Movies Tech

Testing the Artistic Value of Stereo Cinema

Predictably, Avatar has re-opened all the debates about the usefulness of stereo cinematography as a storytelling device. It is interesting to look at arguments against 3D and insert the words “sound” or “color” or “Cinemascope”” “digital sound” for “3D” to see if the arguments hold up. OK, now do the same with the words “Emergo” or “Cinerama” or “Percepto” or “Sensurround” or “interactive cinema.”  It’s a fine line between gimmick and game changer.

I still haven’t made up my own mind about the storytelling value of stereo cinema. I’ve heard several proponents of 3D say that at some point, a really great, respected director will make a small-scale dramatic film with A-list actors and everyone will see the potential of this technique.

For crying out loud, people! We have a freakin’ stereo Alfred Hitchcock thriller! Starring Grace Kelly, no less! What I want is for Warner Brothers to spring for the relatively small investment to convert Dial M for Murder for digital theatrical presentation. Hitchcock took up the challenge of using 3D as a storytelling tool at the height of his career (his next film was Rear Window for goodness sake!). Yes, the camera rigs used to shoot Dial M were primitive by today’s standards, but we have film negatives from two separate left and right eye cameras that could be scanned, cleaned and lovingly adjusted and optimized for stereo digital projection.

Just let us see it in stereo better than Hitchcock ever imagined! Let the stereo cinema nerds at ILM or Pixar or Weta have a crack at it, let them gingerly tweak each shot, correcting for camera alignment issues and tuning the convergence points.

Some of us see the irony that we’ve already been down the “3D will change cinema” road fifty years ago but why does everyone forget that we actually got beyond Bwana Devil and House of Wax the first time down that road. Like Avatar, Dial M for Murder works in 2D. Let’s see if it benefits from 3D and maybe learn something about stereo cinema’s potential in the process.

The bottom line is that right now, at the height of 3D movie mania, Warner Brothers is sitting on a 3D movie directed by freakin’ Alfred Hitchcock!

Update: Warner Brothers is releasing it as a 3D Blu Ray in October 2012. So that’s something…if you have a 3D Blu-Ray player…and a 3D monitor…

3 comments on “Testing the Artistic Value of Stereo Cinema

  1. I don't see how, with a kick-ass marketing campaign, a 3D Hitchcock wouldn't be an absolute slam dunk?

  2. Certainly. It was and with me. We can communicate on this theme.

  3. Robert Mrozowski

    Hollywood has always been very bad at preserving it’s own history.
    How much would it cost to make all the digital tweaks for a state of the art digital remaster of “Dial M For Murder”? Probably not very much.

    Anyone who has seen Anthony Dawson fall on his back into the camera and push the scissors all the way in, knows the visual impact. In 3D it’s devastating.

    I could go on about a theory that Hitchcock’s style of framing shots lends itself well to 3D.
    Case in point: Robert Walker’s hand reaching for the cigarette lighter down the storm drain in “Strangers On A Train”.

    I don’t think stereo film is a passing fad this time around but rather an step toward the more immersive experience that Doug Trumbull has long promoted. But this isn’t about a step toward that goal. It’s a glimpse at what a great director could do with the same basic technology that is so popular now.

    It’s something that film students should study to learn how to move the audience emotionally as opposed to just offering more eye candy.

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