3D goes back to the B


Whenever it feels confused or threatened Hollywood reaches for 3D like a desperate salesman trying to half remember a ridiculous promise to close that crucial deal.

In the 1950s television looked like Death to the industry so the challenge was to find a way to pack more bums on those seats with something the little flickery bit of new furniture could not hope to compete with. 3D was a big part of it and was rolled out mainly in the context of horror, kids oriented cartoons and exploitation. It fizzled away as most big screen novelties do. From the same era though the technically simpler panoramic wonders of CinemaScope (which we would call widescreen) probably had a far greater impact. The long forgotten 70mm Super version of it remains spectacular to this day. I remember repeatedly seeing the 1992 Director’s Cut of Blade Runner in that format and its one of my best movie memories to this day.

In the 1970s and early 1980s home video looked to be the next big threat. 3D was disinterred again with versions of Jaws, Friday the 13th plus random porn etc before returning to another vision of past futures.

And now it is back again. This time, as always, is different as consumer electronics brands are on board as well. The trouble they have is the upgrade cycle – most people in the West that want HD have it and their sets are perfectly capable of most stuff that games consoles and the LaserDisc 2.0 that is BluRay can handle. Our Panasonic plasma will last rather a long time. So how to get upgrades going again? 3D! Put on some glasses or sit still in one place and get the great gilded experience.

Or not. Because by all accounts 3D in 2010 is not much better than in 1975. You need still those annoying glasses. Colour levels are cut by 30% and everything looks miniature as in the diaoramas of a second tier museum. I think this could be another false dawn for most concerned.

Mark Kermode and others have articulated many objections already. But the market is always a better judge than pundits and I think that 3D programming shows the direction it will go in. There are the handful of big budget vomingly awful CGI epics like the closet furry advocacy that is Avatar on one hand and kid oriented spectacle like the rather more wonderful Toy Story 3 on the other, and the good old straight out B and porn bringing up the rear.

The only place for B to be has long been where Hollywood cannot or will not go – and that is exploitation. Many people misunderstand this as involving nudity etc but it really is about exploiting a popular theme or genre. Pirhana 3D involves blood and Kelly Brook’s remarkable physique. Street Dance 3D is all about bad acting and the stage school amazement of elastic kids popping and spinning about. That is the main future of 3D. It is a shame that artist exploiters like William Castle are rather thinner on the ground these days than investors or there might be some coolness involved.

So not the total fools gold Kermode et al allege, but certainly little more than ephemeral electroplate and the consumer electronic giants need to look elsewhere for the next CD/DVD/HD payday. There is more to be made in cloud based delivery of HD content and maybe someday 2k or some other really appealing format rather than this goofy glasses based 50s novelty nonsense.


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