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Welcome to movies .... in the Third Dimension!
May 8, 2009 11:24 AM   Subscribe

People have been trying to make the appearance of three-dimensional movement almost as far back as the first movie cameras. The very first efforts used stereoscopy (more pre-vious-ly), which wasn't functional for theater-settings. In 1915, the first public test of 3D film was deemed unsuccessful, as images presented with green/red lenses detracted from the plot, but that didn't stop people from trying to make 3D films. Polarized glasses are another inexpensive method of simulated 3D, while shutterglasses are a more costly method. Up to 1998 or so, there were approximately 187 3D movies made, not counting porn, cartoons and shorts (which bring the 1998 total to 263). 2009 is supposedly the year that 3D movies really take off, as it has been reported that 3D films are expected to gross over $1bn (£700m) at the box office next year, a five-fold increase on their $200m haul in 2008. There are some really big titles coming, including the "3D drug trip" that is Avatar, and all of the announced future Pixar releases will get the Digital Disney 3-D treatment. But 3D isn't limited to the big screen and big companies. The next format war could be over 3D TV. And now the independent production company MeniThings has released the feature-length movie, Battle for Terra. [via mefi projects, and a bit more on the movie after the jump]

Battle for Terra is based the short film Terra, about a peaceful alien planet which faces destruction from colonization by the displaced remainder of the human race. But don't worry, it's not one of those movies, like the propaganda-lite Wall-E.

You can see the trailer at Apple.com or on YouTube, or learn about the making of Battle for Terra. Here are showtimes in the US. If you think some of those voices sound familiar, it's probably because they are.

Inspiration for the post title from Don Hertzfeldt's Intermission In the Third Dimension
posted by filthy light thief (56 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm blind in one eye. I hope this doesn't make movies unwatchable for me.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:50 AM on May 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


"A 3-D drug trip"?

Really?
posted by Joe Beese at 11:53 AM on May 8, 2009


You had me at 3D porn.
posted by amuseDetachment at 11:55 AM on May 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Joe Beese: remember to lick your ticket on your way into the auditorium.
posted by hippybear at 11:55 AM on May 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


How soon before we get "cross eyed" version on youtube.
posted by delmoi at 11:55 AM on May 8, 2009


While I'm still interested in checking out Battle for Terra at some point, any blogger who claims that Ratatouille and Cars sucked, ain't worth much in my book.
posted by Atreides at 11:57 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here are showtimes in the US

You're pushing too hard.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:59 AM on May 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Battle for the Marketing Pitch.
posted by artdrectr at 12:00 PM on May 8, 2009


Hard Candy and the Lollipop Girls is superb midnight-movie 3D porn.

Oh, look! It's on tonight in Seattle!
posted by gurple at 12:00 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Granted I'm biased, but I really like what Coraline did with 3-D. Other than three "ooh, look it's coming right at you" shots, the film really just used 3D to give depth to the backgrounds and to generally make the movie-watching experience more immersive.
posted by dersins at 12:01 PM on May 8, 2009


Atreides: "While I'm still interested in checking out Battle for Terra at some point, any blogger who claims that Ratatouille and Cars sucked, ain't worth much in my book."

Peter O'Toole is the only one of the English actors so entitled that it would feel natural for me to address as Sir. Just felt like saying that.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:04 PM on May 8, 2009


Joe Beese, don't take this lightly. James Cameron has a theory that 3-D viewing "is so close to a real experience that it actually triggers memory creation in a way that 2-D viewing doesn't," and some folks went on to say that this format of 3D viewing could possibly be addictive.

any blogger who claims that Ratatouille and Cars sucked, ain't worth much in my book.

Those reviews are from "The Science Fiction Site for people who aren’t Drooling Kneejerk Liberals!" I linked to it as something of a joke, and also to note that a Drooling Kneejerk Conservatives approved of the movie.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:06 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here are showtimes in the US

You're pushing too hard.


Yeah, sorry about that. I was going to post the Battle for Terra project, and then I wanted to expand it following this Slashdot post on Avatar. I got carried away with random 3D fun facts, and wanted to bring more focus to Terra.

