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The 3-D Onslaught

3D Kid

Coraline was the first time I’d seen a film in 3-D in a very long time, and while I enjoyed the film immensely, the 3-D technology was a huge dud. The imagery on-screen was so fuzzy that I initially thought my glasses were defective and exchanged them for another pair. Apparently, it wasn’t the glasses though; that’s just part of the 3-D “experience”. Add to that an annoying strobe on close-up shots, tinted glasses that obscured details during the film’s darker scenes, and leaving the theater with a headache, and it ends up being a miserable experience that I don’t anticipate repeating anytime soon.

It’s too early to tell where 3-D will go, but every sign so far points to it being a corporate-induced fad just as it was in the 1950s. Having said that, I’m still fascinated by Hollywood’s shift to 3-D techology, particularly because animation now represents the second biggest category of 3-D releases, following documentary films. I’m also intrigued by the unique storytelling possibilities of the medium, though as yet I’m unclear as to what those may be. To that end, I’ve been searching for a solid source to learn more about the technology. I know there’s the MarketSaw blog which offers news about 3-D releases, but its uncritical cheerleading of every film doesn’t offer much insight into the art side of 3-D. Last night I finally stumbled across what I’ve been looking for–an amazing resource called 3-D Stereoscopic Film and Animation Blog which is run by a Bristol, UK-company called 3-D Revolution Productions.

Besides the informative blog, the company has all sorts of pages devoted to the technology such as 3-D film theory, how to build a 3-D camera, and an incredible piece of original research documenting every 3-D film ever released. In other words, if you’re at all interested in 3-D filmmaking, this blog and accompanying website is THE place to start your journey.

A chart that stood out on their blog is the one of 3-D releases throughout history. It’s surprising to see that 3-D never died out, and in fact, more 3-D films were released in the early-2000s than are being released today, though contemporary releases are obviously playing on a far greater number of screens:

3D Chart

There’s also an enlightening article that discusses the traditional 3-D effect of objects popping out at audiences–”negative parallax” is the technical term–and how the art of 3-D won’t develop until filmmakers move beyond these type of cheap tricks and recognize that:

“3-D movies are a different medium altogether — neither film nor theatre, but volumetric narrative visual entertainment of its own. A new medium with new rules — where the fourth wall can be broken at will and where serious drama is followed by visual puns and an opportunity to examine objects and scenery in volumetric detail.”

The author of the blog also shares this comment told to him in 2007 by Pixar director Pete Docter: “We have looked at 3-D in the past and have come to the conclusion that there is little to no way in which 3-D can indeed enhance the quality of our storytelling or enhance the character interaction in a meaningful way.” It leads to the question, What has changed in the past couple years that has convinced Pixar and other studios to create all their animated films in 3-D? Is it purely a response to market pressure and keeping up with Katzenberg, or have filmmakers found legitimate ways of using the technology to enhance storytelling? Perhaps I’ll discover the answer when I find a way to watch 3-D films without getting a migraine.

  • I have seen Chicken Little, Meet the Robinsons, and Nightmare Before Christmas in Digital 3D, and I did not have any problems with headaches, blurriness, etc. Perhaps I am lucky that I have 20/20 vision. I’ve also never seen DLP rainbows or any other types of artifacts associated with certain new display technologies.

    My feeling on the whole 3D thing in movies… most films we’re seeing it used in now don’t really benefit story-wise from the 3D… but I think they look nice, and with CG, it’s pretty much already 3D to begin with, no?

  • Brian Kidd

    Amid, it sounds like you saw a bad screening of the film. It wasn’t the technology. Modern digital 3D technology is virtually flicker-free and sharp as a tack. There must have been something wrong with the equipment. What kind of theater did you see it in? If it was a gigaplex without skilled projectionists on site, then what most likely happened was the the projector went out of whack but there was nobody there who had the know-how to fix it and it would take a while for a skilled technician to be brought in. It’s not unheard of for theaters to just go with a faulty screening rather than cancel it altogether, thus losing them income.

    The 3D in CORALINE was understated during the “real world” sections, to be sure, but the clarity and depth it added to the film were unmatched by any 3D film I’ve seen, and I’ve seen quite a few.

  • Stereoscopic probably adds less to the film makers’ arsenal than any other technology, but I’ve been to many 3D films in many different formats and enjoyed some for their 3D. I never got a headache or a migraine and never had trouble seeing the image.

    If Amid’s glasses really were “tinted” then something was wrong; 3D theater glasses are neutral gray, not colored.

  • J Lee

    As long as you have to have special viewing glasses to watch the movie – as opposed to some sort of in-theater holographic set-up – 3-D is going to be a niche film market, no matter how much the filmmakers are able to make it a natural part of the film and not a special effects gimmick.

  • Gobo

    Some people I know saw Coraline in 3D and reported that it was fuzzy, blurry, dark, and flickered… and they left with a headache.

    My friends and I saw it in 3D and saw a crystal-clear, bright, un-flickery movie.

    Whether technical problems at the theatre or a problem some folks’ eyes have with processing “Real-D” 3D, it’s not universal by any means.

  • Angry Anim

    It’s a bit blurry for me as well. And it doesn’t seem any better than any other time it’s come back in the past. Besides, they should know that it’s IMPOSSIBLE to top the sheer brilliance of… J A W S 3 D.

  • tom stazer

    While I agree this second golden age of 3D will not last, I have to take issue with your reaction to Coraline, re blurriness.
    I think you had better find a different theater. The film might have been shown out of focus.
    I’ve been watching 3D movies for over 30 years and the new processes are staggeringly better. NO focus issues for me or any of the people I went with whether they had 20-20 vision or glasses or contacts. Headaches? Well yes that might be for some, but not the majority I think
    Anyway, sorry you had such a painful experience, but I really don’t blame the process. It’s as good as 3D has ever looked.

