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The Life of P

Tag: 3d

The Price of an Extra D

One of my favourite reviewers has written an interesting article comparing the recent trend of shoehorning 3D into films with the artificial colorisation of old black & white films. I wonder what proportion of audiences know that Alice in Wonderland was not shot in 3D and Burton’s involvement was negligible, or that a 3D version of Clash of the Titans wasn’t even conceived until Avatar’s runaway box-office success. My discussion of both Avatar and Coraline has made it clear that I like 3D, but I enjoy it as a creative tool that increases immersion. The driving force should not be the cinema surcharge (notice how they retain the glasses so they can charge you again and again, irrespective of how many you 3D films you see) and increased revenue for distributors. One has to question supporting greed rather than creativity, not least with the freely available 3D YouTube content I mentioned recently.

Alice is about to hit cinemas and, having seen the tacked-on effects in the 3D trailer, I will certainly be watching this one in 2D. In a stand that makes it clear we won’t pay more for an arbitrary extra dimension, I wonder if you will do the same?

Links from the last month:

  • flavors.me offers an easy-to-create, elegantly attractive page to tie together your online presence, incorporating sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Last.fm and Twitter along with blogs and RSS feeds. I’ve used it for a priyan.meewella.com subdomain, at least until I get round to coding something myself. Naturally consider carefully whether you want to make your facebook status/photos easily available to potential employers, etc.
  • Inbox2 has released a desktop application alongside its beta web version, allowing anyone to try out its approach to merging all your email and social networking into a single inbox. I’m trying it out at the moment and while I don’t think it will replace the fuller feature-set enjoyed by each of the sites it incorporates, it’s not a bad way to check your digital life at a glance first thing in the morning. It also appreciates the distraction caused by social networking sites, so allows you to stop displaying some sources while working.
  • Cooking in the dishwasher (Anna and I got harassed by a guest for using our dishwasher primarily as a drying rack after handwashing dishes; imagine if we got into this!)

Waking Sleeping Beauty

Given my darker sensibilities and vocal disapproval of their sanitisation of older fairytales, people are often surprised to hear me talk fervently about what I deem Disney’s golden era: 1989-1994, a period of resurgence that encompassed the releases of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King. I was excited to discover the recently announced Waking Sleeping Beauty, a documentary covering specifically the development of these four films and the team that turned around the company’s ailing animation fortunes. It will also be interesting to see how they handle Tim Burton’s presence since by all accounts he felt largely stifled as an animator at Disney, but began developing a little project called The Nightmare Before Christmas. Meanwhile Multiplex’s suggested sequel would not be inaccurate.

3D cinema has obviously taken the big screen by storm and last month’s CES 2010 suggests TV and camera manufacturers are hoping to push the same tech into consumers hands too. But I discovered that last year YouTube started experimenting with supporting indie 3D video. They noticed that several users were uploading 3D video but the problem was that unless the user has the corresponding coloured glasses, they were out of luck. Instead stereoscopic videos with the “YT3D” tag will allow users to select the glasses they have (including polarised if they have one of the few screens supporting it) and YouTube will present the video accordingly. Testing it out with some travel footage and the digital animation PANGEA trailer in HD on the living room TV was rather astounding. The downside is, of course, that most glasses will still destroy colour in these videos. At least until polarised screens become prevalent, this tech isn’t going to become more than a gimmick in the home environment.

And finally, crucial tips on how to tie your shoelaces: balanced knots and the speedy Ian knot. Seriously.

Coraline in 3D

Coraline poster

Coraline the book is a magical, creepy children’s story from Neil Gaiman about a girl who finds a hidden doorway in her house that leads to another world. Coraline the film is both a wonderful translation to the screen, a work of art, and another proud testament to the fact that stop-motion animation, while dying out, is far from gone yet. I’m going to start out with a request: please do yourselves a favour and go see it soon while it’s still in 3D screens. This will be quite unlike the gimmicky effects to which you are used, with “this is the 3D bit” moments. Instead the entire thing was shot with stereoscopic cameras so it’s all just… 3D. As if that were totally normal. The difference is that it generally adds depth by moving into the screen rather than trying to burst out of it, which is when the illusion tends to break.

Given the couple of 3D trailers preceding the film, this is a tipping point. Ice Age certainly seems to have embraced it just as fully and naturally. In fact the 3D view confused me at first, my eyes straining as I struggled to take everything in at once as I normally would with a film. Instead you should look around the scene unfolding before you, focusing on one layer at a time, just as in real life. However I’m not about to start saying that this is the future for all films, because you’re losing something too: the vibrant colours do appear washed out through the polarised glasses and I suppose you lose that big screen spectacle where you can take in everything at once in a detailed 2D shot. Not to mention the unnecessary surcharge for the privilege of 3D, a bit steep for glasses they’re collecting up afterwards (okay, and a digital two-level projector, but that’s an investment).

Coraline Set Design

There is far more to the film than this effect, of course, and more than enough to make a 2D viewing worthwhile. Stop-motion always offers something tantalisingly different from the now-standard digitally animated fare, though it is often hard to put one’s finger on. And the calibre here is the very highest, directed by the legendary Henry Sellick who also helmed The Nightmare Before Christmas (despite the fact it tends to be Tim Burton of whom people first think since his writing and design permeates much of it). The painstaking process of shooting and adjusting in individual frames is almost impossible to imagine, but the result is somehow more grounded, with more precise movements and a sense of weight. It is truer here than in Corpse Bride where, arguably, the pursuit of smooth visual perfection resulted in something that looked digital. The love and care from the team at Laika often permeate the world on display before you which is a joy to behold. As their marketing revealed, these guys are artisans. And so it is that what really sticks with you from the film are the stunning environments even moreso than the characters and story which meander through them.

Coraline - breakfast

I won’t bother dealing with the “controversy” of scaring kids, since you know my thoughts. Young kids will undoubtedly be frightened from time to time by the strangely dislocated other world which Coraline discovers. The Other Mother is suitably creepy incarnation and a perfect realisation of Coraline’s adversary. Bottom line is: it’ll probably scare kids and they’ll love it. I must admit I was perplexed, however, by the Sellick’s choice in the corpulant geriatric mild nudity of Spink and Forcible’s act in the other world. While there is much for adults to enjoy, Coraline is still clearly a kids’ film so it feels awkwardly out of place. On the other hand kids may not even notice.

"Luck is the residue of design."

(CC) BY-NC 2004-2021 Priyan Meewella

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