In short, I'm sorry, and I'm fine with a mod editing that line out, or knocking this down for a less pushy post.

posted by filthy light thief at 12:11 PM on May 8, 2009


amuseDetachment, you'll be happy to know 3D films back in cinema, but porn will lead.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:14 PM on May 8, 2009


honestly, I could have wished for more links and information in this post.

just kidding. great post.
posted by shmegegge at 12:16 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


filthy light thief: "James Cameron has a theory that 3-D viewing "is so close to a real experience that it ... could possibly be addictive."

I'll eagerly await the reviews. But if even something as interesting looking as Coraline couldn't get us out of the house for the 3-D experience [as opposed to watching it as a Netflix rental in our pajamas], those reviews will need to be spectacular.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:17 PM on May 8, 2009


3d porn? How bout 3d interactive porn? Can you say "multi-billion dollar industry"
posted by eiro0701 at 12:23 PM on May 8, 2009


But if even something as interesting looking as Coraline couldn't get us out of the house for the 3-D experience [as opposed to watching it as a Netflix rental in our pajamas], those reviews will need to be spectacular.

I think you're on to something there. I normally associate "3D" with "gimmicky", but it does seem to have come a long way. It could conceivably get people out to the theatres. At least until someone at Wired posts an article on how to make your own 3D glasses.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:26 PM on May 8, 2009


The reason it's taking of now is that they're confident that the electronics manufacturers will have 3d-capable televisions and a means of purchasing movies to play on them within the next year or two. Blue-ray sales have been slow to take off, and this is expected to give it a shot in the arm, or cause one of the set-top-box distribution platforms, AppleTV, Netflix, Blockbuster, etc, etc... to step up to the next level, saving them the cost to print, package and ship blu-ray disks.

It's also why Imax is suddenly hot after decades of being stuck in the documentary ghetto - high end home theater is moving towards curved screens for an immersive, Imax-like experience. The studios want to capitalize on that, and boast of filming some scenes for new blockbusters in Imax.

Why? they can charge =more= for these features, while not really breaking the bank to include them in production. So you'll have your $20 DVD, $40 Hi-Def, $50 3D Hi-Def, $55 Enhanced Hi-Def (For extra-wide format HDTVs) and $60 Imax edition Hi-Def.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:30 PM on May 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


3D "Monsters Vs Aliens" was fun, but addictive? At $15 a ticket, not so much.

I am addicted to SAVINGS
posted by GuyZero at 12:33 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


But if even something as interesting looking as Coraline couldn't get us out of the house for the 3-D experience

The number of 3D screens is pretty limited. If there hadn't been one at the theater we usually go to I wouldn't have gone out my way to find one. I'm pretty sure it's just a screens issue.
posted by GuyZero at 12:38 PM on May 8, 2009


any blogger who claims that Ratatouille and Cars sucked

Well, Cars DID kinda suck.

I saw a 70s 3D porn movie once called Disco Dolls in Hot Skin. What I found remarkable about it was that it really didn't take advantage of the 3D in the way you'd expect of a porno. No anatomy popping out of the screen. The sex scenes were shot in the normal way (unimaginatively), but every so often a character would give someone a drink or something, and hold it out to the audience.

It reminded me of Count Floyd on SCTV
posted by brundlefly at 12:40 PM on May 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


> At least until someone at Wired posts an article on how to make your own 3D glasses.

The glasses aren't too much of a problem, they are pretty cheap, and probably easily available to netflix customers for an extra $3.

The problem is movies are using Polarized 3D which requires two projectors projecting simultaneously on a special screen, then the polarized lenses are set in such a way as to only show one image to each eye. Also this makes it so you have to go see the movie in theatres, which was a major push behind this, as companies are starting to see theatre attendance drop off.
posted by mrzarquon at 12:44 PM on May 8, 2009


I'm blind in one eye. I hope this doesn't make movies unwatchable for me.

Just blink really fast. Like thirty times a second.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:47 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


What I found remarkable about it was that it really didn't take advantage of the 3D in the way you'd expect of a porno.