  • Robert Barker

    Coraline was fantastic. The 3-D was seamlessly integrated and added immensely to the overall entertainment, and artistic experience. Yes, the technology to watch it needs a leap forward, but that’s probably coming soon.

  • JMac

    What about the environmental implications of all those millions of disposable, plastic 3-D glasses?!

  • Have to disagree with the comments.

    Coraline actually sold me on 3D use.

    The subtleties that the filmmakers used in the shots, the slower camera moves, with the use of 3D, really added to the whole feeling of the shot. Creating a great environment.

    Beautiful work.

  • Corey

    I just assumed they all went 3-D because people would rather download movies and watch them at home. It gives people a reason to go out.

    Personally I agree %100 with the 3D Coraline experience. I thought there was something wrong with my glasses too. Anything that is ‘far away’ is just really two translucent images hovering over one another, which is really nauseating.

    I’m hoping to be able to see ‘UP’ NOT in 3D in my area.

  • Jay Taylor

    I’ve seen Coraline three times now, and I’m still not sure the 3D really adds anything.

    As far as the 3D experience goes, sometimes I experience a mild headache, and other times I don’t. Also, the glasses do dim the picture slightly, as well as cut some color saturation, but it’s not drastic.

    I think 3D is fine as a niche market, but I certainly don’t see any point in every film eventually being released in 3D.

  • Artisticulated

    I’d say that 3D gave Coraline a 5% boost as a visual treat. No boost for story. I was surprised that seeing the trailer for “Up” in 3D made such a difference. Looking past Carl into his house as he stands in the doorway gave such a strong sense of depth. We’ll see if it’s worth the trouble of the glasses.

    BTW, theaters do try to recycle/reuse the glasses.

  • I have to agree with some of the other posters, if it was blurry, the projector was out of focus. I was quite impressed with the technology, it was clear, sharp and didn’t give me a headache at all (unlike “Journey to the Center of the Earth”, which I saw with the old style paper red/blue glasses). The glasses even fit nicely over my regular ones.

  • There may be some difference in the way 3d comes across from a CG/Stop-Motion film rather than a pure CG film. When I saw Bolt (or more notably, Pixar’s “Tokyo Mater” short that ran before the film) The stereoscopic effect really stood out and added to the excitement). However, the stereoscopic effect for Coraline was not as pronounced. Certain scenes you could really feel it, and it gave a feeling of watching a moving 3d viewfinder, however a lot of the movie just didn’t seem to take advantage of it at all. Certainly Bolt had SOME decent stereoscopic scenes as well, but not all of them were welcome and some shots did hurt my eyes (usually the one where objects fly toward the face causing the viewer to cross their eyes). These type of scenes would seem to cause a lot of pain especially in older viewers. Kids eyes are still pretty flexible. I found the best scenes to be the ones that took advantage of depth, not ones poking my eyes out with a stitching needle.

    I feel like there’s some potential for stereoscopic movies, especially with the development of stereoscopic screens that don’t require glasses at all (which unfortunately are currently super expensive and out of reach of the general public). Movie makers still need to figure out the science of when stereoscopic effects are appropriate to enhance the experience, when it is just a painful eyesore and when it’s completely unnecessary.

    just wait until the gimmick wears off and some genius figures out the correct way to implement the technology or until people get tired of it and it disappears yet again.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Interesting Amid shares in my disappointment over the whole 3D thing. I personally felt it was the glasses myself. Having gotten into the theater to see Coraline a few weeks back, I had to get loaded with some Nathan/Sbarro goodies beforehand, blowing $16 on top of the $11 for the matinee showing alone. Probably the most I spent on a movie alone, and I was glad to not have to put up with useless advertising since I had to wait for a pizza slice to come out of the over all pipin’ hot, got in just as they were beginning the trailer for Aliens Vs. Monsters or whatever film I’ll probably skip on.

    Annoying trying to open up the plastic those glasses are in and stick them on. I felt the single fingerprint I got on the lens was what caused my displeasure. I just could not get it to work at all, so I had to put up with viewing things through slightly glared eyes for most of the film. Didn’t feel the need to go complain however and ask for another pair, as I guess I’ll just end up missing out on my only chance to see this darn thing in 3D anyway (not my first, as I saw Meet The Robinsons in 3D a year or so ago). I did enjoy the film none the less, but wasn’t sure what I felt about seeing it in 3D though, thought some scenes worked well if only as a nice ambiance to the settings and characters. Didn’t think it was too dark to make out the details in those darker scenes through the glasses (perhaps my theater had a decent projector to use here).

    There’s my extensive 2 cents on the matter, it probably varies for others here.

    > BTW, theaters do try to recycle/reuse the glasses.

    That’s a joke in on itself, I did however recycled mine in those bins they had out in front of the room I went to. I figured I’ll let someone else deal with my fingered pair. ^_^

  • VT

    It’s most definitely a gimmic which I’d be completely fine with if it didn’t tack on an extra $2 to my movie ticket

  • Steve

    But the site didn’t list Bugs Bunny’s Lumber Jack Rabbit. Wikipedia says the only gimmick was the WB shield appearing bigger than usual.

    If 3D is so great, why has there not been much promotion of it on video or online? The new HDTVs and computer screens should be good enough for the effect. For some reason, this new “RealD” technology isn’t available anywhere but in theaters. A technical limitation or commercial scheme? When 3D movies like “Journey to the Center of the Earth” are released to DVD, they still give you those crappy old red/blue glasses.

