Wim Wenders: sharing the space

I had the incredible privilege of hearing Wim Wenders’ keynote address to the Toronto International Stereoscopic 3D Conference (June 11, 2011).  I transcribed some of my frantically scribbled notes at the time.  Now the entire speech is available online at Mr. Wenders’ official web site.

It puts forward a passionate, eloquent vision of what is possible with 3D as an artistic tool.  Wenders has created “Pina”, a film featuring the work and creative company of the late Pina Bausch.  He screened some clips from the film and it’s amazing.  I can’t wait to see the whole thing. Here’s the trailer: 

The speech is long and reads like an epic poem but it’s really a manifesto challenging the trivialization of 3D as an artistic tool.  Anyone interested in 3D, film, or art in general should read this.  I will be posting my favorite quotes starting with this one:

[on working on “portraits”, close-ups of the dancers]

I must say: I was, again, unprepared.
We had been using this technology for weeks already,
and had started to “understand” it,
learn how to move the camera,
learn how to deal with “depth”,
but this sheer presence of a person,
without choreographie,
without sound,
without story,
almost without purpose,
was… mind-blowing.

I had not seen that in any film before,
not in any 3D film, that’s for sure,
and not even in our own shots.
How this medium was able to actually transcend 
(in the very sense of the word)
the realm of cinema,
of cinematic representation,
and create (or imitate, I’m not sure) “presence”,
human presence, in body and soul…
that was shocking.

The most outrageous, though, was, or is:
the present perception of 3D is going in the opposite direction.
It is all taking place in the realm of fantasy,
and the actors on the screen are more devoid of reality
than any actor in any old black and white movie.
Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz in “Pirates of the Caribbean” for instance
(I could pick many other examples)
are not “there”…
they do not exist,
with all the gimmickry around them
they are strange, human-like creatures, 
“body snatchers” like in that film by Phil Kaufman.
And that goes for everything that comes packaged 
in the 3D envelope of the Major Studios.
They have taken this language, this amazing new medium,
and … kidnapped it,
stolen it, mutilated it beyond recognition,
so none of their audiences could possibly conceive of it as a tool
to represent … reality.
Human reality.
Our planet.
Our existence.
Our concerns.

But: I am convinced that this is what 3D was invented for.

“Third Way” The New Yorker on the rise of 3D

In the March 8, 2010 issue of the venerable New Yorker magazine, film critic Anthony Lane has a long story on the state of 3D called “Third Way” and subtitled “The history of 3-D from stereoscope to Avatar.”

Published as Avatar was shattering all box office records, the article delves into the the history of 3D as an art form and poses the tantalizing question:

“Faced with the thought of a 3-D “Casablanca,” one is torn between outrage at such blind desecration and a sneaking wish to know—well, what the hell would it look like?”

Excellent reading and a well-sourced background for anyone considering some of the loftier cultural and historic aspects of 3D.

From the New Yorker. Photograph by Miles Aldridge.


3Deelicious! “Kiss Me Kate”

With this post I’m adding a category called “3Deelicious!” to collect some of the more fun, miscellaneous items out there in the wonderful world of 3D. I hope you enjoy them.

Did you know that the fabulous 50s musical Kiss Me Kate was shot and released in 3D as well as 2D?

Unfortunately it’s contraband.  A friend in the industry has it and has promised to let me see it.  I can’t wait.  Meanwhile the following clip is available on YouTube but on a 3D laptop it looks pretty messy.

Why is this a big deal? For those of us who have mostly seen zombies hacked to death over and over and over and OVER the idea of having something a delectable as Bob Fosse’s “specialty dance” preserved in 3D is tantalizing.

Here’s a plain old YouTube clip, just for fun.  Fosse’s section (which he choreographed and danced with Carol Haney starts at 2:34).

Film legend Bernardo Bertolucci’s 3D debut

ROME: Over drinks at a sidewalk cafe in Campo de Fiori, a friend in the film industry told me Bernardo Bertolucci is working on a 3D film.  He’s confined to a wheelchair, she said, but planning his next work based on a novella by Niccolò Ammaniti called Io e Te (Me and You).  The story has two characters, takes place in one room, and will be shot in 3D.

Bertolucci (The Last Emperor, 1900, The Conformist, Last Tango in Paris) is one of the greatest fine arts filmmakers ever and a hero of mine—this is exciting news.

I did a little checking and found this article (behind Variety’s annoying signup): http://bit.ly/qBHEf1  and this breathier Entertainment Weekly post: http://bit.ly/psQmds both with tantalizing details.

From EW:

 “Why is 3-D considered good only for horror or science fiction?” He began to imagine his favorite movies, classics of European art-cinema, given the stereoscopic treatment.

