Why are filmmakers increasingly tempted to use 3D? And what do movie buffs feel about watching such films wearing those special glasses?

Only a spectacle demands spectacles. Love it or hate it, you can't escape it.

Like it or not, your favourite filmmakers are going to make you wear those funny glasses.

As technology evangelists continue to insist 3D is here to stay, filmmakers are often tempted to use it without quite knowing how to and consumers are getting increasingly frustrated with bad 3D content.

We decided to revisit the 3D debate from three perspectives — the technology providers, filmmakers and the movie buffs — to explore the reasons for the mixed reactions 3D evokes.

While the general perception is people are getting tired of 3D content, statistics reveal otherwise.

“When people have a choice to watch the same film in 2D and 3D, they have always opted to watch it in the 3D format,” says Preetha Ramaswamy of Sathyam Cinemas. “We recently had a Tamil 3D film called Ambuli that fared well. In fact, all our 3D releases, even the 2D to 3D converted Hindi films such as Ra.One and Don 2, have done really well.”

While the box office figures of The Amazing Spider-Man may not in any way reflect 3D patronage (since it has been criticised mostly for being an unwarranted early reboot of the franchise and NOT for its 3D), the fact that even Martin Scorsese, a long-time loyalist of good old-fashioned film, crossed over to the dark side of stereoscopic 3D with Hugo, has opened up more minds. More filmmakers are drawn towards converting their 2D footage into 3D because it offers a more immersive experience.

Sathyam Cinemas has Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter releasing in 3D this week.

Higher revenues

“The revenues of 3D films are 30-35 per cent higher than the same film in the 2D format. For a film like The Amazing Spider-Man, the revenue has been 40-50 per cent higher. Even in the smaller centres, where the film is dubbed in a different language, people are lining up to watch good 3D,” says Gautam Dutta, Chief Operating Officer of PVR Cinemas.

"With the advent of better technologies and better revenues for films that open on 3D, even Hindi films with big stars are set to ride the 3D wave," he adds.

“We don't have good 3D content,” laments Jijo Punnoose, director of India's first 3D film My Dear Kuttichathan (1984). “People are just jumping on the bandwagon and making bad 3D films that are a headache. The technology has not been used creatively, except for films such as Avatar and Hugo. Good 3D films are rare.”

The young generation of movie watchers is quick to note. As 17-year-old movie buff Nikhil Venkatesa says, “Directors primarily use post-conversion instead of envisioning the film in 3D. My friends and I make it a point to catch 3D films in 2D wherever possible.”

There's nothing more that seems to hurt the technology than bad 3D content.

Mihir Fadnavis, film critic and movie geek, says, “Asking me if I prefer 2D or 3D is like giving me a choice between a massage from a supermodel and a flogging by the whip from Passion of the Christ. 3D is no evolution, it's devolution of cinema. One has got to be a sadomasochist to pay extra premium money to watch a movie that has dim colours and unfocussed frames. I'd still prefer the grand, overwhelming imagery of IMAX any day.”

Such extreme reactions are a result of poor execution of 3D than the technology itself, says Jijo.

Preparation and planning

“Shooting in 3D involves a lot of preparation. Films are not shot professionally here. 3D requires intense planning and discussions with the stereographer but we have a culture of coming to the set and planning the shot here. Also, it is expensive to shoot in 3D and people like to cut corners. The budgets are not high and disproportionally large amounts are paid to actors than what is invested in technology,” explains Jijo.

Filmmaker Suparn Verma, currently making Aatma, a live action 2D horror film starring Bipasha Basu and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, says technology should be employed given the story. “Not every story needs to be told in 3D. What are you using 3D for? Though my producers were willing to back me if I wanted to shoot in 3D, the reason I chose not to shoot Aatma in 3D is because the story is about the emotions and not about the spectacle. I didn't want to create a distance between the film and the audience by making people wear glasses.”

Making the film in 3D would have resulted in a 40 per cent increase in production cost and double the time spent on post-production, he says.

Suparn is also working on an animated 3D horror film (currently untitled) which will be out in early 2013. “About 50 per cent is complete. The good thing about making animated 3D is that you can control the entire universe. You get a lot of freedom to play with the depth and the foreground. It's a lot of hard work for the animators because they are working with the foreground, the background and the subject. When you are shooting in 3D, there are many restrictions. And when you want to do a bit of both, using motion capture, the cost shoots up so much that you need a big actor like Rajnikant to justify the budget.”

As you read this, Rajnikant’s Kochadaiyaan, that employs motion capture technology, is being readied for a year-end release.

Game changer

In a market where piracy and torrents are rampant, 3D could actually change the game simply because it is difficult to sneak in a camera and record a 3D film being projected.

With hi-definition 3D camcorders being available for less than $1000, the cost of making 3D films will drastically come down in the near future. The need of the hour, however, is people who know to use it right.

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