    Heres my take on the 80’s 3D movie “Parasite”:

  • Justin

    I haven’t seen many of them but I was really curious about Coraline. I left mixed. Enjoyed the incorporation into the storytelling but the technology was horrible. Every camera move produced a fuzzy jittery mess. Instead of a headache, I had a pressure above my eyes the entire time and for a little bit after.

    It did increase my sense of scale which is often lacking in CG movies and really bugs me (though a huge part is owed to the stop-mo technique and the animators). And with that increased sense of scale, the impact and enjoyment of the staging increased.

    I’m waiting until the Japanese animators use 3D before I make my ultimate decision. It does have potential especially if the creator is acting with that quote you provided in mind.

  • Derek

    Saw the film. The 3D was crisp and clear, they nailed it!

  • Michael Grabowski


    Did you happen to see U23D last year? Though the prevailing use of 3D in film is gimmicky or at least perceived as some kind of visual improvement that it isn’t, the U2 concert film really seemed to have been conceived, filmed, and produced to provide an entirely different sort of 3D experience (and an entirely different sort of concert movie experience too.) I found it totally immersive without being overwhelmed by unecessary gimmicks. At times you’re in the crowd, your above the crowd, you’re above the band, you’re in the band, you are Bono’s sole audience, you are Bono, but it’s all very smoothly and often subtly done. There are some great blends of 3-D and dissolve transitions. There are also some animations in the film and especially in the credits are fun and (to me) new and unique uses of it.

    Unfortunately the movie came and went without too much notice so I expect further 3D concert films to follow the Hannah Montana approach instead, but it’s at least one film that approached 3D with a lot more art than artifice.

  • I saw CORALINE twice – admittedly under optimal circumstances in Real D’s private screening room – and the 3D experience was perfect. In fact Selick’s use of 3D in my opinion DID enhance the storytelling in this instance. He was aware to make the real world scenes flatter and the “other world” scenes more dimensional. But this can’t be said of most other animated films using the process.

    The studios need to look into Hollywood’s past to learn what worked and what didn’t. They should more appropriately look at the wide screen phenomenon of the 50s, not the 3D fad at the same time. When Hollywood went to widescreen formats in the 50s, they made two versions of each film (one flat and one wide). This was because some theaters didn’t opt to buy the scope lenses and wider screens. There are two versions of TOOT WHISTLE PLUNK AND BOOM and SLEEPING BEAUTY (and OKLAHOMA, 7 BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS, etc.), both versions are slightly different, each playing to the strengths of each screen ratio. In my opinion, if the studios truly want 3D to succeed from a commercial stand point, they should add additional sequences designed for 3D (and not released in the 2D print), that use 3D and its unique visuals, making optimal use of the process.

    However, I believe the current interest by studios to go 3D is a smokescreen – the ulterior motive is to get theaters to change over to digital projection, which will save the studios millions in shipping, laboratory and print costs. Releasing films in 3D gives the theaters a compelling reason to make the switch.

  • Steve K.

    I think the 3D in Coraline was pretty cool. Probably the best I’ve seen. I think for something short it would be fine. I’m not sold on it for features though. It still feels like a gimmick.

    I did find it distracting mainly due to the smallness of the lenses on the glasses. I was very aware of the edges of the frames of the lenses. They need to be much bigger so that you do not see them. I’m sure price went into the factor when designing the glasses and it was too expensive to go with large size lenses. Oh, and to JMac above…the glasses are washed and recycled – not disposed of after the screening.

    I also think the screen needs to be much brighter. The glasses do tend to knock the brightness down. While I know there is a glut of 3D on the way, I think I would much rather see the regular 2D digital projections. I found myself being taken out of the movie too many times while wearing the glasses. I want to see Coraline again without 3D. It was a great film and I think I missed a lot.

    I will say though, after seeing “The Dark Knight” in IMAX (parts of it were actually shot in IMAX) I would much rather see that than 3D. The visual clarity and the shear size and scope of the images was quite impressive. So I’d vote for more films shot in IMAX over 3D technology. Can you imagine how cool a Pixar film in IMAX would be?

  • Coraline was the first 3D movie I have seen in quite some time and I totally agree with Jerry on this one. I felt the 3D did enhance the storytelling, it wasn’t a “oh things pop out a you” experience (many times those seem just tacked on), it seemed more like a stage play because of the 3D. I enjoyed Coraline more because of that.

  • @steve: “For some reason, this new “RealD” technology isn’t available anywhere but in theaters. A technical limitation or commercial scheme? When 3D movies like “Journey to the Center of the Earth” are released to DVD, they still give you those crappy old red/blue glasses.”

    There are several different ways of providing stereoscopic 3D, but in the home, currently you can only do it using anaglyph (color pair) glasses. For some reason, red/cyan is still the most popular, even though it seems like green/magenta would work better for a variety of reasons (better luminance balance between the eyes means it’s less likely for one eye to completely dominate and end up washing out all the color, for starters).

    In any case, theatrical 3D generally makes use of polarization, which is not presently available in any home viewing technology. In the late 90s a couple companies experimented with bringing shutter glasses home, but TVs only refresh at 60Hz and so you’d end up with a 30Hz flicker which made it VERY headache-inducing, not to mention there was a lot of cross-eye image bleed and the glasses were unwieldy and expensive. That technology wouldn’t work at all today, either, what with HDTVs doing all sorts of deinterlacing stuff (ignoring that LCDs don’t update their image nearly fast enough and there’d be major synchronization issues and so on).

