Whether you’re a hardcore two-dimension traditionalist or a 3D defender, you have to admit that 3D filming techniques still aren’t quite there yet. With the help of Mr. Josh Zyber and a few friends, I’ve created a list that I think sums up the most glaring issues with 3D filmmaking.
I saw ‘Drive Angry’ over the weekend. While it was a mostly-fun exploitation film, it really brought to light some of the big problems I have with the 3D format. Unlike other movies such as ‘Avatar‘ or ‘Clash of the Titans‘, which only hit on a few of these points, ‘Drive Angry’ managed to combine most of them into one poorly shot film – as least for 3D viewing.
What filmmakers need to realize is that 3D and 2D are completely different beasts. If you shoot a 3D movie with the same camera angles and techniques as a 2D movie, it’s going to be filled with elements that take the audience right out of the film. This may not be a big deal for the likes of ‘Drive Angry’, but if a movie outside of the action genre decides to go 3D, these problems could mean the difference between the audience being engrossed in the film or disconnected from it the whole time.
I call them problems because they’re precisely that. They’re huge flaws in an otherwise decent experience, and they need to be corrected if 3D is to move forward as the new standard. Surely, some of this can be fixed with improved to technology, but a lot of it comes down to simply thinking out how to shoot the movie.
Objects in the Foreground: Directors love those cool shots where we look through a fence to see two characters talking, or where a flower pot is in the direct foreground while the action goes on behind. It’s great in 2D, but it’s just plain distracting when moved to 3D. My eyes focus on what’s in the foreground and ignore what’s happening in the back.
Out of Focus Subjects: Same thing here. When the main subject of a shot walks into focus in a traditional movie, it’s no big deal. When they’re out of focus in a 3D movie, I don’t immediately see them, leading to confusion. I shouldn’t have to put in effort to see what’s going on in a film.
Lens Flare / Glare: Light shining on a piece of metal seems to separate a bit from the object it’s coming off of, and moves too far to the foreground. The same thing goes for lens flare. It draws my attention even when I should be looking elsewhere.
Reflections on Windows: Watching action happening in the reflection of a window can really work in a 2D film, but it doesn’t in 3D. Instead of looking at the window, our eyes look through the window just like we do in real life.
Shots of the Sun: This can be very cool in 2D, but just doesn’t work in 3D. For whatever reason, the sun just seems too bright, and we react accordingly. I personally squint when this happens, and it takes me right out of the film.
White Screen: I normally love it when a director switches things up and fades to white, but not in 3D. A completely white or even mainly-white picture allows you to see the theater screen itself, which completely ruins the 3D effect. It’s even worse if your theater’s screen is in less than perfect condition.
Explosions: I haven’t pinned down which explosions work and which don’t. I want to believe that it’s the practical effects that work and the digital don’t, but I don’t have any data to back this up. Either way, several of the explosions in ‘Drive Angry’ popped out too far and just looked awful.
Bodies of Water: Josh brought this one up to me. Large bodies of water absolutely do not work with 3D shooting. There’s just too much going on for the cameras to register the motion properly. I think this is probably what’s going on with explosions.
Cross Fades / Overlays: Fading from one scene to another is a big no-no in 3D. The same goes with one image on top of the other, like the scene in ‘Drive Angry’ where Nicholas Cage is driving (angrily) and thinking about his daughter. Since there’s no clear focus, my eyes switch between the two images and can’t seem to put it together. The overlay is supposed to represent his memories, but instead it just ends up creating around 20 seconds of film that’s practically unwatchable.
Drawing Attention to the Edge of the Frame: I noticed this one when watching ‘Avatar’, and directors are still doing it. If something pops out of the screen near the edge, things get ugly fast. The audience becomes aware of the screen’s edge and gets pulled completely out of the movie.
Anything Popping Out of the Screen: This is a big one. Almost anything that comes further forward from the screen looks bad and ruins the effect. Having an axe fly at the audience is cheap and ineffective. For 3D to really work, it needs to be like a window. We should look in at the picture through the window of the screen, just like we’ve been doing for the last hundred years or so.