Saturday, July 14, 2012

How good is the 3D in 'Katy Perry: Part Of Me'?


Katy Perry now ranks amongst the best of the early-21st Century's pop stars. She ties a record with Michael Jackson for the most number one hit singles from one album, and was the first female to do so. It's been several years since she invaded the airwaves with her hit single, I Kissed A Girl, and now Perry is out to dominate movie theatres with her own quirky take on the doco/concert film. To do this, she's recruited the directing team of Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz. The pair are producers on the wildly popular 'the show must go on' TV series Project Runway, and they made Justin Bieber's 3D film Never Say Never  in 2011. Safe to say they know how to manipulate documentary footage into a narrative! Since Katy Perry: Part Of Me's release last week, critics have been unexpectedly kind to this particular manipulation of Perry's life and recent worldwide tour. It deftly juggles three narratives: Perry's rollercoaster of a personal life (she goes from a honeymoon to a divorce in the course of the film); real-world (likely 2D) footage of fans responding to Perry's music; and her colourful concert tour itself, shot in native 3D.

Native 3D and Post-Converted 3D:

Archival footage of Katy Perry
Archival footage of Katy Perry
Despite our best efforts in researching (and watching a dozen or so "yeah we had a great time making this film" interviews), it's hard to find any solid information on the filming techniques used. From what we can deduce from the footage shown... Katy Perry: Part Of Me was made using a mixture of cameras and technologies. Generally speaking, whenever the star is onstage, it's likely filmed using 3ality Technica camera rigs, all in glorious native 3D. That footage is full-frame, shot wonderfully, featuring deep blacks and brighter-than-bright colours. In the other narrative, where we're backstage, most of the footage seems to have been filmed using 2D HD cameras, and then that footage was later post-converted into 3D. It's possible some of the backstage stuff was filmed with the native-3D rigs, but the muddy quality made us think that wasn't the case. Then we've got 'the rest of the film', which is a mixture of archival footage and home-made clips that were definitely filmed in 2D. In these cases, the film-makers don't even conceal the 2D nature of the footage; they just suspend the square shots over a rectangular animated background to create a sense of depth.


Does the 3D 'pop'?

Put it this way - if you were told to make a 3D film, starring one of the most cartoonish pop stars ever to grace this earth... how would you frame your shots? Would you make the screen an imaginary wall, and limit all action to the background? No. You'd do crazy stuff, like have confetti and glitter shoot out of canons, straight into the theatre. It's a mystery then why the directors didn't do this! The screen is mostly an absolute wall that never allows anything through it. If you're backstage, or watching fan diaries etc, the 3D effect is minimal in general, and definitely confined beyond the screen.

How's the depth of the 3D?

Katy Perry: Part Of Me 3D concert footage
As far as depth goes, this film is real mixed-bag. Most of the stuff backstage is muddy looking and flat. Some of the footage on-stage is marvelous, mind. When the film-makers got the shot they were after, Perry's packed arenas look amazing. Hundreds of cameras and cellphones held aloft help add layer upon layer of depth to Part Of Me's concert footage. Every now and then though, you get the feeling that the camera operators were restricted to locked-down positions, unable to follow the action as you might expect they'd like to. It's very rare to see a close-up shot of Perry onstage; everything's filmed from a distance. While it's admirable to have prioritised the real-world concert-going audience's experience like this, the theatre-going audience are left feeling like they watched a really well shot bootleg of a cool looking concert.

Did it make sense to add to 3D to this film?

Yes... and no. In the 'yes camp', we have the evidence that around 50% of concert films that were released wide and globally since 2009 have been in 3D. Put it this way, Katy Perry's amazing stage shows are ten times more interesting than anything by the likes of the 3D-ified Justin Bieber or The Jonas Brothers. It's a colourful and brightly lit performance, filled with pyrotechnics and glitter, all of which is a joy to watch while wearing glasses. In the 'no camp' though we have the muddy and murky post-converted behind-the-scenes footage, and the aforementioned boring angles and cinematography. On paper, this film seems a natural fit with 3D, but in hindsight... they should've skipped the format altogether.

If we had to archive one version, should we save the 2D or the 3D?

Save the 2D! Half the film basically is in 2D anyway. A cynic - the kind who thinks 3D is a Hollywood devised money-grabbing ploy - would find it easy to argue that Part Of Me is the first gimmicky and pointlessly 3D-ified film of 2012. This makes us here at 3Defence sad, because we love the idea of 3D being a legitimate technique employed for the power of good... not for money-grabbing evil. We hope Perry shoots her next concert tour exclusively in native-3D; gives the film-makers full stage access for a couple of shows so they can get epic close-ups; and just revels in the fact that her music is fun and her fans are loud!

The film itself

It's great! It's a hoot. Critics have been kind to it. Part Of Me is an appropriate title; while you never feel Perry has revealed all of herself to her fans, you do feel like she's been more honest than any of her peers in the pop world. The extraordinary ups and downs of her last two years seem to have taken a toll on her, but her resolute strength and showmanship are demonstrated in this film to be second-to-none. It's an amusing and entertaining film that we recommend hiring on DVD sometime if you're a fan of her music.

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