    An LCD TV could be made specifically to support polarized-glasses 3D by having alternating rows or columns with the opposing polarization, but then you run into issues with video compression not being particularly good at dealing with that sort of thing, so then you’d have to have a new video format which is specifically designed to deal with the interlacing of the two images, and then you have to worry about what happens between the player and the TV (scaling in particular). Considering how much of a mess we’re still in with something as minor as 4:3 vs. 16:9 aspect ratios, I really don’t see the home-viewing 3D situation getting resolved any time soon (aside from anaglyphs).

  • I’m kinda confused why you would write this now instead of when Bolt or Coraline came out. I mean I can’t think of a major motion picture coming out this weekend with 3D.

    oh wait there is one The Jonas Brothers Concert movie. Does somebody like the Jonas Brothers.

    If so i am amused

  • Paul N

    I’ve seen Coraline twice, and I didn’t have blurriness or headache issues at all. I did keep dozing off, but I’m not sure that had anything to do with the film or the 3D.

    Like others, I’m annoyed at the additional charge for the glasses EVERY TIME YOU GO TO THE MOVIE. I’m keeping mine from here on out, and when I have enough for the whole fam, I’ll buy tickets to something else and go into the 3D movie with my cache of glasses. Don’t want to, but since they won’t knock off the additional charge if I already have the glasses, there’s not much else a frugal (cheap) moviegoer can do.

  • The only other films I ever saw in 3D were CAPTAIN E-O (at DisneyWorld in 1986) and FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE. I can confidently say that CAPTAIN E-O had better 3D. It was a great experience.

    I saw CORALINE for the second time this past Sunday, this time in Real D. It was the first movie I’ve seen in this 3D format, and let me tell you, it was the same great experience as seeing CAPTAIN E-O! The trailers for MONSTERS VS. ALIENS, UP, and ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS were pretty incredible, too! Jerry made a great point about how the “real world” scenes were somewhat flatter, and the “other world” scenes had deeper 3D, because I noticed that at first glance as well! It had a sort of WIZARD OF OZ feel to that.

  • In the run-up to this 3D onslaught my friend and I did a send-up of 3D in a cartoon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rke9YnEnqZw

    In order to achieve the effects I had to do research and overwhelmingly I realized that 3D indeed has narrative worth but it’s best demonstrated by making the screen depth go IN rather than making things pop OUT. Coraline demonstrates this well, by having the environments in the films be physically deeper in the more “dreamy” segments. And it really does make a difference. I don’t know if you can go much further with this idea than that, but it was a really fun device that lent itself to some really impressive set pieces. It was like looking at a big diorama, which was very suited to the story.

    A not-as-good example of 3D would be Bolt- much of the 3D effect in that film was focused on having things come towards the audience which created problems when the “popping” objects got cropped off of the edges of the screen. A little sloppy, but still all of the effects were sharp and clear.

    Although I learned a lot about 3D from my attempt at it, and there are a few good examples of these techniques, I’m more inclined to believe that the new 3D fad is more gimmick than storytelling. You can’t pirate a 3D movie after all, and the theater where I saw Coraline added $5 to the ticket charge. Five Dollars! Above all, it’s one more reason to get you into the theater(The same old crap! But now in eye-popping 3D!!!).

  • I’ve heard that a side benefit to 3D is that it reduces bootlegging, since there’s not much of a point in sneaking in a camera into a 3D film if you can’t watch it at home.

    Ultimately, however, 3D discriminates against chameleons, as I learned in “Herbert the Chameleon.”

  • dbborroughs

    the problem with 3D is that you’re at the mercy of the theaters. I’ve seen several 3D (and non 3D) films recently where the presentation was bad. Most notably the lamp used was poor and it darkened everything (as has been mentioned 3D eats light). Theaters do not want to spend the money for the correct bulbs and it just takes away from everything. You need sharp focus and bright bulbs for 3D to work.

    Actually theaters are skimping on so much that it won’t be long before they’ll need a new fad to get people into theaters besides 3D. Regardless of fads you have to give people good movies to see otherwise they won’t go.

  • Tom Turitin

    I’ve only seen Bolt in 3D so far, and while the 3D effect was put to creative use at a number of points, I kept asking myself if it was really necessary – was it actually enhancing the story experience to a significant degree? Overall I wasn’t especially impressed by the 3D aspect, but to be able to answer my own question I’d need to sit down in a movie theater and watch the film slowly, scene by scene, to be able to judge the effect’s effectiveness.

    Generally my worry is that the studios are hopping on this because it’s a corporate fad. I think 3D has the potential for some amazing creativity, but it’s a new thing for this generation of animators. People are still experimenting with it and I doubt we’ll see the medium honed to perfection very quickly. That being said, when the storyboarders are setting up the scenes currently, are they placing more emphasis on “We gotta make this look good for 3D!” as opposed to just making the scene look good? Because when the home DVD version comes out, the 3D effect is gone. (My nephew kept asking me if the glasses would make his TV shows 3D.)

    Personally I think the biggest problem with 3D isn’t the 3D itself, it’s the screen. The moment objects touch the edge of the screen, they start to lose their 3D definition. This is especially true for when negative parallax is used.

    The best 3D film I’ve ever seen… well, there was only one scene in the entire film actually that blew me away – was a short, un-narrated nature film at the Science North museum in Sudbury, Ontario. At one point there was a baby turtle, floating high underwater, staying more or less in place, kicking its little legs now and then. It looked so real, like it was really there, and it was literally hovering over the audience. All the little kids in the front rows went “whooooaaah…” and reached up with their arms to try touching it. *That* was 3D magic in action.

  • Fred Sparrman

    People complain if there are obvious 3D effects in a film (“gimmicky”), but if there aren’t, they say the 3D didn’t enhance the experience.

