Posted on Thursday, May 19th, 2011 by Peter Sciretta
On Wednesday night, I attended a presentation on the Paramount Pictures lot called “3D: A Transforming Visual Art – a conversation with Michael Bay and James Cameron“. I has expected going into the presentation that it would be an evangelical sale of the future of 3D filmmaking, but it was nothing of the sort. Michael Bay was as honest as you can get, explaining how everything and anything can, and did, go wrong while shooting his movie with Cameron’s 3D camera rigs. To every critique, Cameron had a quick rebuttal about how the issues have since been fixed with the newer digital video cameras or how solutions are just around the corner. Cameron was also honest, admitting that 3D filmmaking is still in the early stages, and it will only get better — smaller cameras, lighter rigs, requiring less techs on set, and a more streamlined post production process. The easier it is for filmmakers to use the tools, the better they will be able to creatively employ them.
I have also been a strong supporter of digital 3D filmmaking. After Avatar, movie studios jumped at an opportunity and shot out a bunch of crappy post 3D conversions. Bay calls those films “bullshit 3D” and Cameron said that some studios are “trying to wedge [3D] into post production like its a sound mix.” So for a while now, I’ve drawn a line between movies shot in 3D and those movies converted to 3D after the fact. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was the first film to make me question myself. Pirates 4 was shot in 3D and it felt just as unnecessary as the post conversion on Thor. Was I wrong about 3D?
Tonight’s presentation which put everything back into perspective. The 3D in Michael Bay’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon appears not to be an afterthought. Each frame is composed to take advantage of the depth — it is a film the begs to be seen only on the big screen, and yes, in 3D. It has become clear to me that the filmmaker has to be on board to make a 3D film work. It takes a whole new set of creative decisions to create valuable 3D — a 3D camera rig isn’t enough. And when it works, it is an experience unlike all the other movies at the multiplex.
Tonight I screened the first five minutes of the film, a new 3D trailer, and long montage of clips — probably something like 20 minutes in total. From the limited amount of footage I have screened, I am already convinced that this is the first movie since Avatar to really take advantage of the 3D medium. As for the technology, this is only the beginning. Right now filmmakers have to adapt their process to the 3D camera rigs, and the new technology fails more than you would want — but its going to get better. At the same time, filmmakers are going to find creative ways to harness the new depth for emotional storytelling results.
We were not allowed to record video or audio of the conversation, although I’ve heard that clips will go online later this week, and the full thing will be up next week. After the presentation I recorded a video blog with Frosty from Collider. We talk about the footage we screened from Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the conversation between Bay and Cameron on the topic of 3D and more. You can watch that now embedded below: