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Damien Andre

Walter Murch on 3d

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http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2011/01/post_4.html

 

 

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 focused and converged at the same point.

 

...

 

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.

 

...

 

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

 

so what does everybody think? i almost completely disagree. he rightly points out issues and limitations with 3d, but i see these as things that need to be taken into consideration instead of deep problems that make it useless.

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They're deep problems, but they don't make it useless. They do make it inadequate for widespread use, much like the early two color systems. It's still a dandy gimmick for making monsters jump out at the audience. But you wouldn't want to have something like "The King's Speech" in today's inadequate 3D.

 

 

 

 

 

-- J.S.

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They're deep problems, but they don't make it useless. They do make it inadequate for widespread use, much like the early two color systems. It's still a dandy gimmick for making monsters jump out at the audience. But you wouldn't want to have something like "The King's Speech" in today's inadequate 3D.

 

 

 

 

 

-- J.S.

I agree, but Cameron and Scorsese seemed to think it would suit anything.

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I agree, but Cameron and Scorsese seemed to think it would suit anything.

 

Then, clearly, they are wrong :)

 

Its pants and the sooner it fades away the better IMHO, or keep it in a funfair sideshow booth where it belongs next to the Hall of Mirrors. And take all the noisy, smelly food that only seems to exist in the cinema seat directly behind mine too please.

 

That feels better..... B)

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They're deep problems, but they don't make it useless. They do make it inadequate for widespread use, much like the early two color systems. It's still a dandy gimmick for making monsters jump out at the audience. But you wouldn't want to have something like "The King's Speech" in today's inadequate 3D.

 

 

 

 

 

-- J.S.

of course its not suited for every movie, thats a moot point. is anamorphic suited for every movie? s16? imax? just because it isnt suited for every film doesnt mean it shouldnt be used ever. it can be used for more than just having stuff pop out at you. tron legacy is a perfect example of well done 3d, which takes these issues into consideration when shooting and editing and enhances the overall effect.

Edited by Damien Andre

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of course its not suited for every movie, ....

 

So it's not like color and sound, which are suited for very nearly every movie today. Anamorphic or S-16 wouldn't hurt a movie that would be better off in a different format as much as 3D would hurt the vast majority of films. Bottom line, it's still just a gimmick, appropriate for only a tiny fraction of our work.

 

 

 

 

-- J.S.

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The disparity between convergence and focus distance was one of my first objections to 3D and it cannot be solved with anything even vaguely similar to current technology. I think a sensitivity to this problem is why a certain percentage (once given to me as 15%, but it certainly includes me) cannot tolerate the current 3D techniques for more than a very few minutes.

There are other problems which are unsolvable in that they can be avoided technically, but they won't be avoided practically. What I'm talking about is the degree of stereoscopy that's imposed on scenes, and be aware - it is imposed. Human visual stereoscopy doesn't really work beyond about 30 feet. And almost all cinema screens are more than 30 feet away from the observer, so pretty much every single shot that's ever been composed in 3D has been intrinsically wrong. You can avoid this by only using stereoscopic separation at all when the virtual subject position is supposed to be less than thirty feet away. That does include an awful lot of shots in modern, closeup-obsessed cinema, although that then creates a serious problem with how far away you want the thirty-foot-tall projection of someone's face to appear to be, and even then you're required to overlook the focus/convergence disparity.

I tend to agree that, because of all this, it is impossible for current stereoscopic techniques to ever be technically "correct". It'll always be wrong, it'll always be a cheat and a fudge. It might work, in an amusement-park-ride sort of way, to create a thrill in the audience for a short period of time, and nausea thereafter. At NAB we see peppy little tits who're getting fat off this concept take the stage and tell us that everything they said last year was wrong and that all of the problems are now solved. They've been making that claim every year for about the past five or six. It still isn't fixed. It never will be, using anything like current techniques. It'll never be strictly correct. It can't be.

P

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Human visual stereoscopy doesn't really work beyond about 30 feet.

 

I remember Rob Hummel did a presentation last year in which he put the limit at more like 15 feet.

