What does the future hold for Stereo 3D films?

In 2010, a small team of researchers carried out research* into the UK VFX and Stereo 3D industry. Here are just a few of the thoughts that came up in our interviews about the future of Stereo 3D at a low budget.

Will Stereo 3D stick around?

The more extreme views about the future of Stereo 3D were either that it is a flash in the pan and won’t last, or that it’s the future and all films will go on to be shot in 3D. The more common middle ground was that there’s a place for Stereo 3D, but it won’t take over everything. It will provide another exhibition opportunity for a particular type of film; and another device/shooting technique/tool/medium to create a certain feeling/emotion.

What about post-processed Stereo 3D?

While some in the industry are excited about the potential of post processed Stereo 3D (it’s cheaper, and opens up old films to a new platform), others are concerned that it is not as effective and that its use risks reducing the audience experience and appetite for Stereo 3D.

An oft-quoted example of an unsuccessful 2D conversion was the 3D film, Clash of the Titans. The quality of the work delivered here was incredible given the short timescale, but the very nature of post processed means it is a very different kind of experience, and one to which some audiences have not responded positively. The same concern of course extends to any film in which other forms of Stereo 3D have not been used well – a Stereo 3D film that gives its audience a headache is likely to put them off wanting to watch another.

Many of the perceived issues attributed to post processed Stereo 3D may lie in the fact that films such as Clash of the Titans were originally conceived with 2D in mind. As a result, they have not taken account of the new narrative grammar required for Stereo 3D to provide a satisfying audience experience.

A new narrative grammar for Stereo 3D?

There is a growing interest in exploring how Stereo 3D can be used more creatively as a narrative tool. One interviewee gave the example of how the zoom was used when it was first introduced: Initially, we saw lots of showy, speedy and overt demonstrations of the zoom, presenting a strong contrast with its current evolution into a subtler emotional tool.

A common refrain in our discussions was how Stereo 3D might evolve away from the more ‘theme park’ thrills that we see most commonly in cinemas now; and whether audiences would engage with Stereo 3D in different ways.

Some interviewees felt that the market would split into large budget VFX-laden Stereo 3D blockbusters, and low-mid budget story driven films (that would be unlikely to use Stereo 3D or VFX). Other interviewees felt that Stereo 3D couldonly benefit a particular type of film – scary, futuristic, action, or films with more magical moments. There were also suggestions that the ‘shlock’ 3D (Saw 3D for example) was now doing better than higher-end or more ‘intelligent’ 3D production.

However, amongst the scepticism, there was also a sense that Stereo 3D could surprise and succeed when it tried something new – for example, Street Dance 3D showing street dancing in 3D for the first time. There was also an appetite for seeing how Stereo 3D could be used more creatively – for example, curiosity about Alfonso Cuaron’s 3D film, Gravity. And lively discussions of what Stereo 3D might add to more ‘arthouse’ films – for example, what might Stereo 3D have added to the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind experience…?

We’re very much looking forward to exploring these questions further as we get started on the Cross Channel Film Lab


*In 2010, a small team of CCFL researchers carried out research into the UK VFX and Stereo 3D industry, based on 71 interviews, industry brainstorming sessions and existing research material.

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