    Provided you didn’t have any side effects like headaches or blurry picture, I’d say the 3D DID enhance your experience. How could it not? You just weren’t blatantly aware of it, which is NOT a bad thing.

  • I saw it in Real D in little old Knoxville, and it looked great. As someone who studied Minor White and Ansel Adams zone systems for film photography (Sherman, the Wayback machine) I pay attention to tonal values. I thought shadow detail held up well. To tell the truth, though, it was a bit like reading subtitles. I forgot it was going on after awhile.

  • I saw Coraline in 3D and had no problems with headaches, blurriness or the film appearing too dark. I thought it looked fantastic and, as Jerry said, the 3D IS used to enhance the storytelling.

    Maybe the theater you were viewing Coraline in was having technical problems? Any movie, 3D or not, can cause headaches if it’s projected slightly out of focus.

  • Comic Law

    To Amid: Did you see is in Dolby 3D or Real D?

    Dolby 3D glasses have a reflective coating, looking like gold mirrored sunglasses, and you give them back after the show.

    Real D glasses are like dark tinted sunglasses that aren’t reflective. They are recycled or kept by the patron after the show.

    Dolby 3D and Real D aren’t equivalent — not by a long shot. I saw Coraline in Real D and then a day later in Dolby 3D (really, I did), and I was literally ill after watching the Dolby presentation. Real D is amazing, Dolby 3D is not watchable.

    They’ll swear it’s not, but Dolby 3D is essentially a high-tech expensive version of anaglyph, sending different colors to each eye.

    No joke — if I see those mirrored glasses at a 3D presentation again, I’ll walk out.

    LCD shutter glasses, like the XpanD system and generic shutter glasses used at some IMAX theaters, are good but less common.

    To some of the other commenters —

    Real D and Dolby 3D are presentation systems — they have nothing to do with how a 3D film is shot. You can have crappy 3D presented using a good system (My Bloody Valentine presented in Real D) or great 3D presented using a crappy system (Coraline presented in Dolby 3D).

    Disney Digital 3D is a Disney brand, but isn’t related to any particular presentation technology, such as Real D or Dolby 3D.

    Real D, the way it is presented in theaters, isn’t suited for home use. It uses a silver screen for brightness and circular polarization lenses. Real D might make a home version, but not with the same technology.

    See Coraline in a Real D theater today, because the Jonas Brothers are about to kick it out of the 3D theaters.

  • Kyle Maloney

    I missed my chance to see Coraline in 3d, last weekend was the last week they were playing it in 3d. but I will say that when I saw meet the Robinson’s in 3d, as well as nightmare before Christmas, I had no issues with the flickering or being too dark. I did however get that when I saw Bolt. I think its a problem with how the projector is set up or something.

    When done right, with a nice really bright projector, I love 3d, and I cant wait to see the Toy Story movies with it.

  • I thought the use of 3D in that film was phenomenal. If anything, it helped plus the emotional content of the story by not only creating extra depth in certain scenes, but also added to the creepiness. I loved in the opening titles how the needle hand holding the crochet hook lingers out a little into the audience, almost as if it’s going to poke you in the eye. It doesn’t pop out, but it gives that moment some edginess that you wouldn’t otherwise have in the standard format. And it’s also nice that the film doesn’t use the gimmick of things popping out into the audience. 3D, I think, is still in it’s infancy as far as potential goes for the medium. But there has always been that desire in the history of cinema to create that extra depth. If you don’t believe me, look at what the Fleischer bros. were doing when they invented the spinning tabletop effect, panning miniatures sets with their cartoon characters. For all you sceptics, I assure you 3D will not go away. This is only the beginning of something greater.

  • As someone with strong prescription glasses, I’ve always had some degree of difficulty with 3D films, primarily those at theme parks.

    So I was extremely impressed with the new Real D format. All of the Real D films I have seen have been in the same theater, and they all have been perfect, at least from a technical standpoint. No blurriness, no ghost artifacts, no headaches. Like others here, I’m wondering if there might be problems in some places with equipment/projectionists.

  • Nathaniel Taylor

    I agree with comments celebrating Coraline’s supreme 3D experience. Amid, you must have experienced a faulty projector, and since I see almost every stereoscopic film that comes out nowadays (Jonas Brothers happily don’t count) I have to say that you were EXTREMELY unlucky.

    As to the question about why Pixar’s philosophy about 3D changed so drastically over the past year, look to the Disney attraction Toy Story Mania, which was produced in conjunction with Pixar (with John Lasseter as head Imagineer). The ride is a mix of dark ride, boardwalk shooting game, and 3D movie, and the process of adapting the Toy Story characters was so satisfactory, according to Lasseter, that it convinced him and the rest of the “braintrust” to make the rest of their films in 3D. I can’t find the specific interview where I read this, but I’m sure I did (if anyone can find it, please link to it). A theme park ride influencing a movie, not the other way around. How ’bout that!

  • Chuck R.

    “3-D movies are…a new medium with new rules – where the fourth wall can be broken at will and where serious drama is followed by visual puns and an opportunity to examine objects and scenery in volumetric detail.”

    This describes the potential of all animation better than it does “3D”.

    I agree with a lot of Jerry’s comments above. I thought the use of 3D in Coraline was not unlike the use of color in Wizard of Oz, only less jarring. It was fully exploited (in a gimmicky way) only in the credits, so I’d agree that the effects blended nicely into the story. I wish I could say the same for some of the characters.

    I’ll also take a sec to say that Ian McShane gave another wonderful performance (very unlike his character from Kung Fu Panda). I’m looking forward to seeing more from him.