Hard Candy does not disappoint in that respect. It gives you everything you would expect from 3D porn, right on the money.
posted by gurple at 12:48 PM on May 8, 2009


How to:
* make red/blue shifted 3D photos (computer software-based method, with free PC software)
* make your own red/blue glasses, or like this
* Make polarized camera filters from polarized movie glasses
* Buy 3D glasses of all designs and formats in bulk
posted by filthy light thief at 12:55 PM on May 8, 2009


3d porn? How bout 3d interactive porn? Can you say "multi-billion dollar industry"

How about 3d interactive porn with feedback? How about actual sex with human beings?

(I read about it on a blog once.)
posted by rokusan at 1:06 PM on May 8, 2009


Is it okay if I say a thing about Battle for Terra that is not completely obsequious/adulatory? Because check out this shitty fucking dialogue:

"The future depends on us."
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"It has begun."
"There's gotta be another way."
"Hold tight, okay? This could be a bumpy ride."
"It's a trap!" (Are you fucking kidding me)

And I the only one who noticed this? That is objectively fucking terrible. Artists had to painstakingly animate characters for months, matching up facial expressions to that shit. Try to imagine how much that would suck. Years of training and experience creating worlds and characters from nothing, reduced to sitting in front of your monitors, adjusting nodes and shit so that the goddamn sentence "it's a trap!" looks just. fucking. right.

Thanks, straight-to-DVD shitsmith Evan Spiliotopoulos. You really went all out on this one.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:12 PM on May 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have this sudden urge to go to a 3D movie and sit in the front row with a Nerf gun and when the action gets going on the screen, start shooting back into the audience.

Just to give them that fully immersive experience.
posted by quin at 1:12 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


My only problem is that too many times 3D is used to do the whole "Ohh look at this thing coming out of the screen" cliche. Perhaps with a larger number of movies, that tendency will pass. I saw a 3D trailer for Coraline, and the trailer was way too heavy on gimmicks for me to be even interested in seeing the film. Oddly the best ones I have seen are the ones where it seems to be an afterthought. I saw Bolt and Meet the Robinsons (yes both Disney) in 3D, and while the technique added, well... depth to the film I never felt like it needed to show you how 3D it was. The easiest way to spot a bad 3D flick is to watch it in 2D. If you spot the gimmicks, which don't work in 3D, the movie fails. Example: try and watch any of the awful 3D crap kiddie movies Robert Rodriguez put out for more than a few minutes and not spot the gimmicks.
posted by Badgermann at 1:26 PM on May 8, 2009


brundlefly: "It reminded me of Count Floyd on SCTV"

If an eventual chain of 3-D theaters decides to add theme restaurants, maybe they could franchise the "3-D House of Pancakes" concept.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:31 PM on May 8, 2009


Jim Carrey in "A Christmas Carol" in 3-D? That could be one of the shittiest movies ever.

Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" could rock though.
posted by Cookiebastard at 1:37 PM on May 8, 2009


Yeah, 3D gimmick shots are silly, and I'm pretty sure I picked some out in Monsters vs Aliens and Coraline, but I watched both in 2D and loved them. The movie shouldn't be an excuse to use 3D, but simply be enhanced.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:38 PM on May 8, 2009


rokusan: How about 3d interactive porn with feedback? How about actual sex with human beings?

Price of 3 tickets to latest 3D movie = 1 "round the world"?

Just guessing, actually....


....really!!

...I couldn't find the answer on AskMe.

posted by not_on_display at 1:48 PM on May 8, 2009


As soon as the studios figure out that 3D can be about immersion in the plot, not just about in-your-face immersion in the scene, I'll become more optimistic about whatever they're planning. Lately it's been all about the 3D cart pulling the horse.
posted by crapmatic at 2:12 PM on May 8, 2009


Trailer for the 1979 Albert Brooks film Real Life in (faux) 3D
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:13 PM on May 8, 2009


I recently worked on a micro budget 3D short film that just premiered in nyc, The Viewer. It was actually directed by a MeFi member, smileychewtrain. Its sort of in the vein of a mindfuck Philip K. Dick short story and nice counter-example to all the kids animation 3d or blockbuster action-movie 3d Imax repurposing. There's one more screening on Sunday, May 10th, if anyone's interested.
posted by coogerdark at 2:14 PM on May 8, 2009


A question for those of you who've been to the theaters to see a 3D movie recently: do the theaters in your city charge more for the 3D film tickets? Down here, they're (almost) twice the price of a regular feature.

