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Hollywood Holding Course With 3D

25 Aug, 2011 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Can there be any more obstacles to 3D’s growth as a home entertainment viewing choice, or option (emphasis intended)?

We’ve got far too many competing formats, not enough good content, media reports that theatrical audiences are tiring of 3D and that it may be bad for your eyes, and mass consumer confusion over exactly what it is — and how it differs from the old red-and-blue glasses we used to wear during periodic 3D fads in the past.

Plus, it’s not user-friendly. The best systems require glasses, expensive glasses, which can easily be lost, misplaced or broken — particularly in homes overrun with children.

Sad, because I really like the concept of 3D, and while I certainly wouldn’t want to watch everything in 3D, there’s a fair amount of stuff out there I would like to immerse myself in to feel as though I’m part of the action instead of merely watching it — which of course is the ultimate goal of the current wave of 3D technology.

3D also has the misfortune of being launched during the worse recession since the Great Depression — and an economy that continues to be troubled to the point where more and more smart minds are questioning whether what we’re all doing is even sustainable. The United States, Europe, Greece — Houston, as they say, we have a problem. A big, big problem.

Fortunately, Hollywood isn’t throwing in the towel, at least not yet. Avatar didn’t light the 3D world on fire, but Walt Disney Studios’ decision to give The Lion King a 3D do-over certainly could give the format a considerable boost.

It would be nice to see more films of that stature come to 3D, but honestly, it’s an expensive, time-consuming proposition, and one that studios are unlikely to invest more money into until they at least catch a glimpse of a potential return on investment.

I had the opportunity, recently, to speak with Robert Neumann, the chief stereographer for WD Animation Studios. He told me the process of converting The Lion King to 3D took a team of about 60-odd artists working for four months, full-time, “including overtime and crunch time.”

But the result, at least in his opinion, is certainly worth it. “The results are stunning,” he said. “After seeing the finished product, at that point I was convinced this is almost a new medium, a new kind of art form, because it retains all the character and energy [of the original] but at the same time gives it a different feel, a certain tangibility, a hyper-real feel. People feel they can reach in and touch the characters. It’s almost like a moving painting.”

Personally, I can’t wait to see The Lion King in 3D. But I’m already a fan. The challenge, now, is to get more people onboard — and that’s what’s going to take what I call the two “Cs,” consolidation (of formats on the hardware side) and content, a lot more content.

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