  • Rat

    It’s possible Amid saw a sub-optimal showing.

    Also remember folks, there’s more than one 3d competing format out there. Please specify if you saw it in Real-D or Dolby 3D.

    It’s a fair question whether 3D enhances storytelling. I bet you could say the same thing about color, widescreen or even moving a camera on a dolly.

    That it, until you saw that technology used by someone who had mastered the technique.

    Heck, does ANIMATING something even add to the storytelling? Well of course. But I bet there were a lot of people in Walt’s day saying that nobody would want to sit through a cartoon for 2 hours to see an animated remake of an old silent movie about some dwarfs.

    Now, I don’t think that the DW Griffith or the Walt Disney of 3d has arrived. And she may never arrive.

    But I look at the technology and see what I can discover about it as a filmmaker. I don’t toss it out as merely a gimmick. It’s a tool. It may be useful to me, it may not.

    I may decide ultimately that I don’t have a good idea of how to use it. But I will judge the results of other people’s exploration into it on a per-film basis.

    To do otherwise would be like poo-pooing color movies back at their birth as a mere novelty or gimmick that couldn’t possibly enhance storytelling. And then rather than seeing individual films and seeing what people did with it, just deciding to forgo all color films entirely as gimmicky.

    I realize that if discomfort is an issue for you, you may not want to venture that… and that’s understandable.

    But seeing Coraline in 3D (Real-D) was the first film since Polar Express where I thought the 3d enhanced the experience markedly. (Polar express being almost unwatchable in 2d, but enjoyable in 3D. Coraline amazing in 2d, and phenomenal in 3d).

    I want to see what MvA does with the format, and Avatar and the other films coming up. And I’ll judge the films’ use of 3d on a per-film basis, asking “well, what did they try?” and “how successful was it?”

    And I’ve never had a problem with real-D projection. I am not a fan of the Dolby process. I’d rather watch a film flat than watch it in Dolby 3d.

  • In enjoyed Coraline 3D but I admit it took some time to get used to the dimness of the image. I think Coraline was a movie that was intended to be enjoyed more with the 3D effects; yes it had some of the usual in-your-face-tricks, but also there were also other more subtle things that increased the experience while at the same time exploring the possibilities that 3D has to offer.

    I wear glasses and at first was concerned I would find trouble with the glasses, but to my relief they were big enough to accommodate my frames; I did feel bad about throwing them to the trash can though, as I initially assumed someone would ask them back, but this did not happen :-/

    IMO, the possibilities of 3D won’t be fully realized until another ingredient is added to a motion picture: interaction with the audience. The moment the lines between a movie and a videogame are finely blurred, THAT is when you’ll see studios exploiting 3D to it’s full potential.

  • Me and a handful of other journalists were given a demo of a prototype home 3D system at the Panasonic Convention, just yesterday in Amsterdam. The trailer for “Bolt” was one of the sample clips we were shown and my feelings were the same as yours; the effect was just annoying and added nothing to the experience.

    Any technology that requires viewers to watch with glasses is a bad idea, anyway.

  • I believe, as several people commented above, that this must have been due to theatre error or a lack of the correct equipment. At the Scotia Bank Theatre in Vancouver, the picture was crystal clear, and extremely entertaining. It certainly heightened the experience of an already fantastic film.

    But I also have to add that while this film has been getting rave reviews from the animated community (I myself am an animator and my entire company is just frolicky over this film), I’ve noticed that many people who aren’t as invested in the industry don’t quite enjoy it as much, or appreciate it for what it is. I wonder if we’re perhaps jaded in our enjoyment of it?

  • Dustin

    I think it all depends on the person’s eyes. I also got a headache from viewing the film in 3D, but I also know my vision is much different than the average person. Everyone I saw with didn’t experience the same problems as I did, but even though I did have minor issues with it, I was still impressed by the 3D.

  • Kate

    The film moved between fuzzy and clear for me, but when it was clear, it really was like watching a play. When it didn’t work, it was annoying and I just got a headache, and my vision is fine.

    3D strikes me as a corporate fad. What I’d really like to see more of is HD. The Met Opera broadcasts are amazing, and I’d like to see that for more movies.

  • Gregr

    I thought Coraline was Borrring. I kept doing that head bobbing thing when you fall asleep and then wake up when your head falls. It was kind of slow. The best part was that it was in 3D and it was crisp. The animation was also great, but the story… P. U.

  • Rodrigo

    Coraline was the first stereoscopic animated film that actually felt appropriately done. For whatever reason, the CG 3D never feels totally convincing, but Coraline had a little extra something. I’m not sure if it’s due to the fact that most of what the audience saw were in fact real physical objects.

    I know both stop-motion and CG have their fair share of comping work, but perhaps Coraline’s BG’s had more believable depth. Just a thought.

  • Barbara in BC

    My daughter and I saw it together and we agreed that it was a fabulous experience, though a bit scary. She said to me, “Mum, that’s how the world looks to me when I’m on acid”, and I said “Me too”.

  • Stan

    It sounds like the main commercial advantage at this point for the studios is the elimination of film piracy, a unique historical interlude. Aside from the superiority of the Real D process, a projector with an ample lamphouse is a real requirement. Multiplexes tend to be underlit because lower wattage bulbs last longer and save money. Not everyone can make it to a major city where there are likely to be premium projection venues. Until there’s a one size that truly fits all, 3D will remain an uneven viewing experience.

  • Gerard de Souza

    “,…. the 3-D technology was a huge dud. ”

    I don’t know where you saw it ,man.
    I saw it in imax and it was flawless. It was the first 3D film I had seen (granted, i have only seen two before in my life) that justified the technique and sucked me in the story moreso than if it were 2d. It added to the dreamlike quality of the story. The trailers for UP, Monsters & Aliens, and the next Ice Age looked great.