 

 

 

 

-- J.S.

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Its pants and the sooner it fades away the better IMHO, or keep it in a funfair sideshow booth where it belongs next to the Hall of Mirrors.

 

Funny, apart from the quaint British vernacular, this sounds like a comment from critics at the beginnings of cinema itself.

 

I think Murch has correctly identified the weaknesses , not the fatal flaws of current 3D (stereo) systems. Most aspects of cinema have weaknesses: the skill that needs to be developed is to trade on the strengths and minimise the weaknesses. Stereo 3D does suffer from the focus/convergence mis-match, but less so at greater distances. It's true the 3D effect is weaker there, but it isn't non-existent. And the occasional burst through in front of the screen is then more effective: like any effect, it's best used sparingly.

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Even sound was seen (correctly) as a gimmick at first. Due to the technological limitations of the time, it limited camera movement and composition, and was used for the same silly equivalent of the "ping pong ball in the face" in 3D.

 

It eventually matured and evolved into something we can't do without. However, the past 3D fads that came in and faded out lead me to believe that 3D is never really going to become an expected norm. Then again, stereo SOUND caught on; I still can't really see what the big deal is with that though.

 

 

 

We have to give this current incarnation of 3D credit for hanging on far longer than it did in the '50s and '60s or the '80s (you can go back to the 1850s to see fads with stereo still photography coming and going, too). Its original beginnings were with IMAX and ride movies in the '90s, that got its current digital proponents interested in using it for dramatic films.

 

My objection to 3D is that it halves the spatial resolution on every standard theatrical film and digital projector currently used. In the '50s they at least got it right and had two strips of film. It'd be like introducing stereo sound on a record that spun at half speed, or on an MP3 with half the bit-rate :-/

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In that letter Walter Murch comes across as a grumbly old man who uses pseudo-scientific babble to attempt to elevate his own personal preference to the status of facts.

 

If some people like 3D films then let them watch them, no one's forcing him to.

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I agree, but Cameron and Scorsese seemed to think it would suit anything.

 

Maybe they don't think that but can see which way the winds blowing and want to try things out and get some experience so they can find a place on the other side, once cinema has become what it is becoming.

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My objection to 3D is that it halves the spatial resolution on every standard theatrical film and digital projector currently used. In the '50s they at least got it right and had two strips of film. It'd be like introducing stereo sound on a record that spun at half speed, or on an MP3 with half the bit-rate :-/

 

I don't think resolution is going to be the big issue in the future. You are right that this was a big issue in the old cinema, but I think it may become close to a non issue in the new cinema because effectively cinema has already lost that battle with the switch to 2k projection. I would also suggest that it isn't a battle it can win at this point so it will need something else.

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If some people like 3D films then let them watch them, no one's forcing him to.

 

However by watching those films the people who do like them are forcing him to watch 2k digital projections on equipment designed for 3d instead of on 35mm film projection like the old cinema.

 

Theres been a few articles about the death of 35mm film lately, but it's not 35mm film that is dead so much as cinema. Cinema is becoming someting else. Karl is right when he suggests 3d has been around a lot longer this time and will continue to do so.

 

However it's not 3d that is at the centre of the change, it is digital projection. It is 3d that has funded the switch to digital

 

It's funny how there are still all these strange questions about the resolution of 35mm film. Apart from the strange idea that film could be measured in pixels anyway, it's irrelevant because whatever the resolution that film might be, the resolution of cinema is only 2k for the most part, maxing out at 4k in a few special situations. Basically your 1080p camcorder is good enough in terms of pixel reolution.

 

When people make comparisons between the switch from silent cinema to sound, they are spot on but don't really realise what they are saying. It wasn't just like all the films suddenly had a soundtrack (they always did for the most part after all!) but that now they would be made differrently, edited differently, would work differently, be different kinds of films etc.

 

I think it is certain that this will now take place in the new digital cinema. 3d movies will just be one of the new types of cinema. Another will probably be live event cinema, there will be other niches too. Probably stuff that is less like the tv experience tho.

