Wednesday, May 23, 2012

G.I. Joe 2: Retaliation... 3D?

Nikki Finke, at Deadline Hollywood broke a staggering exclusive story today: G.I. Joe 2: Retaliation is not being released next month. Instead, they're delaying its release until March 2013. The reason? They want to do a post-production conversion of the film, to add 3D. They quote the recent success of Titanic 3D in China internationally as the reason it's a good idea to spend their marketing budget for the film twice. Gitesh Pandya of Box Office Guru pithily tweeted, "with GIJoe2 moving from June to March2013 it may become 1st film ever to buy SuperBowl ads 2 yrs in a row."

Our suggestion about why Paramount made the move? Four words:

  • Spider-Man
  • Avengers
  • Batman
  • Prometheus

Thursday, May 10, 2012

'Prometheus' - shot in 3D, using Red EPIC cameras

Over the last month, the marketing team at Fox have been slowly unveiling more and more news about Ridley Scott's upcoming 3D film, Prometheus. Given the film's shot in native 3D, we here at 3Defence are getting pretty excited about its release (and it seems many others are too; it's already breaking box-office records for IMAX pre-sales in the UK). So, let's take a look at some of the images released by Fox last month:

3D film-making in 'Prometheus'

The above image shows (I mean, aside Charlize Theron holding a gun) the kit that Scott and his DP, Dariusz Wolski, used to film Prometheus. From what we know, they used a RED Epic camera, combined with the Element Technica ATOM 3D rig. This piece of information is important, because around 50% of the big budget films you're excited to see between now and 2015 will be filmed with similar gear. The nearest rival to this camera is the Arri Alexa. Anyway, the reason I blather about any of this is because Fox seem hell-bent on making sure you understand "Prometheus was filmed in native 3D". As an example, check out this shot of Scott, wearing the same glasses you and I will be when we finally see the film in June:

Aside from providing geeks like me some excitement, what does this shot say to the common-man? I read the image as if the marketing department is saying, 'this man knows what he's doing, he brought you Blade Runner and Alien for crying out loud, and he filmed this with glasses on... so the authoritative way to see Prometheus is in three dimensions." Fox, having single-handedly re-invented the 3D landscape with Avatar a few years ago, know what they're doing. Word on the street is that they've made something equally special with this film, and they've gone all-in on Prometheus now. They understand that audiences are suffering from 3D-fatigue, so they've gone out of their way to make sure you see their latest sci-fi epic the way it was intended. 

Prometheus is rated 'R'

This week the rating for the film was confirmed to be an 'R' in America. Traditionally, the rule of thumb is that your standard four-quadrant Hollywood blockbuster needs to be rated PG-13 or below. There have been very few exceptions to this rule, because teenagers traditionally power the box-office grosses through their first weekend, State-side. The 'R' rating must mean Fox are damned sure they've made a piece of entertainment that adult audiences are going to root for. Given they're confident enough to release it in that state, and they're emphasising the 3D in the marketing materials, one suspects we're in for one helluva ride in June.

Great list of the best 3D moments in 'The Avengers'

Hulk in the 3D film 'The Avengers'

Regular reader 'Andy' submitted this story for us: The Top 10 Most Thrilling 3D Moments In The Avengers. Check it out, it's a great list. Useful follow-up to our story from a few days ago on the great conversion work Joss Whedon coaxed out of his team.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

10 million Americans watched a 3D film this weekend

BoxOfficeGuru revealed that, because of The Avengers' monstrous opening, 10 million Americans watched a 3D film this weekend. By my estimates, that's the most for a single film ever, in that timeframe. Big news! It also validates my earlier theory that the 3D version is of historic importance.

The premiere of The Avengers

Now the question is... will its 3D attendance beat Avatar?

Side By Side - Keanu considers film vs digital

Keanu Reeves has a film coming out soon, and it doesn't involve kung fu, Dolph Lundgren, bombs on buses or time machines. Nope, it's a documentary, called Side By Side, and in it Keanu asks pretty much every director who had a free hour in their schedule, "is this the end of film?" Has digital cinema replaced the usage of celluloid / polyester prints? Given that Kodak recently announced its intention to fold its business, the question is a timely one. Given that most native 3D films being released today are shot digitally, it seems pertinent to bring the matter up here at 3Defence.