Which is too bad, because I'd read good things about Coraline and wanted to go see it... but at those prices, it's definitely a no-no, I mean, movie tickets are already expensive, and now these 3D shows with a 190% price tag, thanks but no thanks.
posted by papafrita at 2:53 PM on May 8, 2009


I have this sudden urge to go to a 3D movie and sit in the front row with a Nerf gun and when the action gets going on the screen, start shooting back into the audience.

Just to give them that fully immersive experience.


Ah, quin, you awaken a memory from years ago...

Friday The 13th Part III in 3D... 1982... me sitting in a movie theater... a small baggie of peeled grapes in my pocket... and in one scene, Jason Voorhees is squeezing some guy's head which collapses and the guy's eyeball shoots out of his head and directly out at you in a 3D effect... and I toss the peeled grapes over my shoulder with impeccable timing...

Two people left the theater. One screamed and may have fainted. I was much pleased.
posted by hippybear at 3:03 PM on May 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


papafrita: I'm also frustrated with this trend. They claim it is an increase in ticket charge "because the glasses are so expensive." But if you bring your own glasses from previous movies, you are still charged the extra money. It's an Apple Tax being applied to movie tickets. It's actively discouraged me from seeing both Coraline and Monsters & Aliens in 3D.
posted by hippybear at 3:06 PM on May 8, 2009


To be fair, the projectors also cost a hell of a lot of money.
posted by dersins at 3:31 PM on May 8, 2009


dersins: yes, but they rapidly pay for themselves because they are digital projectors and do not require shipping huge bundles of film around the country.

Plus, it's not like these are dedicated 3D projectors. I believe they are the same digital projectors which started being installed in theaters nearly a decade ago, only with a different screen.
posted by hippybear at 3:42 PM on May 8, 2009


do not require shipping huge bundles of film around the country.


Heh. And you think this means the distributors are charging the exhibitors less?
posted by dersins at 3:44 PM on May 8, 2009


dersins: yes, this is a blind point for me. I do assume that people do things ethically. thanks for reminding me that they don't.
posted by hippybear at 3:51 PM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ethics have no connection to anything that happens in any part of the film industry, from development through exhibition.
posted by dersins at 3:54 PM on May 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


There are lots of links to look through but I think that this post left out head tracking as a 3D display technology, which is quite cheap (can be done with a Wii remote) and works very well, but only works for scenes being rendered by a computer (as opposed to video) and only works for one person watching at a time.
posted by XMLicious at 4:47 PM on May 8, 2009


I produced Battle for Terra, and am extremely flattered by this post.

That said... It's a little pepsi blueish. I guess at least in this case "pepsi" is a guy with a small independent company trying to make good movies.

There's a lot of misinformation about 3D in the comments here, but that's pretty normal for stereoscopic 3D everywhere. It's a very young technology in its current state, and really I think we're all only scratching the surface of the artistic possibilities. I do agree with some of Cameron's claims about there being a neurological effect of watching films in 3D that has a potentially stronger impact that watching in 2D.

Regarding the cost of 3D tickets, here's a quick primer.

3D movies are projected digitally. Right now a distributor has to pay a "virtual print fee" to an exhibitor (the theater) for digital distribution. This basically is because digital "prints" are very cheap, and the logic is that the distributor should save the money. However, exhibitors need an incentive to spend the money to install expensive new digital projectors. The agreed to system is that distributors will basically pay a surcharge (I would estimate around $700 per digital print) purely as a way to subsidize the installation of digital projectors in theaters. That's nice and dandy for DreamWorks or Disney who are betting on the longterm growth of digital projection and 3D. It kind of suck for me, a guy who has an independent film company who is subsidizing the exhibitors because that's the deal for ANYONE who releases a film digitally right now.

Right now the distributor pays for the glasses. And you pre-pay for them. So if you calculate incorrectly you can lose a lot of money. Theoretically theaters are supposed to return the unused glasses so the distributor can recoup some of the costs, although I don't believe that actually happens all the time. We'll see.

