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After a few false starts — anyone remember 1953’s House of Wax, starring Vincent Price? — 3D movies finally have moved to the head of the class. Seven of the top 10-grossing movies of all time originally were released in 3D, such as James Cameron’s chart-topping Avatar, or have since been converted, such as his 1997 Titanic. For the past three years, there has been at least one 3D movie nominated for the best picture Oscar; the most recent was Martin Scorsese’s Hugo.
The first wave of reporting about the current 3D revolution inevitably focused on the technological breakthroughs — such as the camera rigs pioneered by the Cameron | Pace Group — and the format’s economic impact. Even amid signs of 3D fatigue in North America, 3D movies in 2011 grossed $6.9 billion worldwide, an 18 percent gain from the previous year.
But now that it’s clear it isn’t a passing fad, Carolyn Giardina, The Hollywood Reporter‘s contributing editor (tech)/journalist and U.K.-based editor Adrian Pennington have turned their attention to a more profound question: How do the new 3D tools change the rules of visual storytelling? In their new book, Exploring 3D: The New Grammar of Stereoscopic Filmmaking, they have sought out filmmakers from Scorsese and Baz Luhrmann to Henry Selick and Wim Wenders — as well as leading cinematographers and visual effects artists — to learn how the evolving language of 3D is affecting live-action films, animation, documentaries and sports coverage.
In the book’s introduction, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg attests that 3D is “the most important development for the movie business in more than seven decades,” likening it to the arrival of synchronized sound in 1927 and three-strip Technicolor in 1935. “The impact of stereoscopic motion pictures won’t be fully felt for years to come,” he adds.
Scorsese, before his collaborators address the aesthetic choices that he made to take emotional advantage of 3D in Hugo, predicts, “We are headed toward a day when 3D will be accepted as a matter of fact, just as color design, sound or the absence of sound is, but it will take dialogue between filmmakers to push and change the perceptions of 3D and to give it a new language while technology will inevitably find a way to become less expensive.”
The book is so up to date that it even includes interviews with Luhrmann and his team behind The Great Gatsby, which Warner Bros. recently postponed until a summer 2013 release. Luhrmann, arguing 3D lends film the power of theater, says, “As I approached Gatsby, I had the idea already in my head that the big special-effect finale for us would not be what we might do that is visually rich in 3D, but what a one-of-a-kind ensemble of actors might do in a single room in the Plaza Hotel, tearing at each others’ hearts and feelings during a 10-page scene.”
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