Tag Archives: filmmaking

Geekdom in Full 3-D Effect

3dSummer time is blockbuster movie season, with a plethora of 3-D films on deck. As evidenced by Avatar, the most successful motion picture of all time, seamless computer-generated imagery and live-action stereo photography represent the future of cinema. Many would be surprised to learn that this burgeoning hybrid of art and technology has its own rich history as a defining transformation in filmmaking, alongside the development of sound and color.

In 3-D Revolution: The History of Modern Stereoscopic Cinema, author, film maker and historian Ray Zone explores the evolution of 3-D technology from the 1950s boom through the digital age of the twenty-first century, while addressing topics ranging from 3-D theme park rides to IMAX 3-D.

In honor of Embrace Your Geekness Day, we’re featuring an Q & A with author Ray Zone who reveals the ways in which the film industry has evolved from its two-dimensional flatness and how the world of 3-D no longer restricts the cinematic storyteller:

How did you get started in the professional world of 3-D?

As a result of my writing about 3-D, I was hired to write a history of 3-D in the form of a 3-D comic book. After that experience, I worked at 3-D Video Corp., the company that published the comic, and subsequently started my own company to convert flat art to 3-D for comics, advertisements, and videos.

You have published work in more than 130 comic books. How are 3-D comics made, and how does that side of the 3-D industry connect to 3-D film industry?

The art, which is originally flat, or 2-D, is converted to 3-D by producing a second eye view of the art for creation of a stereo pair of images. Comics are very important to movies today since most of the top-grossing films are based on comic book characters. In one specific instance, my 3-D work on Thomas Jane’s Bad Planet comic book convinced Sony Pictures in 2007 to “green light” Thomas’s directorial debut on Dark Country as a 3-D feature film.

 In the book, you discuss the invention of Cinerama in the 1950s, pointing out the importance of depth in capturing the feeling of 3-D. Why is 3-D so much more effective when it creates depth as opposed to when it brings things out of the screen?

Well, it’s all depth whether the image is perceived in 3-D space behind or in front of the screen. Some people enjoy looking through the cinema screen as a 3-D window on space. Others, like me, also enjoy the use of the audience space where things come out of the screen. Any 3-D movie can make use of both these spaces for the narrative. Z-space storytelling is very powerful, and filmmakers are still figuring this out.

Many people dislike 3-D cinema. What is it that gets people so heated about 3-D?

Neophobia: fear of the new. Plus, many individuals are already disturbed by the necessity of having to wear glasses in their daily life. These are the ones most resistant to going to movies which require the use, in their case, of an additional pair of glasses. When sound and color were inaugurated in cinema, there were also many people at the time heated up about these innovations. And they felt that these additions to cinema were absolutely unnecessary to the movie going experience, which, they opined, was perfectly fine as it was.

What are some classic films you think would be great if re-released in 3-D?

The obvious answer to that question is Citizen Kane, with its bravura use of deep focus. Also, while watching Antonioni’s L’Avventura recently, I was struck by the dramatic force created by environment and actors moving around within it, making it a perfect film to realize in stereoscopic space. Other filmmakers like Andrei Tarkovsky and Jean-Luc Godard are very aware of the world enclosed within the cinematic frame. Their films would be spectacular in depth. Godard has announced 3-D for his next production.

 It seems as if every new movie is being released in 3-D, and some theaters don’t even offer 2-D options of some films. Is Hollywood forcing 3-D at this point, and what does this mean for the future of 3-D cinema?

Hollywood has forced quite a few films converted to bad 3-D on the public, who was compelled to pay a premium price for the disappointment. Tent-pole blockbusters in 3-D have dominated the multiplex up to the present. Indie films are playing 3-D “catch-up” at this point, and nearly every 3-D film has also been released flat in “2-D.” Some films should only be seen in 3-D. These are films like Pina 3-D by Wim Wenders and Hugo in 3-D by Martin Scorsese. If you see these films in 2-D only, you haven’t really seen the film. You haven’t been exposed to their fullest creative expression.

Soon, the premium ticket price moviegoers are paying for 3-D will go away. As 3-D becomes normative in visual culture, it will just be a given on the entertainment landscape. As cinema migrates to smaller displays like TV, cell phones and tablets, 3-D, much of it autostereoscopic, will be a part of this migration.


