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Perspective on 3-D Movie Making - page 3

Dial M for Murder 3-D
Still from Dial M for Murder
The 3-D heightens the tension
Monster POV
The 3-D ride film - perfect use of 3-D
or abuse of a noble medium?

Spy Kids 3-D
Poking the viewer's eyes out -
Spy Kids 3-D's shameless use of stereoscopic gimmicks


Page 1
Defining
3-D film
Page 2
Framing as a
narrative quality
Page 3
Anatomy of a
3-D film


Framing as a narrative quality

Comparison of 2-D and 3-D framing

The 3-D image does quite a different thing with the eye than the flat image does. Since a 3-D image is perceived as a 'real' scene by the brain, the abstract qualities of the flat image get lost in the process of scanning into the deep.

Hallway
3.0 Photograph of a hallway - flat and 3-D

The flat image on the left tells a story of composition and lighting. The attention of the eye is drawn between the light flooded windows in the left part of the image and the dark doorway on the off-centre right side. This keeps the image in balance and allows for the two image focus points to have equal presents and importance. The 3-D image on the right makes the eyes scan the depth immediately, putting the focus on the deepness of the hallway, rather than the compositional- and lighting quality. The main function of the windows has become to guide the eye into the depth. The dark doorway now receives most attention, taking away focus from the windows, and shifting the attention to the right side of the image instead of an equal division.

3-D Comparison
3.1 House of Wax by Andre de Toth - flat and 3-D

The first ‘big budget’ 3-D film produced by a major studio - Warner Brothers - was House of Wax (1953). Since this movie is generally considered to be one of the best fictional 3D films ever made, it will serve as an excellent example for cinematic 3-D framing. Rather important knowledge is that director André de Toth was blind in one eye, so he himself never saw the 3-D effect. This implies an intellectual quality to successful 3-D filming.

As depicted in still 3.1, one of the film's most extensive uses of the third axis is a scene in which a bouncing ball comes out of the screen to come close to the viewer's face and fly back again. Being a shot designed for this 3-D scare effect, the shot is a true 3-axis composition. Flat, the shot makes sense in a point-of-view framework, focusing the attention on the man bouncing the ball. The crowd behind the man looks at the man bouncing the ball as well, getting even more attention to the centre of the shot. In the 3-D shot, the ball bouncing out of the screen automatically gets all the attention, since it threatens to hit the viewer in the face. The attention is pulled away from the rest of the scene, which now functions as a 3-D depth cue for the ball.

3-D Comparison
3.1 House of Wax by Andre de Toth - flat and 3-D

Here, as seen in the example of the hallway, pulling attention into the depth sets off the compositional balance. Because of this the shot must be read in 3-D to see the compositional qualities right. Especially in relation to the adjoining shots – which should match up in 3-D compositional editing sense. Some will argue that the flat version of the film will only result in a different viewing experience in the absence of depth. But this is clearly not the case when every shot has been framed with depth in mind. Watching the flat version of the film is like watching a photograph of a sculpture – which can only be called an unfortunate experience.

3-D Comparison
3.1 House of Wax by Andre de Toth - flat and 3-D

3-D framing does not always draw the attention of the eye into the depth; the inverse result can easily occur as well. The flat image guides the eye from the woman in the foreground to the man in the middle plane. This is done by the somewhat diagonal composition, the slight off-centre placement of the man, the difference in focus putting the man in the area of interest, and the dramatic subject matter of special make-up. The 3-D image gives far more importance to the woman in the foreground, since she sticks out of the image. This creates a viewer’s feeling of being close to the woman, identifying with her position in a physical way and experiencing the horror of the special make-up effects in first person. The next best thing to a point-of-view camera shot.


The jest of 3-D


3-D framing, 3-D cinematography, 3-D everything: what does it improve anything anyway? Just hurl stuff at the camera and have some nice shots with good depth. Blow up stuff in 3-D, have a car chase in 3-D, have a pretty girl in 3-D -kissed by a guy in 3-D. What are you talking about; it's called showBusiness, not showArt!