  • Oluseyi

    3D? Call me when we aren’t projecting onto flat, 2D surfaces for viewing – ie, when we’re actually generating true 3D images (that we can walk around).

    The sooner 3D falls back into disfavor, the better. I’ll be seeing Coraline in good old fashion planarvision.

  • One thing I’ve learned when you’re tied to a film is that more often than not, the theatrical screening is not optimal-sound is off, projection is bad, etc. It is always terribly annoying when that happens. I didn’t even take a chance with Coraline. The last thing I wanted was to be aggravated watching such a highly anticipated film. I don’t think 3D will ever live up to the expectations until there are some serious break-throughs in the theatrical experience.

  • Amid says: “The author of the blog also shares this comment told to him in 2007 by Pixar director Pete Docter: “We have looked at 3-D in the past and have come to the conclusion that there is little to no way in which 3-D can indeed enhance the quality of our storytelling or enhance the character interaction in a meaningful way.” It leads to the question, What has changed in the past couple years that has convinced Pixar and other studios to create all their animated films in 3-D? ”

    The answer is a man named Brian Gardner. The Pixar guys told the Disney guys the above quote in person, when they arrived after Disney bought Pixar & Pixar guys took over Disney. Brian however had a whole different view of 3-D, could explain exactly how to use 3D as a storytelling tool, and soon after what was said became highly contagious.

    You can actually read his post here to the Disney guys: http://movies.groups.yahoo.com/group/3dtv/message/13031

    That post specifies several ways of using stereoscopic 3-D
    in an artistic way, and tools that should be used to implement
    them. It gives specific examples of how to tie the use of 3-D
    to a movie’s story beats, to enhance the emotions of the performance.
    For the first time, it explained how to enhance
    storytelling through 3-D cinematography, in clear terms.
    When Disney read this post, they completely changed their
    3-D pipeline, to adopt the techniques described in this 3D post.

    When Disney bought Pixar, they placed John Lasseter
    and Ed Catmull in charge of Disney Feature Animation.
    Once inside, the words from this post were repeated to the Disney guys
    by the Disney supervisors, and they brought that new realization
    of ‘3-D storytelling’ back to Pixar with them. Indirectly,
    this post from ‘vfxdoctor’ was what changed
    Pixar’s opinion away from the earlier Pete Docter quote. By the way… When Disney bought Pixar, Brian was the guy who
    greeted John Lasseter and Ed Catmull at the door when
    they went into the Disney Feature Animation building on their first day.

    Brian Gardner also went on to do all the 3-D planning for ‘Coraline 3D’. So if you enjoyed how the 3D was implimented into the film, you should thank him. He’s the guy who made it all possible.

  • Tim Drage

    3D works. Sounds like some of you need to have a word with your projectionist or optician.

  • Bruce Wright

    I like Brian, I think he’s awesome, and Coraline chose the right guy, and it shows onscreen.

    But I think there’s a bit of myth-making in your post, Mike.

    As far as I know, Pete Docter didn’t ever meet Brian when he was at Disney, nor was he responsible for turning his opinion around on 3d.

    Brian has the ability to inspire people about 3d. He did that for me. I absolutely think he’s top-notch in this area.

    But sadly, imo, he was underutilized at Disney’s. So to present him as an opinion-changer there among the top-brass is a bit of myth-making. If anyone was having those top-level discussions at that point at Disney’s, it would have been Brian’s supervisor Phil McNally, who goes by the nom-de-stereo “Captain 3-D” Phil is someone whom I also greatly admire and is the sole reason I am positively anticipating Monsters Vs. Aliens.

    Coraline was lucky to have Brian, don’t get me wrong. And he did a fantastic job, and if I were to choose anyone to 3D-supervise my film, he’d be top of my very short list.

  • captain murphy

    What kind of rhetoric is that? What do you mean what has happened with CGI and 3d?

    Its obvious there is an economy happening with CGI 3d that does not occur with live action…. for Pixar and Dreamworks films, all they have to do is hold on to the data, and rerender the other view.

    No other 3d has had that ‘flick of a switch’ level of exploitation potential.

  • And there you have it. But, I think it will take a while before the masses are willing to wear silly glasses on their hot dates and put up with the inconsistent projectionists. It’s just common sense.

  • Lustig

    Smellovision is clearly the future of cinema.

  • Acetate

    Dr. Tounge’s House of 3D Stewardesses with John Candy was THE best use of the medium imho. Although if you really wanted a strikingly clear “you are there” image I’d have to go with Doug Trumbull’s Showscan process. I saw it back in the early 80’s and it was frickin’ unreal. has anyone else seen it? 70mm shot and projected at around 60fps (I forget the stats on it) but like I said it looked like I wasn’t even watching film, it looked like a big window into the scene.

  • Inkan1969

    It’ll never work, Lustig.

    I saw “Bolt” in 3D thinking that the 3D version was the “correct” version; the version that most reflects the makers’ artistic vision. I’m not sure now if I was mistaken in that assumption or not. I didn’t see very much in “Bolt” that required it to be in 3D.

    The trailers before “Bolt” left me dumbfounded, though: “Coraline”, “Monsters vs. Aliens”, “Up”, “Ice Age 3”, ALL of them are coming out in 3D versions? I have to say that I’m against this trend so far, as it still looks to me that 3D as an artform has not progressed beyond the idea of “throw stuff at the audience”.

