Recently I got the chance to attend a special function with Jeffrey Katzenberg of Dreamworks about their upcoming movie “Monsters VS. Aliens”. Katzenberg also went into great details and fielded questions about the new 3D technology that Dreamworks will be making a key point of all future animated and eventually live action films.
The presentation opened with Jeff talking about how the new 3D is a new age in cinema. He equated it to the 1920s moving from silent to talking films and in the 30’s the transition from black and white to color and said it would not only be a better experience for the viewers but it would be the next revolution in film as “it is not your fathers 3D”
Katzenberg continued that the old 3D or Anaglyph used the old red and blue lenses and caused many viewers to complain of headaches and blurry images, and nausea. He then went on to say that he did not know of to many products that made their customers sick and still had success. Jeff then stated that the old 3D was a gimmick used to make bad movies look better than they were. With the advent of High Definition Flat Screen televisions, Blu Rays, and surround sound, home presentation has moved significantly forward while theaters have stayed the same, and this is an attempt to change that.
The new process produces a good image via comfy glasses with a polarized lenses and a digital projector that replaces the old format of side by side projectors which often lead to streaking and other issues. By going digital, the movie is flicker free and in synch and allows immersion so the audience can believe they are on the Titanic or swinging through New York with Spider-Man and thus can replicate the greatest of all senses, sight.
The legendary filmmaker D.W. Griffith was recognized as creating the Pan shot which in time gave audiences such memorable moments as moving from the stars to a space battle in “Star Wars” and that the D in 3D will now be looked at for the emotional dimensionality it will allow in films as well as greater storytelling and visuals. Katzenberg then confirmed that George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, James Cameron are all working with 3D.
The next segment dealt with how sound evolved from records to 8 Tracks to cassettes and eventually CD’s which could replicate a nearly flawless recording. Jeff said that the new 3D will be a leap ahead and will capture the essence of being there and that he loves going to the movies and goes on Friday and Saturday nights as movies are the #1 recreation value as in the tough economic times people still go to movies as the value is still better than most other forms of entertainment and commented that it costs more to go to a museum than it does a movie.
By partnering with Intel and H.P, Dreamworks has retooled their studio so that all future animated films will be done in the new Intro 3D which will allow them to approach a new way to do films as in the past, movies were made then converted from 2D to 3D whereas now, they will be crafted in 3D every step of the way.
At this point we donned our glasses and were treated to three scenes from the upcoming film after a brief introduction of the characters.
Seth Rogan voices the Blob
Will Arnett voices the Missing Link
Hugh Laurie voices Dr. Cockroach
Stephen Colbert voices the President
Kiefer Sutherland voices General W.R. Monger
And Resse Witherspoon voices Susan.
The film will also feature Rainn Wilson and Paul Rudd, voiced characters.
The first scene was an epic segment where the military surrounds an alien object as the President attempt to communicate with it. In a great parody of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Beverly Hills Cop” things go badly and a battle ensues. The FX were amazing as the debris and planes darting about gave the illusion of being there rather than watching a film projected out from the screen. There was a clear depth to what was on the screen and it was truly amazing.
After this segment, Jeff informed us that General W.R. Monger has been holding monsters in captivity and thanks to the desperation of the hour, believes that it is time to unleash them against the alien invaders. The segments that followed showed the planning stages and an introduction of the characters.
The final scene was a tour de force as Susan and the monsters battle the giant alien in an attack on the Golden Gate Bridge which beings in downtown San Francisco. The sense of scale and depth again stood out and was stunning to behold.
As the film portion finished, we were allowed to ask questions. I asked that since 3D is currently being embraced by the animated and horror films in development, how long it would be before other genres embraced the change.
Katzenberg said that it has begun as “Avatar” which will mark James Cameron’s return will use 3D as will future projects from the directors named earlier. He said that there is much debate in the industry regarding the use of the technology and that it is only to be used for event films, and started that Disney has over 17 3D films in development. Jeff than said he hoped that one day films such as “Juno” would be able to be enjoyed in this process.
Jeff continued that they currently have 2,500 screens in the U.S. ready to show the film in the new format when it arrives in March. They had hoped to have 4,000 but the economy changed that as it costs roughly 100K to upgrade a theater to the new format. When asked about the overseas markets he informed us that they are a year or two behind and currently have plans to get them up to speed. Katzenberg than said that when “Shrek Goes 4th” arrives in 2010 they plan to have 7,500 screens converted.
The next question asked about the home applications for this technology and Jeff stated that light is a real issues as are 50 inch screens as unless you sit close and in total darkness it will diminish the effect. He then said that in time this will come and gaming and sports will likely be the first applications of it in the home.
Jeffrey again called the old style 3D a gimmick and said that it breaks the bond of storytelling and does not allow the audience to be fully included in the film.
It was pointed out that the first scene we saw was completed over 6 months ago where the last one was done six weeks earlier and it was clear that the designers are taking even greater leaps as they learn more about the technology.
The film was said to have tested well with random groups who have been very excited over what they have seen and that over 30 million has been spent on the process.
As such, there will be an additional $5.00 cost to see the films in the new format, but audiences will be given the option to see the film in the traditional format for the usual price if they chose.
Jeff than said that Dreamworks is more focused on authoring tools for making new films while Disney has been working on repurposing old 2D films like “Toy Story” to the new 3D format.
It was also stated that the new format would help lessen the 6 Billion lost in piracy as filming with a recorder will be useless, and the glasses cannot be adapted over a recording device. In time, savings would happen as it costs almost $800 to make a print of a film but roughly $2.00 to make a digital disc.
Jeff left us with this interesting bit of news that they are so confident that this is the wave of the future that they are working with the words top manufacturer of glasses to develop designer sunglasses that also will function as 3D glasses and that in 10 years time the goal is to create the 3D effects without the need of glasses through a new process that currently is limited to small displays.
Not only did the footage look great, but getting to see the future of cinema made me wonder what they thought back in the day when the silent pictures became a thing of the past with the advent of sound in movies.