Titanic 3D – Trailer & Pics

Something odd happened to me as I watched the trailer for Titanic‘s 3D re-release: I got a bit nostalgic for a James Cameron film. The sweeping camera, the intense emotion, the inevitable sinking feeling, and a time when seeing Kate Winslet naked was a treat rather than an inevitability, all rushed back to me, 12 years after I first saw the film. Have I got James Cameron wrong? Was I too harsh when I declared him a prick?


This is a 3D re-release after all, making it more expensive, more difficult to watch and therefore plain unnecessary. In essence, modern-day prickish James Cameron has taken the good work of pre-prick Cameron and retroactively pricked it up… if that makes sense. It’s as if he looked at his back catalogue, saw something of genuine quality and couldn’t help but ruin it. It’s enough to make me shake my fist in the air and shout out in a growl, “CAMERON!”, but I haven’t done that since the last general election (political!)

The trailer is below, and is a bizarre case of a 2D trailer for the re-release of an old film made into in 3D, therefore unable to showcase any of the new draw. There are also some fresh new stills, some including a pre-prick Cameron, which are also from a film over 10 years old. To repeat a joke, you can get 280,000+ more stills by buying Titanic on DVD.


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In summary: I do quite like Titanic, just not in 3D please.

A Science Lesson for Harvey Weinstein

We all know and accept that movie marketing is based around coining phrases, pretending all ideas are original, that the film is great and, of course, sending bloggers free stuff to review (our email address is in the column on the right). Even so, the latest marketing for Spy Kids: All the Time in the World has tipped me over the edge. They are presenting the film in “4D Aromascope”. So that means that the fourth dimension is… smell!

You don’t need a physics degree to know that smell is a sense and not a dimension. But seeing as I do have a physics degree (ahem) let’s see what the fourth dimension is with the help of Wikipedia.

As you can see from the diagram above the first three dimensions are essentially the three directions within which an object can move. On a flat 2D plane you can only move in two dimensions, moving out of the plane makes a third. In cinema everything is technically 2D but those silly glasses sometimes give the effect of the image coming out of the screen, hence 3D. Lovely. We may not be a fan of 3D but the name makes sense.

The fourth dimension is time. The only direction a 3D plane can move in is time itself, or I suppose in the case of a cinema you could have the screen moving around. So a 4D film is simply a 3D image progressing through time, or a regular 3D film playing. Project a 3D film onto the side of a van and drive around town and you will get a 5D film!*

What is definitely not a fourth dimension is a scratch and sniff card! The last time I scratched and sniffed I was at the panto and was scared of girls. How little has changed.

Harvey Weinstein, we await your humble apology.

*That stuff about 5D is in no way accurate.

More Proof 3D Sucks

It has been a while since we had a proper rant, James Cameron must have been keeping his head down, but the old 3D debate rages on and we have a new big hitter on our side. Walter Murch, film editor and sound designer extraordinaire, has written a letter to Roger Ebert, film critic… extraordinaire, to explain why 3D just doesn’t work.

It has a lot to do with the way our eyes focus and how a 3D film is all the same distance from our face, making our eyes focus at a different distance to which they converge… I’ll let Murch explain:

“Hello Roger,

I read your review of “Green Hornet” and though I haven’t seen the film, I agree with your comments about 3D.

The 3D image is dark, as you mentioned (about a camera stop darker) and small. Somehow the glasses “gather in” the image — even on a huge Imax screen — and make it seem half the scope of the same image when looked at without the glasses.

I edited one 3D film back in the 1980’s — “Captain Eo” — and also noticed that horizontal movement will strobe much sooner in 3D than it does in 2D. This was true then, and it is still true now. It has something to do with the amount of brain power dedicated to studying the edges of things. The more conscious we are of edges, the earlier strobing kicks in.

The biggest problem with 3D, though, is the “convergence/focus” issue. A couple of the other issues — darkness and “smallness” — are at least theoretically solvable. But the deeper problem is that the audience must focus their eyes at the plane of the screen — say it is 80 feet away. This is constant no matter what.

But their eyes must converge at perhaps 10 feet away, then 60 feet, then 120 feet, and so on, depending on what the illusion is. So 3D films require us to focus at one distance and converge at another. And 600 million years of evolution has never presented this problem before. All living things with eyes have always focussed and converged at the same point.

If we look at the salt shaker on the table, close to us, we focus at six feet and our eyeballs converge (tilt in) at six feet. Imagine the base of a triangle between your eyes and the apex of the triangle resting on the thing you are looking at. But then look out the window and you focus at sixty feet and converge also at sixty feet. That imaginary triangle has now “opened up” so that your lines of sight are almost — almost — parallel to each other.

We can do this. 3D films would not work if we couldn’t. But it is like tapping your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time, difficult. So the “CPU” of our perceptual brain has to work extra hard, which is why after 20 minutes or so many people get headaches. They are doing something that 600 million years of evolution never prepared them for. This is a deep problem, which no amount of technical tweaking can fix. Nothing will fix it short of producing true “holographic” images.

Consequently, the editing of 3D films cannot be as rapid as for 2D films, because of this shifting of convergence: it takes a number of milliseconds for the brain/eye to “get” what the space of each shot is and adjust.

And lastly, the question of immersion. 3D films remind the audience that they are in a certain “perspective” relationship to the image. It is almost a Brechtian trick. Whereas if the film story has really gripped an audience they are “in” the picture in a kind of dreamlike “spaceless” space. So a good story will give you more dimensionality than you can ever cope with.

So: dark, small, stroby, headache inducing, alienating. And expensive. The question is: how long will it take people to realize and get fed up?

All best wishes,

Walter Murch”

Star Wars in 3D

Sigh. The inevitable has happened and Star Wars will be completely re-released in cinemas in 3D. George Lucas the original tinkerer strikes again.

Phantom Menace will be released in 2012. In 3D. Yep, that’ll help. Simon pegg has summed up my feelings well:

On a different note, it’s odd to think that eleven years ago I could be easily convinced that Keira Knightly was Natalie Portman.

Christopher Nolan is Wise

Ignoring for a moment Memento, The Dark Knight and Inception, (and the rather unflattering photo just above) Christopher Nolan is still a wonderful man. Why? Because he’s “not a huge fan of 3D.”

I will now let Nolan explain as i copy directly from the LA Times: “The truth is, I think it’s a misnomer to call it 3-D versus 2-D. The whole point of cinematic imagery is it’s three-dimensional. … You know, 95% of our depth cues come from occlusion, resolution, color and so forth, so the idea of calling a 2-D movie a ‘2-D movie’ is a little misleading.”

Nolan goes on to explain that 3D films are less bright and that 2D films are by no means “flat”. I agree wholeheartedly and can’t think of any of my favourite films that I find lack depth in any of their frames. And as far as Nolan’s work goes Inception looks to have plenty of amazing imagery that looks amazing in 2D even on my laptop screen.