28 June 2005

Disney Makes 3-D Push

Hey guys, it's Donnie...I rarely find myself saying this, but go Disney!

Disney is developing some proprietary technology with Dolby that will end in the distribution of 100 new digital 3-D projectors to theaters in 25 major markets. It's being called Disney Digital 3-D and the rollout will coincide with the release of Chicken Little this November. Once Chicken Little has vacated the theaters, Dolby will begin working with other studios to release new projects on the new digital 3-D projectors.

This is good news for a couple of reasons. First of all, it will more than double the number of digital 3-D projectors in the market, currently about 80. Secondly, these new projectors will do away with the traditional and crapariffic "red and blue" glasses in favor of some new lens type, probably polaraized, which presents a higher quality 3-D image to the audience. Finally, while computer animated films are the obvious place to start for easy transfer to digital 3-D, the application of the process to live action films is intended to follow shortly thereafter, which is great news for pretty much everyone involved.

The film industry is crying out for the next evolutionary leap in filmmaking. From the advent of "talkies", to the glory of technicolor, one of primary reasons that audiences keep showing up to the theater is to see what filmmakers will come up with next. If anything, I think audiences are beginning to grow weary of CGI unless it's used EXTREMELY well, which usually means sparingly yet effectively, as opposed to gross overuse ala the Star Wars prequels. Sky Captain was fun but kind of left something to be desired, whereas Sin City kicked about 19 different kinds of ass. While 3-D had a brief run back in the late 70s and early 80s, it never really took hold because the cost to the theaters was just too great compared to the modest increase in revenue. While digital filmmaking and digital projection has most certainly been an important step, it's still lacking. Most theaters still don't employ digital projection, while those theaters that do usually have a single dedicated digital theater. (I think I've been to one theater that had two digital projectors, but I think they also had twenty some-odd screens) At the very least, if Digital 3-D can really start generating some profit it might drive down the costs on conventional digital projectors and allow theaters to start deploying more units on more screens. If Dolby can get on the ball and convince some studios to really start putting some serious cash into getting their films run in Digital 3-D, we could see a revolution in the theater-going experience. There are certainly enough filmmakers like Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron who would be willing to get on board. Both have already directed multiple films in Digital 3-D and have even developed special Hi-Def 3-D cameras specifically for this purpose. Bryan Singer is currently using the Digital Hi-Def "Genesis Camera" on Superman Returns. How fantastic would it be to see Supes in Hi-Def 3-D? Or, even more interestingly, what would it be like to see 3-D movies that weren't big special effects genre pictures. Imagine Requiem For A Dream or American Splendor in 3-D, or Lords of Dogtown for that matter. Jay Adams and Tony Alva skating around your head and doing jumps over the folks in the front row? Sign me up...

What do you guys think? Is Digital 3-D the future, or will it go the way of the laser disc?


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