Give 'em the Old Razzle-Dazzle
The song from Chicago sums up the current hysterical hype now gushing forth about so-called "3-D" movies. It's just the latest in the long series of "revolutionary" movie formats, gimmicks and gizmos I've seen come and go just in my lifetime.
I was born in 1924. Since then I've witnessed the loud fanfare introductions of:
Color (Technicolor and then Eastmancolor)
Stereo projection (red-blue goggles): The first 3-D boom lasted only two years
Stereo sound (introduced as Disney's "Fantasound")
CinemaScope (the anamorphic format that launched the widescreen craze)
Todd AO (70mm film)
"Schultzorama": Lopping the top and bottom of a classic format film and producing fake widescreen
VistaVision: 8-perf horizontal film projection
Kino Automat (audience voting on the course of a movie)
Motion Capture ("MoCap")
"Live" movie events
The current "3-D" rage will confuse audiences as many older films are being re-jiggered into faux stereo, simply splitting the film frames into flat planes. I'm putting the currently reheated term "3-D" within quotation marks, as it is obviously a phony concoction. Photography with the illusion of depth was popularized more than 100 years ago with the Stereoptican viewer, a fixture in almost every cultured living room before there was anything else to look at in there. In the meantime, the term stereo has been co-opted by sound systems, so the movies have had to fall back on the term "3-D."
But walk up close to the screen of a theater showing one of these goggle movies, and what do you notice? That it's actually a flat movie screen! The only true 3-D is what you are seeing all around you "live," if you are lucky enough to have two good eyes. Everything you see is in three dimensions. You are looking at and able to touch solid objects. That is true 3-D, with no screen edges! Now step back into the theater, put on your stereo goggles and watch a stereoscopic movie from a proper viewing distance. Notice what the director and cameraman hope you will not notice: that it's only in the central area of the screen where there is a credible spatial effect. If you look at the edges of the screen, you will see sliced images poking out, unless the cameraman has been deft enough to avoid foreground images near the screen edges. So right away, there is the downside: disorienting moving images that can cause eyestrain and even vertigo. Where is the storytelling and cinematic advantage if the cameraman and director have to limit their camera framing to compensate for this unnatural gimmick? Now take off the goggles for a minute and notice how the screen is much brighter and clearer, even with an annoying double image.
So it was with every one of the hotly heralded "innovations" on my list above. The downside was never mentioned and rarely understood.