 

I think cinematography is one of the things that will change, or IS changing in fact. I see a lot about at the moment that makes me go "eh?" but I suspect it is the new cinematography in action! Cinematography itself, is changing to better match the new cinema.

 

love

 

Freya

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Does Ebert object to digital projectors too? I'd have to assume Walter Murch approves of them because he edits his films digitally and can avoid at least one generational loss of quality by having them projected digitally instead of burned back to film.

 

I went to see Immortals a few days ago at a local multiplex with some friends who wanted to see it. Saw the 2D version. I'm pretty sure the film was made using lots of digital tools but it must have been projected from film becasue the image had that jitter, especially noticeable on text, and the image was soft overall. Worst of both worlds.

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Maybe they don't think that but can see which way the winds blowing and want to try things out and get some experience so they can find a place on the other side, once cinema has become what it is becoming.

I think a well shot 3D picture can add a certain depth and immersion to anything, but there are factors at hand that change the way we photograph and especially the way to light. Creative tools like rack focus seem like less of a creative concern, as convergence and I/O become a priority. And I recall Scorsese saying something like why couldn't a film like Precious be in 3D. It could be, but it's hard enough to take that in 2D.

 

I can even take a comment like that and think Scorsese's a powerful filmmaker and probably has a strong influence on the format of choice, but my guess is that will probably do his next project on 35mm film. But if I am proven wrong and he were to continue the 3D trend after Hugo on a classical or gritty drama, then I will find that surprising. And I think James Cameron will continue to do epic sci-fis and not a small romantic film like he has said that he was interested in doing after Avatar. I believe work's already being done on Avatar 2.

 

I hope to be proven wrong and in a few year's time see a plethora of great small little drama films that are so immersive all thanks to 3D, but I don't think it's quite there yet and I don't think it currently suits everything. But it can be said at least the interest is and that alone will probably spark huge developments in making the technology better and better.

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Does Ebert object to digital projectors too? I'd have to assume Walter Murch approves of them because he edits his films digitally and can avoid at least one generational loss of quality by having them projected digitally instead of burned back to film.

 

 

Ebert is much more vocal about the current digital projection problems than Walter Murch.

I note you are in cardiff, so if you still have 35mm film setups there you might be lucky as they might install more advanced 4k projectors there by the time they end up switching over, however in the states the drive for 3d has meant that most theatres are now only 2k capable and that the projection setup is for 3d and that when you watch 2d films they are projected much dimmer, and thats the way it is now.

 

So basically 3d has led to a very poor viewing experience for 2d movie go-ers, and that will continue to be the case even if everyone loses interest in 3d down the line. Cinemas are now set up to be 3d.

 

This side of the atlantic we can only hope to be luckier somehow but we will have to wait and see.

 

As to Walter Murch having his films "burned back to film", just because he edits digitally doesn't mean that he has to use the edited digital footage, in fact I imagine he wouldn't usually! If it was short on film, and was having an optical finish (becoming rare these days) he could have the neg conformed to the EDL from the NLE. However even if he was working with digital footage he might be doing a low-res/pre grade offline and then doing a conform and doing selects before grading/ film out or making a digital dci print etc.

 

I think there is every chance that a good 35mm projection might look much better than a 2k digital projection on equipment optimised for 3d even after a DI but it can obviously depend.

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I can even take a comment like that and think Scorsese's a powerful filmmaker and probably has a strong influence on the format of choice, but my guess is that will probably do his next project on 35mm film. But if I am proven wrong and he were to continue the 3D trend after Hugo on a classical or gritty drama, then I will find that surprising. And I think James Cameron will continue to do epic sci-fis and not a small romantic film like he has said that he was interested in doing after Avatar. I believe work's already being done on Avatar 2.

 

Like I said, I think Mr Scorsese can see which way the wind is blowing and so has chosen to shoot 3d to get some experience in the format and maybe to have some fun too! It's his choice for sure!