Yes, entertain your audience with 3-D. As much as you can, in fact. But don't neglect the art of filmmaking. Godard, Welles, Kurosawa, Truffaut, Kubrick, Scott, Eisenstein, Hitchcock; they took so many steps more than just entertaining their audience. They elevated filmmaking to new heights by creating something new, something unique. Stereoscopic filmmaking has not yet encountered such fate and it's about time it did.
So reframe that shot for 3-D and get that stereoscopic lovescene underway!


Discovering the nature of 3-D cinematography by looking at

Dial M for Murder
a film by Alfred Hitchcock

It is not well known that Hitchcock cared little for the 3-D film process when he started filming Dial M for Murder. Pushed by Warner Brothers because of the 3-D boom of 1953 - which brought Warner great financial success with 'House of Wax' - Hitchcock grudgingly agreed to filming stereoscopically.
Because of this conflictuous premise, 'Dial M for Murder' exposes the true nature of 3-D as a film medium.

His reluctance to actually use the process is clear throughout the film. It feels like a stage play on a full, cramped set because that's how the set is built and the film is framed. Although this can be read as an attempt at increasing a feeling claustrophobia and inescapability, it does look like the master of suspense is laying back a bit.

Most film critics and enthusiasts call Dial M for Murder the best 3-D movie ever made. But this appears to be spawned by a respect for Hitchcock as a director rather than the actual product of this film. The 3-D cinematography can easily be called bland, unimaginative and non-engaging. It can also be called laid-back, not following a frantic pattern of 3-D puns and stabs at the audience and thus being an adult 3-D product. One of the greatest strengths of stereoscopic cinematography is that is can draw its audience into a story and put them amidst the suspense and drama. 'Dial M' does not actively do this if only for one shot - not unsurprisingly used as the poster art - the protagonist reaching into the audience for a pair of scissors to ward off her attacker. However, the film does create a sense of unavoidability, of inescapability and the 3rd dimension is employed to accomplish this.

Dial M
Still from Dial M for Murder by Alfred Hitchcock.
The only really engaging shot in the film.
Stills have been made B&W anaglyph for clarity.
Dial M for Murder
Reaching for the phone rather than a knife...

Perhaps all this can be classified as a cool Hitchcock intellectual approach to a medium that demands a more physical engagement. Did Hitchcock attempt to play down the dimensionality of this film or did he use it in such a subtle way that it appears to be bland when compared to most 3-D films?

An important question that needs to be asked then is: does 3-D need to deliver 3-Dimensional spectacle or can a 3-D film survive not interacting with the audience? Dial M for Murder shows that 3-D filmmaking is a fine balancing act. When seen flat, this film has no lesser thrilling effect on the viewer. But that means that there is no more suspence when the film is seen in 3-D. It undoubtedly makes for a pleasant 3-D viewing experience - probably because of the cautious use of depth and the safe stereo camera setup, aided by long takes and clear cuts, regular for a 1954 film. But does 'Dial M' just have an added camera rather than being a film made for a 3-D experience? And does it always need to be an experience or can it just be a calm 3-Dimensional film?
Perhaps the intellectual quality of Hitchcock's suspence works against the physicality of 3-D film. Stereoscopic film does require a story that serves its form. 3-D needs to breathe, to show it's there for a reason. It wants to be the main attraction, not just a factor in the process. In this way, 3-D is an egomaniac element.

Dial M cab scene
Still from Dial M for Murder by Alfred Hitchcock.
Notice the flat rear-projection
Dial M cab scene 2
The opposite view - again, flat rear-projection is used.
A slight rotation of the rear-projection screen has
been used to simulate some depth

 

Dial M room scene
Still from 'Dial M for Murder' by Alfred Hitchcock
Dial M room scene 2
Still from Dial M for Murder by Alfred Hitchcock
A feeling of detachment, estrangement speaks from this shot
On top of this the small set breeds a feeling of inescapability


Read a Review of the Stereoscopic 3-D as used in modern motion-capture movie Beowulf (2007) on the 3-D Film Review page.

Page 1
Defining
3-D film
Page 2
Framing as a
narrative quality
Page 3
Anatomy of a
3-D film

 

Contact 3-D Revolution Productions

Contact 3-D Revolution Productions
Tel +44 1179 441 449

3-D Revolution Productions | 51 Sefton Park Road | Bristol BS7 9AN | United Kingdom

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