So in essense the big money maker on higher 3D ticket prices right now would be the theater. Not the studio or distributor. The studio still generally gets the same % of the ticket price, but is paying an added fee for the 3D glasses and the virtual print fee.

If there are specific questions about the technology, business, or creative aspects I'm happy to answer when I check in next. Sorry for the long comment!
posted by kcalder at 7:04 PM on May 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


This latest in a long line of announcements that 3D has arrived is due in the largest part to the Beijing Olympics. HDTV was the next thing for a damn long time, before most people had even seen it. For the first time, in the Beijing Olympics, all the programming was delivered in HD to every market.

HDTV now officially exists, end of story. So the race is on for what's next, and how to get early market share.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:05 PM on May 8, 2009


I once saw an old clip of The Honeymooners, a television comedy show from the very beginnings of television.

In it Ralph is being shown the latest thing by his buddy Ed: A color television.
Ralph: "I don't want!"
Ed: "Why not?"
Ralph: "I'm going to wait for 3-D!"

I feel the same way. I don't want 3-D. I want full immersion.

That means that we'll need computers in our homes about 10000x faster than what we have now. It sounds impossible, but the computers in our homes now are at least 10000x times faster than the giant building-size computers they had when the Honeymooners came out.
posted by eye of newt at 7:20 PM on May 8, 2009


I remember at about 10 years old going to my first 3D movie. I was all juiced up on the hype and the green/red paper glasses. The opening scene was a car approaching at a high rate of speed across a flat desert scene. I think it might have been "Arena" circa 1953. I was totally impressed by that scene that I don't remember anything else about the movie.
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 9:21 PM on May 8, 2009


So do they actually spray you with white foam in the Jonas Brother's 3d movie? I smell marketing opportunity!
posted by delmoi at 10:24 PM on May 8, 2009


I produced Battle for Terra, and am extremely flattered by this post. [...]
If there are specific questions about the technology, business, or creative aspects I'm happy to answer when I check in next. Sorry for the long comment!
posted by kcalder at 7:04 PM on May 8


Why is the dialogue in the trailer so shitty? This is a serious question, and while you're certainly you're under no obligation to answer it, I'm curious how you can have armies of hungry, talented, smart, educated screenwriters begging to work and yet wind up with a movie that, going by the trailer, is 90% cliché.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:23 PM on May 9, 2009


Yikes. Judging a film that's 85 minutes long on a trailer that's just over 2 minutes long? I haven't seen it, so I can't defend it much, but Roger Ebert gave it three stars. Rather than call out the producer based on a trailer, watch the movie, then throw the gauntlet down when you have a justifiable stance.

Course, if you want to ask why they selected that dialogue for the trailer, go crazy.
posted by Atreides at 5:16 PM on May 9, 2009


I didn't notice a huge amount of gimmicry in Coraline 3D. Generally it was used to give depth to the scenes, pushing the image away from instead of towards you. The tunnel between the worlds was particularly memorable.
posted by minifigs at 4:09 AM on May 11, 2009


I had to interview David Cross about Battle for Terra way back when it opened the 2008 Tribeca film festival. Cross was rude, dismissive and evasive about the details of the film and generally behaved as if I'd randomly accosted him at Washington Square Park to shoot the shit. I felt bad because due to some unforeseen scheduling conflicts, we had to conduct the interview before I wound up getting the movie screener. I assumed Cross was annoyed that I was unprepared for the discussion.

Then I saw the belatedly-delivered movie screener at home and realized why Cross had sidestepped all my questions about the film itself: heavy-handed, syrupy dialogue delivered by stock characters drifting around the flimsiest of plotlines. It was the worst fucking movie I'd seen all year.
posted by zoomorphic at 9:09 AM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I didn't notice a huge amount of gimmicry in Coraline 3D. Generally it was used to give depth to the scenes, pushing the image away from instead of towards you.

Definitely. The filmmakers actually built out the mirror-world versions of sets deeper than their "real world" counterparts. Very cool, subtle effect.
posted by brundlefly at 2:07 PM on May 12, 2009


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