05 May 2007

Imax vs. DLP vs. Anaglyph

IMAX3D projection booth

IMAX has provided for a guaranteed way to keep 3-D movies playing for a long period of time, creating more money and more word-of-mouth advertisement for these films and their directors. By creating the process of DMR, films shot of 35MM and HD can be blown up to IMAX size. So this means that a producer looking to generate more money from his film will happily go IMAX and ideally go 3-D. People like James Cameron and George Lucas who can take financial risks are willing to try out this different distribution model and film their next project in 3-D. Indeed, had ‘Aliens of the Deep’ for example not been in 3-D IMAX, it would not have had a very warm welcome in regular cinemas. The upcoming conversion of Star Wars to 3-D will most likely go the IMAX 3-D route, with a detour in the few 3-D enabled DLP cinemas in America. Strangely, the existing and perfectly working 3-D systems of the 1983 craze are not even considered for these releases. If it is the 3-D that counts, Lucas & co should be suggesting these much cheaper and readily available systems to theatres and distributors and not use the films as an excuse to make cinemas purchase or rent 3-D DLP projectors. Or release anaglyphically.

Over-under or Side-by-side 3-D film projection adapter

The frantic search for a technical breakthrough in 3-D display, which has been going on for more than 100 years now, is fuelled by the promise of an evolutionary step in visual entertainment. But most of the current audio-visual industry perceives 3-D as a means to re-sell old product in a new shell and moreover, being able to charge more for the same product but with the added 3rd dimension. This statement can be backed up by the observation that there are no real plans to develop a new visual language once the 3-D revolution happens – nobody is being educated or trained in 3-D filming, there is no literature on 3-D cinematography other than technical manuals and even those are mostly unread by the handful of present day 3-D filmmakers.

35MM 3-D film camera adapter

Recent examples of this failure to do research on the technicalities of 3-D are Robert Rodriguez’ films ‘Spy Kids 3-D’ and ‘The Adventures of Shark Boy & Lava Girl in 3-D’. The wish to display all colours whilst still using anaglyphic glasses is an obvious mistake because reds and blues should not be visible through both lenses. It is very basic knowledge but simply ignored, consciously or unconsciously. There are simple ways to show colours through anaglyphic glasses whilst not destroying the 3-D encoding – not just by omitting reds and blues but by simulating them in the end result as seen through the glasses - but these technologies are sadly ignored and the visually painful experience is used as ammunition for the argument of 3-D DLP projection even though these are two separate issues. And strangely, Rodriguez is in the DLP promoting club, whilst releasing his 3-D films using anaglyphics.

Still from Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over

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