  • Mike Caracappa

    Bruce Wright, from what I understand, the guy your reffering to, Phil ‘captain 3D’ McNally designed the 3d for Chicken Little 3D, which did not utilize 3D for storytelling.
    The 3dtv forum question “How can Stereo help story?” was in fact posted by ‘deepa’ (Phil McNally) after arriving at Disney to work under then 3D VFX supervisor Eric Powers. Eric built the stereo department at Disney, for which he is undercredited. Phil was one of the people inspired to use 3d for storytelling by Brian. After the ‘vfxdoctor’ post about how to do it, Phil hired Brian away from “Bolt”. Good ideas originate from somewhere, then spread like wildfire. So myths unveiled, Pixar probably heard about 3D storytelling from Phil, who got it from Brian.

  • Bruce Wright

    I’d like to hear the events from the people you’re talking about, Mike.

    Namely Phil, Brian and Pete Docter.

    If your assertion was that Brian and Phil are brilliant filmmakers using 3d emotionally, and innovators in that regard, I’d agree with you. The proof of that is in Meet the Robinsons and Coraline.

    But we don’t yet know what Pete Docter will do with 3d. He may not use any of the techniques used in MtR. He may do his own thing. He may do a poor job with the 3d (but I doubt it). He may have happened upon these same ideas uninfluenced by Brian and Phil. He may push the art in a direction that neither Brian nor any of us would have predicted.

    Hey, Brian. You read this site from time to time. Care to check in?

  • Anna

    I pray 3D doesn’t completely take over. my eyes ain’t 20/20, and after 10 minutes of Coraline goodness (amazing movie, totally loved it!!) my vision started fuzzing up like mad with a migraine to match

  • @Chris Sokalofsky – Funny, I saw Coraline in the same theatre as you and had the same problems as Amid (minus the headache). In fact, everyone I went with did – as did a coworker who’d seen the film on another day. I wonder if it’s a function of finding a sweet spot in seating (we were way at the back of the theatre, and off to the side), or having perfect eyesight (I need new glasses… though my friends don’t).

    @Jmac – I second the comment about the environmental implications. We weren’t told to return our glasses – I don’t recall there being a bin where we could drop them. I still have mine, but I bet a lot of people don’t.

  • Theodore UShev

    As I did 3 3d films up to now – one, existed as 2d, and re-created as 3d experiment ( Tower Bawher) another created as 3d, and released as 2D (due th othe headace that it was giving to the audience, because of the will to push the technology to the limit) and another, which was pure institutional and comercial ( Facing Champlain), I must say – Stereoscopy is a new powerfull tool for a new kind of art ( but not for the cinema), because the cinema is a dream. And no dream is in 3d. Except I’m wrong. But I think it is a comercial, cheap tool for the bad cinema. It doesn’t tell stories, doesn’t add emotions. It adds only rolercoaster experience, which has nothing to do with the art, nothing to do with the feelings, nothing to do with the emotions. The 3D cannot make You cry, cannot make You laugh. One day it will be good for virtual sex, perhaps… But not for the cinema, neither for the brain, or the human intelectual development. It is the McDonald cinema.

  • Theodore, never say never. I can see how it might be a useful tool for the film medium by adding another dimension to explore, or another level within a story. But, I just think the experience needs some more innovation to make it work better-without the headaches. Then again, when I first started watching MTV videos with their quick cuts, which later made their way into films (notably, Hercules-being one of the first) I got headaches and couldn’t stand it. And now it doesn’t bother me. Somehow my senses evolved to handle it.

  • Phil Captain 3D McNally

    Hi All

    Interesting discussion. Thought I would try to clear up a few things…

    I supervised the 3D on Chicken Little at ILM and it did not use the idea of 3D for story telling. This was a ‘get 3D working’ type of project where one size tried to fit all. I proposed safe limitations on the depth going from the screen back to a little over eye width (17 pixels). The setup was mainly automatic fitting every shot into the same box.

    It was a good solution for the time available and the fact we were not working on shots sequentially. I noted in my diary after it was finished that it was too conservative. Disney thought the same and re-rendered about 50 shots to boost the effect.

    After ILM I worked briefly at Dreamworks (PDI) doing some 3D tests where 3D and story was discussed and at that time I related to the color script and proposed the 3D ‘depth script’ idea.

    I started work at Disney in Feb 2006 where I met Brian. It turned out we had both been independently thinking the same thing about 3D and story although I suspect Brian had been thinking about it longer. We had lots of ‘debates’ about various ideas ;-)

    We were both equally frustrated about 3D being an add on after the fact and longed for a project that would integrate 3D at layout/story stage. We both worked on Meet the Robinsons to make it the best it could be.

    Soon after I returned to Dreamworks (still there) and Brian connected with Coraline.

    As far as I know neither of us ever spoke to Pete Docter or discussed Brian’s yahoo post with Disney/Pixar folk.

    Just before I left Disney (Mar 2007) a few of us went to Pixar to present our 3D MTR postmortem (Brian could not attend). At that time they were unsure if they wanted to go 3D or not. It is my understanding that John Lasseter has always been a fan of 3D.

    As for 3D and story…I dont believe it can run independent of composition and right now composition is mainly driven by 2D experience. By that I mean if you want your 3D movie sequence to be spatially flat you shouldnt compose deep shots and just turn down the 3D. That would be some what like taking a bright sunny day with hard shadows and color timing it to look over cast ignoring the directional light.

    I have a saying…

    “The problem with 3D is it gets in the way of the flatness.”

    The more we have grown to love flat art (cinema) the easier we can be disturbed by depth disrupting the flatness. This worry is more common with film makers/photographers than it is with the general public.

    If we are going to be successful spatial film makers a lot will have to change as we explore the possibilities