Good 3-D, Bad 3-D

Real D glasses

Image via Wikipedia

What Makes A 3-D Film “Good”?

Great question! A number of things will increase the likelihood that audiences will enjoy your 3-D movie or short film. Here are a few influencing factors:

Pre-existing storytelling elements unaffected by 3-D

Story, story, story! If your audience already doesn’t care about the characters, locations, objects of interest, situations, acts, or themes of a 2D movie, will giving that movie the 3-D treatment somehow change it’s mind? Not. Bloody. Likely.

Implementation of 3-D:

So there are many ways to carry out 3-D, some of them great and forward-thinking, some very middle-of-the-road, while yet others are not-so-great and completely bass-ackwards. Here, in simple terms, are the only 3 ways to carry out 3-D so that you are warmly received by a discerning audience:

1. It’s innovative and groundbreaking, 3-D like no one has ever actually seen before [not just a marketing line, but genuinely so] For example:

you’re crossing the line, a 2D cinematic transgression, á lá 24 or Bourne Trilogy, but the entire audience forgives you because the action is so compelling that they are completely oriented anyway, from being riveted to your character’s every move; you’re playing with lateral movement and depth cues at a dizzying rate, but you still have clear narrative flow just behind each occlusion, á lá Speed Racer; or you’re jumping back and forth between ‘card-boarding’ [very flat, ‘cold’ 3-D] to maximum parallax [very voluminous, voluptuous 3-D] in the same scene, but it plays into the emotional/psychological implications of the character arc or narrative.

In each case you are innovating in 3-D, twisting and bending the rules, provided you are aware of them, and calculating a desired effect beforehand. So you can be a master and flex your 3-D muscles, or you can go a little less all-out and just be sure that, at any rate,

2. It’s transparent and seamlessly ‘immersive’,

Meaning that the 3-D draws no undue attention to itself, but feels at all times totally natural and unobtrusive. So no dizzying camera moves, depth cues, or brain-stretching parallax montage. The beauty of Avatar was that it mostly employed simple Mise en Scene [thoughtful staging of events in front of the camera]… but in 3-D. Last but not least if you are resolved to the fact that you’re no James Cameron be sure that, at least,

3. It’s at least not vomit-inducing [Do no harm, as Lenny Lipton would say].

Be able to understand at least when you’ve gone so far that your audience’s brains literally cannot ‘fuse’ the two images together: If your audience pukes when it’s not supposed to, you lose. Duh. However, you’d better have one hell of a narrative for the audience to overlook your total lack of skilled 3-D when you tack on a giant “in 3-D!!!” at the end of your movie/documentary/short film title!

The last ingredient is dumb luck – like every other 2D hit, of course.

Think of slightly more recent hits like Napoleon Dynamite and The Fast and The Furious… then think of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. They all fared well on some level, but took very different routes to get there, and all completely unintentionally, and almost entirely dictated by luck.

What Makes A 3-D Movie/Short Film “Bad”?

See all the arguments above, flip them all into reverse, then add to it the shame of hyping up the garbage film by tacking on “in 3-D!” at the end of the title and talking it up like it’s the bees’ knees… That makes a 3-D film bad, mmkay? If you can’t ‘polish a turd’, as they say, with elbow grease, you certainly can’t polish it with baseless hype.

Of course, you will make an awesome film of exceptional value, both artistic and technical. But remember not to put the cart before the horse; 3-D is an important medium so use it, but don’t abuse it by making it self-important.

– -=Seth Estrada