A Conversation with Robert S. Birchard (1950–2016)


via Cinecon.org

We were saddened to learn that historian, preservationist, writer, and film/television editor Robert S. Birchard passed away this past weekend in Burbank, California. Many remember Birchard as the president of Cinecon and editor of the American Film Institute’s Feature Film Catalog, as well as for his work as a film editor in the 1980s and 90s, where he edited animated television shows like  Ducktales and Rainbow Brite, and movies such as The Return of Jafar. We remember him as the author of the seminal history, Cecil B. DeMille’s Hollywood. In honor of his life and work, we’d like to share a conversation with Birchard prior to the publication of Cecil B. DeMille’s Hollywood:9780813123240

“Far and away the best film book published so far this year.”—National Board of Review, 2004

Q: To What do you attribute Cecil B. DeMille’s enduring popularity, both among film enthusiasts and the general public?

A: Cecil B. DeMille produced a number of films that have had enduring audience appeal: The Ten Commandments (1956), The King of Kings (1927), The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), Cleopatra (1934), and Samson and Delilah (1949). These films were major box office hits on their original release and they remain popular through repeated screenings on TV, and availability in home video formats. But, in many ways, Cecil B. DeMille’s personality has proven to be his most enduring creation. The strutting director in Jodhpurs and leather puttees, commanding great armies of extras and demanding perfection, was a creation just as much as any of his films. He worked at creating and sustaining that image throughout his career. The persona made DeMille a well-known figure, but it many ways it obscured his real accomplishments as a director. Cecil B. DeMille’s Hollywood is an effort to go beyond anecdote and reminiscence to create a portrait of DeMille the filmmaker. It is based in large part on original documents that erase the blur of nostalgia and preserve the immediacy of a time when Cecil B. DeMille helped create the art of motion pictures.

Q: You discuss your first encounters with DeMille’s body of work in the introduction. After writing program notes for a retrospective Of DeMille’s films, what inspired you to continue your engagement with DeMille and his art?

A: DeMille never threw anything away. Letters, telegrams, contracts, memos—even requests from actors looking for work—he kept it all, from the beginning of his career to the end. Although several biographers had gone through the DeMille archives, no one had really made a comprehensive effort to document the making of DeMille’s films and his relationship with the rest of the motion picture industry. DeMille’s story, I felt, would answer many questions about how and why Hollywood developed the way it did and offer a vivid look at how movies were really made in Hollywood’s golden age.

Q: How do you see DeMille fitting into the film industry in today’s Hollywood? If the DeMille that you have studied were a young filmmaker in 2004, would you speculate that he would have more or less difficulty reaching the heights that he achieved?

A:. DeMille brought great energy, enthusiasm, and determination to his work as a filmmaker—but, contrary to his popular image, he also had a realistic sense of the studio system and was willing to blend his vision with the demands of the marketplace. He was an independent producer working within the studio system long before this became common, and in this sense he would feel right at home in the Hollywood of today.


via rsbirchard.com

Q: What are DeMille’s lasting legacies, either from creative or from business/industry standpoints?

A: To a large extent it was Cecil B. DeMille who set the working model for Hollywood movie making, and that legacy survives to this day. Early filmmakers often went out and shot “off the cuff” with the barest of outlines. DeMille always worked from a detailed script with meticulous pre-planning, and he pioneered the use of production sketches and story boards to determine the look of his films.

Q: Can you elaborate on DeMille’s strengths as a man and/or as a filmmaker? His weaknesses?

The most surprising thing is that for all of DeMile’s reputation as a stern, demanding director on the set, he had a real love for the people who helped bring his vision to the screen, and he went out of his way to offer work to many actors who were having trouble finding work in their later years.

If he had a weakness it was in his adherence tothe Victorian idea that art must be instructive and uplifting—a notion that is out of favor today, and in some ways this makes his work “old fashioned.” But he also had a bold sense of movie storytelling,creating compelling images that remain in one’s memory long after the light of the projector has faded from the screen—and for this reason his films retain their power to entertain.