Since it debuted half a century ago, 3D cinema has mainly been a gimmick. To date, perhaps my favorite of the all these movies is a short horror film farce by the Three Stooges, because it fully embraces the silliness of 3D, using every gag imaginable, with no pretensions of it being an art form.
But 3D can be taken seriously if it’s done right, says Jon Landau, producer of the (admittedly somewhat hokey) blockbuster Titanic, who is now working with his director partner Jim Cameron on the live action 3D flick Avatar. He extolled the virtues of 3D at the Consumer Electronics Show during a press event in which Panasonic announced plans to bring 3D capabilities to its plasma TVs and Blu-ray players.
The trick to making a 3D film that isn’t gimmicky, says Landau, is not to think too much about the 3D. “You have to be careful not to fall into the trap that the imagery would suggest to you, which is ‘stay on me longer, look how real I am, stay on that shot,'” he explained. “It’s like transferring from black-and-whit to color. Just because it’s in color doesn’t mean I want to hang on the shot of the flower longer while the lead actor is talking.”
In fact, all the editing for Avatar is being done on a 2D version of the film, which takes the perspective from the “left-eye” of the two-camera setup. Afterwards, the same edits are carried over to the right-eye video. “We fought to hold to the standard cinematic techniques,” he said, following the same rules that make a good-looking 2D film rather than getting caught up in the 3D effects.