It's no secret that we're suspicious of 3D films here at Screen Rant (our own Paul Young wrote an excellent article about the trend back in March) but when someone of James Cameron's stature starts talking about the subject, the smart thing to do is listen.
Cameron, whose multi-billion dollar grossing Avatar is widely touted as an example of "good" 3D, recently appeared at Blu-Con, a Blu-ray trade show in Beverly Hills. During the conference, Cameron spoke out about the state of 3D filmmaking, why he feels that post-production 3D conversion is a mistake and how 3D TV will force Hollywood to begin filming in 3D in the next few years.
According to the BBC, Cameron criticized Warner Bros. for announcing that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One would be released in 3D, only to backtrack once the company realized that the post-conversion process would take too long and delay the film's release date.
Cameron cited this as an example that post-conversion 3D is a mistake, saying, "I maintain you can't do a good conversion of a two-hour movie with high quality in a few weeks like they tried to do with Clash of the Titans."
Cameron went on to say that shooting in 3D is the only option for new films and that 3D conversion should only be used to update a classic film... like his own Titantic.
"My personal philosophy is that post conversion should be used for one thing and one thing only - which is to take library titles that are favorites that are proven, and convert them into 3D - whether it's Jaws or ET or Indiana Jones, Close Encounters... or Titanic. Unless you have a time machine to go back and shoot it in 3D, you have no other choice. The best alternative is if you want to release a movie in 3D - make it in 3D."
While I agree with Cameron's sentiment on shooting in 3D, I firmly disagree with his assertion that studios should convert their classic films to 3D and re-release them. I love Star Wars, as I'm sure many of you do too, but I was appalled when I heard that George Lucas was re-releasing all six films in 3D. It just feels like a cash grab (because it is), and I don't see how it can do anything but further dilute the quality of the franchise.
To me, it's the same problem as when Ted Turner made the much-criticized decision to show a colorized version of Casablanca. As Humphrey Bogart's son said at the time, "If you're going to colorize Casablanca, why not put arms on the Venus de Milo?" Just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should do it.
In addition to his thoughts on post-production 3D, James Cameron also talked about the future of 3D filmmaking, specifically 3D on TV. According to Cameron, the thing that will make Hollywood filmmakers begin shooting in 3D is TV.
"The thing that's going to be the coffin nail for conversion is when the broadcasters start broadcasting thousands, if not tens of thousands of hours a year in 3D. If you've got 5,000 cameras doing live sports feeding in over many different network delivery systems, it's going to be pretty hard for Hollywood producers to claim that 3D is just too complicated to make a movie in 3D, when it's being done every day by people a lot less talented and a lot less well-funded."
But what about those annoying glasses? Will people really want to sit down and watch 3D TV if they have to wear them? No worries, says Cameron, because glasses-free 3D technology is on its way within the decade.
"Once we get to auto-stereoscopic, that's watching 3-D without glasses, it is going to be the way we watch all of our media. That's probably eight to 10 years away."
All of our media? I don't know about that. Until last year's forced transition to digital broadcasting, some people in the U.S. were still using analog TV sets. Switching to 3D in under a decade seems like an awfully big change.
Given Cameron's considerable expertise in the area of 3D technology, he's certainly more qualified to make predictions on the subject than I am, but I must say I'm hopeful that he's off-base. With the exception of only a few films, I haven't enjoyed 3D in the theaters and the little bit of time I spent with a 3D TV was also unsatisfactory. I've yet to play a glasses-free 3D handheld game console (talk to the guys at Game Rant for that), but I suspect it wouldn't change my opinion.
I firmly believe that when it comes to 3D, as with any new technology, it's really just about the money. Every time you choose to see a 3D version of the film instead of a regular screening, you're voting with your wallet. If you're not into 3D, find a different screening. If you are into 3D, well, Jim Cameron says your glory days are coming soon, so you better get ready.