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):  and this breathier Entertainment Weekly post: 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.

Coming soon: Scorsese, Coppola, and Spielberg direct 3D

Three of Hollywood’s most respected directors–Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and Steven Spielberg–are joining the ranks of Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders and Ridley Scott in directing features shot in 3D that go beyond the typical action/adventure/animated fare.

The Wall Street Journal has a thoughtful and though-provoking article here (by Michelle Kung) on the impact this new wave of films could have on the emerging 3D film genre.

“You now have some of the greatest filmmakers in the world stepping into the format to tell their stories,” says Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks Animation chief executive and 3-D’s most indefatigable evangelist.

FANTASTIC illustration from Wall Street Journal article:


Like the picture says, use your red/blue 3D glasses at home and enjoy the illustration “in an added dimension”.

10 New Rules for Saving 3D film

“Enough with the gimmickry, price gouging and 2D conversions” Fantastic piece from by Brian D. Johnson June 30, 2011.  Some highlights:

Abolish 3D ‘conversion.’ […] Movies shown in 3D should be designed and shot in 3D.”

Unless you’re shooting a porn movie, stop pimping out 3D as a special effect. Enough with the poking, jabbing and zooming. Look, we walk around in 3D all day long without noticing. Breaking the fourth wall with a gun or a spear takes us out of the movie.”

Cut the tempo of fast-action scenes in half. That third plane of motion complicates everything; it makes our eyes work harder, and more independently. Give them a break.”

Take a cue from Werner Herzog and make 3D a tool for documentary revelation.”

Make movies in 3D, not for 3D.”

“Get creative. 3D was miscast as a marketing gimmick wedded to the action blockbuster. Why not use it to open up the art house? […] There’s no telling where that third dimension might lead if it were married to emotional depth.”

TRAILER: Werner Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams”

My favorite trailer for Werner Herzog’s first film in 3D.  This is a bold and moving documentary about the very, very extraordinary ancient cave paintings recently discovered in France.

This is Herzog’s first film in 3D and the first serious/art/independent film I’ve seen.  It gives an early glimpse at what is possible using 3D as a broader storytelling tool.

(YouTube video plays after a short ad.)

for the record: Ridley Scott

“3D has been a wonderful exercise but I was brought up as a camera operator so its really about lensing and all that kind of stuff. So with the help I’ve had from a wonderful cameraman and his technical team its been, for me, a pretty straight forward ride. That said I’ll never work without 3D again, even for small dialogue scenes. I love the whole process. 3D opens up the universe of even a small dialogue scene so I’ve been very impressed with that.”

— Director Ridley Scott, (The Duellists, Alien, Bladerunner, Thelma & Louise, Gladiator) to Comicon 2011,