I had no intention of seeing Titanic in 3D. This wasn’t a “Hmmm, should I” type decision. At no point was the option of going to a theater and seeing this movie in faux-3D a valid option in my brain. It was up there with “run marathon,” “time travel,” and “read Twilight” on the list of things I know I will never do.
Well, last night I saw it — James Cameron’s retrofitted 3D masterpiece. And you know what, I expected to hate it. . . and didn’t. As someone who reviews 3D crap — sorry “stuff” — for a living, here’s my take.
I won’t bore you with the tedium of the frame-by-frame conversion from 2D-to-3D. The process is irrelevant, as far as I’m concerned. Once you’re in the theater, it’s the results that matter. So Cameron going on and on about how time consuming it is, and how careful they have to be, and yadda yadda yadda. . . Who cares? If it looks like crap, it doesn’t matter how long it took you.
Last night was one of the last nights Titanic 3D was showing at the nearby Arclight. I mention the theater chain by name, as they pride themselves on having the highest quality picture and sound. Then why, by Zeus’s ghost, would they ever go with active shutter 3D? The XpanD 3D method, while not requiring silver polarization-preserving screens, require the same heavy, obnoxious, brutally light-blocking, active-shutter 3D glasses found with the first generation 3D TVs. Horrible. I found myself constantly fidgeting with them, taking them off, rubbing my nose, and that’s after getting a second pair because the first pair — as has been the case every time I’ve gone — didn’t work. Oh boy, I thought, 195 minutes of uncomfortable dimness.
Incidentally, "Uncomfortable Dimness" would make a great name for a heavy metal band. Maybe not.
The 3D effect is generally mild, and varies significantly shot to shot. There was, however, a fairly steady increase in depth to the image. If I shut off the reviewer part of my brain, I eventually stopped noticing it as an “effect,” and just enjoyed the movie. That’s a step in the right direction. I can’t say it really added anything to the experience, but then, I feel that way about all 3D.
Certain shots, though, can’t make the 3D conversion. Over the shoulder shots, for example, don’t work in 3D. They just don’t look right.
Many shots, most often wide or medium shots with objects in the foreground, have blurrier backgrounds than I remember. As if, to accentuate the 3D effect (or to make it not nauseating), they’ve digitally reduced the apparent depth of field. It sort of works, but it leads to the other problem.
Some shots look like layers of objects moving in parallel across the screen. Ever been to a carnival? You know the shooting galleries where objects move along tracks and you shoot/throw things at them? That’s what some of the converted Titanic looks like; 2D objects, at different levels of “3D” depth. In all fairness, there were far fewer of these shots than in other conversions I’ve seen, but it still happened.
There were a few shots — very few — where the added depth was noticeable and a benefit. These were all towards the end of the film, with the ship's stern rising high in the air, as the camera looked down to the tiny people below. I’ll admit, 3D did add to this scene, but it’s not like these scenes lacked drama in 2D.
I noticed several instances of crosstalk, though without further examination I can’t be sure if any of these were the fault of the film itself. Most were definitely because of the glasses. This poses a major problem, as the size of the screen was what, indirectly, caused the crosstalk. As I stared at the center, certain objects near the edges, especially objects with a sharp contrast to what’s behind them, showed major and noticeable crosstalk.
All in all, I was impressed by how not bad it all was. My major complaint was the inconsistency, not the overall quality. I still think converting a movie from 2D to 3D is inane, but at least it doesn’t have to look like total crap.
Brent Butterworth and Geoff Morrison combine their years of gear testing and knowledge in one überblog of irreverence and techiness.
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