 

Ultimately tho it's going to end up being about technology and economics. Yes there will have been some powerful people who took decisions that set us down the road we are on but we are now on that road. 3d films bring in a lot more money through higher ticket prices. Cinema going is actually falling at present but profits are increasing because of the premium being paid for 3d tickets. It's this basic idea of increased profitability which is driving things forward. A lot of the screens in the states are now 3d screens and while they can show 2d films on them, they are optimised for 3d, so there will be a push for 3d.

 

The other issue is that cinemas are now largely 2k, so that isn't going to be much different in quality to a blu-ray disc. As a result cinemas are going to have to work harder to create things that are special about the cinema experience.

 

It's going to be interesting to see how things pan out and what the future will be like.

I forsee big changes coming to the moving image world and that process is already underway.

 

love

 

Freya

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...

As to Walter Murch having his films "burned back to film", just because he edits digitally doesn't mean that he has to use the edited digital footage, in fact I imagine he wouldn't usually! If it was short on film, and was having an optical finish (becoming rare these days) he could have the neg conformed to the EDL from the NLE. However even if he was working with digital footage he might be doing a low-res/pre grade offline and then doing a conform and doing selects before grading/ film out or making a digital dci print etc.

 

I looked around to see what he actually does, and at least on Jarhead,

 

"Jarhead will be finished as a digital intermediate, handled by E-Film in Los Angeles. Cullen will generate negative cut lists using Cinema Tools and Filemaker that become the template for cutting and scanning the negative at a 2K resolution."

 

So he is using all digital footage to compile the final film, albeit at a higher resolution than what he was working with in the edit, and burning to film is an unnecessary, lossy, generation of copying.

Maybe there's some argument that going digital->film->projection results in a more pleasing image than going straight digital->projection.

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I'm sorry but this doesn't make sense. . . If you are seeing projected film, how else is he going to get it to your theatre but burn it back onto film?

 

 

The problem with resolution in the theatre has almost nothing to do with film, nor does film play any part (past the original camera negative) in getting a digital file onto a digital screen.

 

 

You're dealing with an inadequate 2K file used as a master for a film negative that then goes through 3 more generations. A 4K file would arguably render comparable quality as a traditionally finished cut negative film.

 

The reason why you go through 4 generations is historic and economic. The current film workflow was never really designed for a system that throws out almost half of the resolution for the master film element. It's designed for copying the original element, not a lossy facsimile. No one wants to spend money on 4K scans, in general. Also, no one wants to spend extra money doing film-outs to multiple internegative copies from which to strike release prints.

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I recently worked on a 3d feature and will be really slow to do so again. Total nightmare - the footage came back like it went through Dr Frankensteins lab. If I were to do a 3d film I would take the storyboards and previs the @#%$@ out of it before standing over the cameraman with a big stick. Convergence and interoccular distances as well as good planning before it goes to animation and comp are essential. Its nice to shoot footage to speculate but if ever there was a time to show restraint this is it.

Artistically I think people will get more out of 48fps than 3d. What I think is a shame is we're coming off a trend of quick cuts and handheld frantic footage - 3d works so much better if the audience has time to explore an environment with slow camera moves and long frame ranges so while I totally agree with the Kings Speech comment, a film with that pace would really make the technology sing. Unfortunately its is treated like a hoola hoop and will be lost in comic book remakes. Something like What Dreams may Come might have been good 3d

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I'm sorry but this doesn't make sense. . . If you are seeing projected film, how else is he going to get it to your theatre but burn it back onto film?

 

I must have explained badly or something. I was just pointing out that the footage that walter murch edits isn't neccesarily what gets copied to film. He could be using low res proxies or making an edl for the negative to be cut. My point was that the fact he is editing digitally makes no difference to the finish. You can edit the film digitally and go for an entirely optical finish on film, it's rare these days but do-able. You can also edit at standard def and then finish at 4k from the EDL.

 

I was just explaining that because you edit digitally doesn't mean you have to be working digitally.

 

It's a really moot point as preety much everything shot on film goes thru a DI now and will almost certaily be a 2k digital projection.

 

love

 

Freya

Edited by Freya Black

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