How Dreamworks Animation is Innovating 3D

/Film was invited to the Dreamworks Animation campus to preview some footage from Monsters vs. Aliens, and take a tour of the company’s new 3D process (which is actually pretty incredible… more on that later). It all began when Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg saw a screening of Robert Zemeckis’ Polar Express in IMAX 3D.

“I was so blown away by the presentation. I literally came scurrying back here and said, this is a game change,” Katzenberg told /Film and a small group of other online press. “The implications of this movie theater experience are something I have not seen or imagined in my 35 years of doing this and I think it is a huge opportunity and we need to get on it.”



Katzenberg explained that filmmaking has been through two great revolutions, the first being the transition from silent film to talkies, and the second being the transition from black and white to color. He insists that 3D is the next great revolution.

“The movie theater experience has not been innovated in any meaningful way in decades. Meanwhile, the home experience with the big flat screen tvs and surround sound, blu-ray and everything else has just become amazing. So one experience has stood still while the other has continued to rise up.”

Movie attendance continues to fall as the popularity of the home theater and on demand movie watching builds. This leads us to Katzenberg’s passionate plea to keep the movie theater experience alive.

“I love the movie theater experience. I think that it’s very special when a couple hundred people to share a experience. Everything is amplified – things are scarier. Things are funnier. Things are sadder. Everything in that shared experience is enhanced. And I would like that experience to stay around and to me this offers the first opportunity to innovate the theater experience in ways we can’t in our home for many years to come.”

He admits that 3D will eventually be possible in your home theater, but says its probably “10 years out”. And even then he likens it to “the difference between a live sport event and being in the arena and everything that it brings and how immersive it is vs. watching it on TV.”

“Samsung is making monitors right now that are 3D capable, so I don’t think that’s the challenge. It’s actually the viewing experience,” Katzenberg explaned. “There’s 2 things about 3D in order to really give the full Rolls Royce version of it. One is the size of the screen needs to hit your peripheral vision. If you think about it, if you have a 50” television set that means that you actually sit no further than 50” away from the TV. So that’s here. You don’t sit that close to your TV.” … “The second thing is that the more light, the more it diminishes the 3D experience and so I made a joke which is I walked around my house in terms of where I have a TV set and the only place I can go in my home in which I can have a 3D experience as good as what I can have in the movie theatre is in coat closet where I come into my….and I can’t fit a 50” TV in there, so it’s light actually kind of dissipates it a fair amount. You can do it in the home but it’s not going to be, again

So why now? What’s changed?

“These are polarized glasses as opposed to my father’s 3D: The blue and red anaglyph, which kind of disintegrated… forget the fact they were made of cardboard, beyond that they sort of disintegrate the color and the art of the film. They were really more for gimmick than a quality experience.”

Secondly the technology behind the projection of 3D films which allows for “absolute precision in doing the right eye left eye so that all of the imperfections and things that we all associate with the old 3D, in terms of what happens on the theater side, are corrected. And if you remember, with the old 3D, there were two projectors, and if you’re trying to line those things up, it is impossible to have precision in it. And those imperfections cause many of those things that people identify with motion blur, eye strain, nausea, those things.”

But the third thing Katzenberg touted was the new tools to create the technology. This is where Dreamworks Animation is taking 3D to the next level. Until now most 3D films have created in a post production process, something Katzenberg compares to the equivalent of a black and white movie being colorized.

“If you have seen a black and white movie that has been colorized, it is that big of a gap. Because a movie that was designed and shot in black and white, everything about it from the set dressing to the cinematography to directing the film, is very specifically designed to show shades of white to black and all of the colors and skews of gray in between it,” explained Katzenberg. “So literally a color would be picked for a piece of set dressing because it would translate to a color of gray. So to go in and literally colorize it, it doesn’t look right. That’s what happens when you post-produce a movie in 3D.”

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