screen and into your face, will be featured over the next two weeks in Classic 3-D, a series at Film Forum in the South Village (New York City).
For 3-D aficionados (and they are a dedicated bunch) that was the period known as the Golden Age. This is not as much for the blindingly high quality of the films themselves — as lovable as they are, "Cat-Women of the Moon" and "Gorilla at Large" are not "Citizen Kane" — as for the 3-D system then in use.
Generically known as "double system" — because it requires the use of two 35-millimeter projectors, running side by side in perfect synchronization — '50s 3-D at its best produced an illusion of depth of such brightness and clarity that it puts many modern single-projector systems to shame.
And forget about those red-and-green glasses. Though it's a myth that refuses to die, the 19th-century anaglyph process (to give the red-and-green technology its textbook name) played only a tiny role in the 3-D boom of the '50s.
Back then, just as in the systems most widely used today, polarized lenses were used to separate the two images projected on the screen into left-eye and right-eye views. But because 35-millimeter film has a higher resolution than the digital video used for today's 3-D, and the use of two projectors allows more light to strike the screen than the single projector of digital 3-D, the illusion produced by the double-system technique has a sharpness and presence all its own.
The trouble with double system, and one of the reasons for its short life span in the 1950s, is that it's a bear to operate. A veteran projectionist once described the experience as trying to drive two semitrailer trucks down the expressway at 90 miles an hour, while keeping the hood ornaments perfectly aligned. If the left-eye and right-eye images are allowed to slip out of synchronization by even a couple of frames, the illusion is lost, headaches are induced, and audiences flee screaming into the streets.
Bruce Goldstein, the Film Forum's resourceful repertory programmer, will be doing his best to make sure that moviegoers avoid that fate. He has scoured the studio archives for projectable prints (the great majority were junked when the 3-D boom collapsed, and in many cases the studios held on to only one of the two negatives necessary to create new copies). He's even located a couple of rare titles ("Those Redheads from Seattle," showing on Aug. 16, and "Sangaree," on Aug. 26) in the vaults of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. And with them all he's made sure they will be run in tight synchronization.
Though several more films exist in the hands of private collectors, the Film Forum program offers a rousing and representative overview of the '50s 3-D phenomenon, from its carnival-like beginnings to its late bid for respectability. Carnivals, along with roller coasters, side shows and wax museums, occur with amazing regularity in the 3-D films of the 1950s. This wave of 3-D was never meant as a subtle enhancement of storytelling technique, but rather as a novelty designed to lure customers back into the tent — a fairground attraction, just as movies had been at their late-19th-century beginnings.
Confronted with television decimating the movie audience of the early '50s, the studios tried to pry the viewers loose from their home screens by promising something they couldn't get in the living room. As the ads put it for "Bwana Devil," the low-budget, 1952 film that touched off the boom, here was your chance to experience: "A lion in your lap! A lover in your arms!"
Movies like Columbia's "Man in the Dark," which opens the Film Forum series on Friday, took unashamed advantage of the process's flinch-inducing potential. The first 3-D film released by a major studio (it beat Warner Brothers' bigger-budgeted "House of Wax" into theaters by two days), this otherwise unexceptional thriller — about an amnesiac (Edmond O'Brien) who learns he was a gangster in his former life — pokes a whole catalog of unpleasant objects into the spectator's face, including a surgical scalpel, a lighted cigar, a rubber spider and countless meaty fists.
The pattern was set. As the title character in "The Mad Magician" (Aug. 23), Vincent Price pushes a giant buzz saw into the bridge of your nose; the outlaws in "The Stranger Wore a Gun" (Aug. 19) never seem to tire of discharging their six-shooters directly into the camera's lens — a shot that echoes a famous image from the sensationalistic hit of 1903, "The Great Train Robbery."
Audiences, however, did tire of the continual assault on their optic nerves — "The Stranger Wore a Gun" was not the only western that featured a character squirting tobacco juice into the auditorium. By the time 20th Century Fox got around to releasing its first 3-D film, "Inferno," in August 1953, critics, including The New York Times's Howard H. Thompson, were applauding the relative restraint shown by the film's British director, Roy Baker. The fine Technicolor print to be shown at Film Forum on Aug. 25 reveals some ravishing use of receding perspectives, as a Howard Hughes-like millionaire (Robert Ryan), abandoned by his wife and her lover in the Mojave desert, tries to crawl his way back to civilization.
"While it still has far to go," Mr. Thompson wrote, "in this tentative but sensible little undertaking 3-D comes of age." More restrained work followed, including Raoul Walsh's handsome "Gun Fury" (Aug. 18), in which that great action director ("They Died With Their Boots On") largely conducts his business as usual, creating the carefully articulated compositions in depth that had been a defining feature of his style since the early 1930s.
But the move to naturalize 3-D may have come too late. By the holiday season of 1953 the studios were ready with their first batch of A-level productions in the new medium: MGM with the musical "Kiss Me Kate" (screening on Aug. 15 and 16), Columbia with Rita Hayworth in "Miss Sadie Thompson" (Aug. 26), Paramount with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in "Money From Home" (unavailable, alas) and Warner Brothers with Alfred Hitchcock's "Dial M for Murder" (Aug. 20 and 21).
Fox, however, had beaten its rivals to the punch. "The Robe," a biblical spectacle in Fox's new widescreen process CinemaScope, had opened in September, offering audiences an imposing spectacle that could be enjoyed without the use of glasses — and with relatively little risk of being sprayed by tobacco juice.
