I admire 3D technology. I think it can add so much to a film, and I don’t see why it can’t grow into a standard. Seeing true depth is pretty incredible. However, many films implement it so poorly that it seems irrelevant. Most of the time, this is directly related to 3D conversion in post. Creating two different images from one image is very difficult to do, and it is even more difficult to match actual 3D cameras with that process. The reason Avatar was so engaging was the subtle way it used 3D cameras to literally draw you into the world.
While looking through my RSS feeds I found this article by Kareem Tabsch from the Miami NewTimes Cultist blog, suggesting 3D has a grim future ahead of it. He notes audiences prefer to save money and see the 2D sessions of films, and I feel the same way, as do many people I know. So often, 3D conversion in post just doesn’t add that much to the movie. Tabsch does mention Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Wim Wenders’ Pina as examples of excellent use of 3D in independent films, and praises Avatar as well. Unfortunately, these are the minority when it comes to 3D films. Most are produced purely to satisfy the market, and that corporate angle is what is causing the recent decline of 3D’s popularity.
The other point Tabsch makes is the redistribution of old films in 3D, using Disney as a recent example with some of their most successful productions such as The Lion King and Finding Nemo appearing in cinemas in 3D. The cost of the conversion is trivial in comparison to the revenue these redistributions generate. In the end, it comes down to money.
The plain truth about 3-D is this: It is mostly used to make up where a film’s story falls short.
— Kareem Tabsch
It’s a shame there is so little innovation or even competency when it comes to 3D production, but I don’t think 3D will ever go away completely. At the same time, I think filmmakers will become more accustomed to working with the technology, and we might start to see the quality of these experiences as worth the extra expense. However, for the time being, what with the darker image and eye strain experienced by some, 2D is still the preferred way to go, and will remain so for the foreseeable future.