3D: The Cycle Ends
3D has always run in cycles. It’s the first lesson the new Hollywood executives should have learned. There have been three major cycles, first the red-and-green lens ‘Bwana Devil’ 3D boom of the 1950s, then the polarised lens Warhol-Morrissey ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Dracula’ of the 70s, and finally the boom started by ‘Comin’ At Ya!’ and ‘Spacehunter’ films of the 80s.
This boom was different because it was brought about by a change in filming, not by a change in viewing techniques. The digitisation of individual pixels meant no more flat planes to create the illusion of depth, but a subtle integration of layers. The process needed a decent film to kick it off and got it – Avatar – but then every producer in town jumped on the bandwagon and digitised films that had been shot in 2D in order to ride the wave.
Result? Devaluation of the product, with 3D alone no longer guaranteeing box office. Kung Fu Panda 2 and Pirates 4 have both disappointed, generating less than 50 percent of their overall revenue from the 3D versions. A year ago, 3D films were taking in 60 percent or more from the 3D editions. If the results don’t improve for Tintin and Transformers 3, studios will limit 3D films to animated children’s films or get out of 3D entirely by 2012.
But 3D will be back one day, without glasses – if someone can find a way to generate that much light and energy without destroying the planet.