Suddenly — a little over a year after "Bwana Devil" initiated the craze — stereoscopic motion pictures were yesterday's news. "Kiss Me Kate" was released in both 3-D and "flat" versions, "Miss Sadie Thompson" opened at the Capitol on Broadway with only two of its D's intact, and "Dial M for Murder" was held back by Warner Brothers until May 1954, when it was released only in conventional prints.
The carnival may have moved on, but as the Film Forum series demonstrates, the old rides can still pack a thrill.
Classic 3-D runs through Aug. 26 at Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, west of Avenue of the Americas, South Village; (212) 727-8110 - www.filmforum.org »
> Films From Another Dimension (8 stills)
3-D FILM NOTES...
Disney loses confidence in 3D revolution
(from August 9, 2010)
In a predictably conservative reaction to the slide in 3D ticket sales, Hollywood is waiting to see what happens next before they commit further resources to the revolution.
The latest news of studio hesitancy comes from Disney, who has pushed back the release of Beauty and the Beast 3D until 2011 or even later, despite having had huge monetary success from their Toy Story 3D franchise this year that has seen the first two films grab another $30 million at the box office in re-release.
Although similar revenues would cover the proposed $15 million conversion cost, Disney seems a little unsure that such an outlay for a Beauty and the Beast re-release could be recaptured.
Casting doubt in their boardroom is perhaps the current slide of 3D ticket sales, or the market finding its natural water level, as the studio execs have dubbed it.
That's not all folks: Bugs Bunny to return in 3D
(from August 13, 2010)
Hollywood has shown no shame this year in rehashing old characters for the silver screen, but the return of Bugs Bunny might hit a soft spot in audiences' hearts when he returns.
The furry icon has been confirmed for a feature-length CGI 3D billed for children. But there will probably be plenty of adults secretly interested too.
Writer David Berenbaum (The Spiderwick Chronicles, Elf) has been assigned to write the new film for Warner Bros. But no plot details have been revealed yet.
A series of 3D shorts featuring Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner will be also play for WB this year.
source: movies.sky.com and joblo.com
No evidence of damage from 3D, says doctor
(from August 12, 2010)
Questions have been raised as to the health issues of 3D watching, especially for prolonged exposure that gaming can induce, but a doctor has bravely refuted the critics this week.
Mark Borchert, LA-based ophthalmologist, doesn't believe that 3D is likely to cause any significant problems, saying there is no evidence that suggests it can cause permanent damage.
"There are people who get uncomfortable with it, and get eye strain or headaches, or on much rarer occasions, a sense of imbalance or nausea, but there's no evidence it can cause permanent harm to your vision or use of both eyes together or anything like that," he said.
So with the critics divided, as the guinea pigs of the 3D revolution, we will have to wait and see. I think I'll keep viewing for now.
3D to dominate future of TV, says survey
(from August 11, 2010)
While a current whim seems to be citing an outgoing tide for the 3D revolution, a survey has emerged that defies the trend to predict a promising future for 3D TVs.
According to a study conducted by Frbiz.com, one of China's prominent B2B search platforms, 3D will lead the next generation of technology for televisions.
The analyst says that at present, LED, OLED, and 3D technologies are the hottest developments dominating the next generation of television but that 3D will eventually win out and become the leading technology.
Frbiz.com points out that LED TV market share has increased steadily offering a superior better picture quality compared with liquid crystal product applications. Yet, it adds, that only LED's market share has improved and there has been no real improvement in technological innovation. The end result, Frbiz.com suggests, is that the current market price of LED televisions is far higher than ordinary LCD TVs televisions and can be considered unreasonable.
However, Frbiz.com believes that as more and more movies, games and sporting events use 3D technology in production and broadcasting, manufacturers like Changhong, Samsung, Panasonic and others are increasing plasma screen technology research to realize 3D technology breakthroughs. It also argues that compared with LED, the technical difficulties associated with 3D TV are relatively small and the cost is relatively low. Plasma TVs are the best 3D carriers.
Given these circumstances, Frbiz.com concludes that 3D will be leading the next generation of television.
source: rapidtvnews.com & childlessbychoiceproject.com
How to Train Your Dragon 3D Blu-ray Exclusive to Samsung
The disc will be bundled as part of the company's starter kit, replacing Monsters vs. Aliens.
(from August 12, 2010)
The new and improved Samsung 3D Starter Kit will no longer feature Monsters vs. Aliens. It's getting a slew of updated 3D Blu-ray titles, including How to Train Your Dragon.
Like Monsters, DRAGON is a DreamWorks Animation title, and will be exclusive to Samsung shoppers — at least for a little while.
Aside from How to Train Your Dragon, Samsung's 3D Starter Kit will come with IMAX 3D Blu-rays Galapagos and Into the Deep 3D, as well as Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs. It also has two pairs of 3D glasses. There's no MSRP for the kit yet, but for a limited time, the manufacturer is offering it as a freebie for consumers buying a Samsung 3D TV and a Samsung 3D Blu-ray player.
This is a big deal, considering DRAGON is one of the biggest films of the year — as well as one of the biggest 3D films.
Expect Samsung's new 3D Starter Kit to be available this fall. Samsung says they will also snag all four SHREK titles as an exclusive when the series is released on 3D Blu-ray sometime in Q4 2010.