It screened at Tribeca recently, and there's a wave of publicity that I thought 3Defence's audience might be interested in reading. Wired have a great piece on it here, ending with the pithy observation that Side By Side itself was was shot digitally. Indiewire bring up a stunning revelation that no new film cameras are in development by any of the major manufacturers; we've a decade at best with the 35mm kit that remains. The films garners praise by The Moveable Fest, saying "Keanu Reeves' Digital Cinema Doc "Side by Side" Deserves a Whoa."

So, looks like it'll be an interesting one to watch. If you're the sort of person who cares about this debate, check out the trailer above!

Friday, May 4, 2012

How Good Is The 3D In The Avengers?

If the estimates hold true, half of the people likely to see The Avengers already have, and the other half are about to see it in the next 48 hours. It's an event film like no other before it; five films of build-up, followed by a massive pay-off. The Avengers has the world captivated, and there's hundreds of reviews out there that can help you interpret the narrative, its plot and its worthiness as 'one of the best superhero films of all time'. Today's post asks "should I see The Avengers in 3D?" and "How Good Is The 3D In The Avengers?"


The Avengers was shot in 2D, and converted in post-production. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that, as of April 2012, the gold standard in this process belonged to Titanic 3D. That film had a few awkward moments where some characters' eye-lines gazed in a different direction than you'd expect, but most of the time the work was flawless. Using Titanic as a yardstick, how does The Avengers fare? It's brilliantly well done. Having seen it twice now, I can confidently say this is the 'silver standard' in post-production 3D conversion. According to Marvel, despite being shot in 2D, "every shot was framed and designed to be able to accentuate the 3D process" that would be dovetailed in at the end. The basic approach seems to have been '20 minutes of high depth, followed by 20 minutes of low depth, followed by 20 minutes of high depth' etc. The technicians behind this are literally kind on your eyes, making sure they dial up the conversion only when it's absolutely vital to do so. Cynics may regard this as a money-grabbing ploy I suppose, but I prefer to think of the 3D application in The Avengers as they themselves think of The Hulk; a weapon capable of great impact, to be deployed rarely lest it runs away from your control.

Does the 3D 'pop'?

Rarely, if ever. By and large, it feels like Joss Whedon and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey treat the screen as an unbreakable wall. Given the film was shot in 2D, this seems wise. Whenever the 'pop' effect was used in the recent conversion of Star Wars: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, the background had to be warped in the background to fill the rest of the frame, and whatever was being stretched into the audience in the foreground had a graininess to it that felt like they'd zoomed too far. The Avengers resists this temptation, so if you're only keen on seeing shields and hammers coming out of the screen, perhaps you should save the money for Piranha 3DD.

How's the depth of the 3D?

Vertigo inducing. Seeing the 3D in The Avengers makes me wish Brad Bird would use the same team to go back and convert Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol; the techniques applied here redefine the sensation one imagine you'd feel hanging off a building, surrounded by bad guys. Much of the last half hour is set in central Manhattan, reeling from one skyscraper to the next. The 3D effect is the most noticeable in this section, because the action is staged in four tiers. There is the ground-based human team, covered by the sentry team several floors above, with everything fenced in by the aerial weaponry of Iron Man, and then there's the Stark Tower far in the distance opening a portal into deep (literally) space. In a stroke of genius, this is all staged in bright daylight, so we can see everything going on in each of these tiers at all times. The camerawork here is top-notch, and each shot seems to show off depth of a different kind, be that on a horizontal plane looking down a New York avenue, or the more obvious vertical plane looking down at the ground many stories below you.

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

Yes. The way the 3D has been used in The Avengers calls to mind the way depth has been used in the comic book medium for decades. Obviously it's impossible to make something literally pop out of a 2D piece of paper, but it's definitely possible to make each frame have something in the extreme foreground, stretching into the distant background to represent depth. In the case of this movie, the backgrounds are well rendered, and the characters (which are often front and centre, as they should be with this line-up of heroes) are all brightly lit, and at times it's like 'seeing' a living breathing comic.

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

The 3D, but - interestingly - for historical reasons. There's a good chance this film will have the largest opening of any film at the US box-office in history, and there's a good chance that audiences are going to collectively lose their minds for this film. Exhibitors are pushing the 3D prints much harder than they are the 2D ones, and as such it's probable that 80% of its audience in the next week will be watching The Avengers while wearing glasses. It's a great film, and as such it may have a 'halo effect' in restoring the community's confidence in both the concept of 2D->3D conversions and the 3D technique as a whole. There's also the argument that Marvel always intended for the film to be converted in post-production, so the 3D version's got to be considered the 'definitive' one.