BertolucciImage Credit: Lionel Cironneau/AP Images

“I thought, ‘If 8 ½ by Fellini was in 3-D, wouldn’t it be great?’” Bertolucci said. “Another film that could have been great in 3-D was [Ingmar] Bergman’sPersona. How fascinating, this movie with close-ups of the two actors.”

German filmmakers Werner Herzog and Wim Wenders have experimented with 3-D documentaries, but this is the first time the technique will have been tried on an intimate drama by a director of such renown.

This should be interesting!

Titanic and Pterosaurs in 3D at IBC 2011

Amsterdam, September 12, 2011: IBC Theatre.  James Cameron and Vincent Pace showed off 18 minutes of Titanic converted to 3D as well as clips from their upcoming Cirque du Soleil film, while noted documentary film maker Sir David Attenborough screened his Flying Monsters 3D.

Aimed at broadcasters, the evening started with Don Shaw from Christie Digital (the projector people) talking about the importance of higher frame rates for making 3D smoother—minimizing or eliminating “strobing” and other annoying effects. (More about frame rates another time). He showcased technology innovations—an end-to-end solution for broadcasting live alternative content in 3D to theatrical venues with greater ease (I’m very proud to say that the company where I work, International Datacasting, is part of the solution presented, as well as our partners at Sensio Technologies. My colleagues helped pull the demonstration off without a hitch, bravo!)

But the highlight of the event naturally was watching movies and looking to see if the technical and artistic bar has moved forward. James Cameron took the stage (amid a bunch of awards hoopla you can follow elsewhere) and preached the gospel of 3D: “Last year 21% all movie revenue came from 3D,” “I will shoot every movie going forward in 3D”, and my favorite: “Let me tell you about my new movie coming April 5, 2012, Titanic.”

Yes, Titanic is being converted to 3D with a release scheduled to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sailing (or as Cameron called it a “trifecta of good marketing.”)  Cameron emphasized that it is always preferable to shoot in 3D rather than convert a film but where it’s not possible “there’s conversion and there’s conversion” saying he wouldn’t have spent $18 million adding 3D if he didn’t think the results would be worth it.

James Cameron at IBC Big Screen, September 12, 2011 (photo: Diana Cantu's iPhone)

Hollywood is rushing to convert 2D films to 3D with varying degrees of success.  The Titanic footage looked smooth and watchable.  The Cirque du Soleil footage which was captured in 3D is gorgeous. The 3D is subtle and restrained, it adds aesthetically to the content. I’ve seen the Cirque shows the clips were taken from and the 3D actually improved on them.

Flying Monsters 3D is a documentary by Sir David Attenborough, examining fossils of early flying dinosaurs or pterosaurs, and their evolution up to extinction.  With clever mingling of CGI, live action and 3D the film makes a serious subject a bit more whimsical and accessible.  The 3D looked good and lends itself well to scenes with flying.

The event was designed to help win over broadcasters to the merits of 3D and reassure them that the technology is catching up with promises.  Cameron’s emphasis on new dual work flow capabilities (shooting 2D and 3D simultaneously) helps. Live alternative programming and 3D television are both getting better, fast.  That’s a message broadcasters are starting to consider.

Dispatch from IBC 2011

IBC 2011 conference and trade show, Amsterdam: James Cameron and Vincent Pace are working the show: evangelizing about 3D, previewing a new Cirque du Soleil 3D film, and calling themselves “myth-busters” on the technical, aesthetic, and business aspects of the industry.  Here’s a video of them  talking about next gen 3D technology, 3D in broadcast, and indulging in some forecasting (glasses-free 3D in three to five years!)

It’s a press conference followed by a brief interview.  Cameron makes the important point:

3D isn’t going to save a bad movie, it’s still going to be storytelling…3D is not a guarantee that you are going to have a great time. You might be watching a very high quality version of a very poor film.

We feel that it’s incumbent on us as 3D practitioners to maintain the highest possible standard. We don’t want the 3D to be the thing that was wrong with the movie. Let the movie be a dog but don’t let the 3D be the reason you didn’t like it.

Peter Gabriel releasing 3D Concert Film

Interesting review in by Paul Reynolds in Consumer Reports (of all places) yesterday raving about Peter Gabriel’s new concert film [click here to read].  Peter Gabriel is the kind of artist that is ideal suited for exploring a new media and it sounds like he’s living up to that promise with this orchestra-based concert.

The review speculates about the potential box office performance considering the track record of recent concert films such as Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, and Glee on Tour.

I guess for Consumer Reports that’s an apples to apples comparison but it’s really an indication of how much this business is still in its infancy, lumping together content by format rather than, say, content.  A more appropriate comparison would be the pioneering 2008 U23D film from 3ality, directed by the ridiculously talented Catherine Owens.

I’m looking forward to seeing what Peter Gabriel comes up with! Here’s a link to showtimes from Mr. Gabriel’s website, and here is a bit more about the show as well as the new album it’s supporting.