Sunday, April 4, 2010

Michael Bay on 3D Upconversion

I've made it clear in the past that I'm not the biggest fan of Michael Bay. His testosterone-fueled approach to film making encapsulates all of the irritating stereotypes about Americans: the overt racial and sexual insensitivity, the sheer superficiality, and the obsession with the military, to name but a few. His films are gloriously tepid affairs purporting to be epics due to the size of their pyrotechnic budgets. He seems to be doing nothing but perfecting his financially-guaranteed production formula, and each of his films comes at a steep cost to the collective intelligence. Bay's movies are the cinematic equivalent of McDonalds, and so as far as I'm concerned the dude can go drown in one of his many swimming pools filled with money.

For the sake of full disclosure I should note here that I fucking adore The Rock, and am thus a giant hypocrite. Moving right along...

Because Avatar made more money than AIG lost in 2008, 3D is now the next big thing for movies. At least as far as the suits are concerned it's a good way to make a lot of money, and so there are going to be a lot more 3D films in the future. In particular studios are pushing for their blockbuster tentpole releases to come out in 3D, and that includes the next iteration in the cultural vortex that is the Transformers franchiseA year ago Bay stated his suspicions about 3D being a fad, and his hesitancy to adopt it. At the time it was a reasonable stance to take given the unproven nature of the medium. On this side of Avatar, however, there is a little bit more pressure for him to utilize the technology for his next act of intellectual terrorism. He acknowledged this pressure a few months ago when he started doing tests to give the technology a shot.

A little over a week ago Bay clarified his stance on 3D, and specifically addressed the difference between shooting in 3D and converting 2D film to 3D. The former was on display in Avatar, the latter can be seen in piece of shit like Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland or the remake of Clash of the Titans. I'm including Bay's quote in full below, as I read it over at /Film:

“I shoot complicated stuff, I put real elements into action scenes and honestly, I am not sold right now on the conversion process. … I am trying to be sold, and some companies are still working on the shots I gave them. Right now, it looks like fake 3D, with layers that are very apparent. You go to the screening room, you are hoping to be thrilled, and you’re thinking, huh, this kind of sucks. People can say whatever they want about my movies, but they are technically precise, and if this isn’t going to be excellent, I don’t want to do it. And it is my choice. … I’m used to having the A-team working on my films, and I’m going to hand it over to the D-team, have it shipped to India and hope for the best? This conversion process is always going to be inferior to shooting in real 3D. Studios might be willing to sacrifice the look and use the gimmick to make $3 more a ticket, but I’m not.  Avatar took four years. You can’t just shit out a 3D movie. I’m saying, the jury is still out.”

Wow. In a stunning turn of events, Bay seems to have a completely reasonable and awesome perspective on the whole debacle. His movies are, yes, technically precise, and if he thinks the 3D cameras are too bulky for his style of shooting then fair enough. As with IMAX technology, 3D necessitates certain sacrifices and considerations; it is different from traditional 2D film and thus requires a different style in order to make it work. If Bay doesn't want to deal with all that then he is well within his rights, and frankly no big loss. It is incredibly refreshing, however, to hear his open dismissal of the 3D upconversion process. I am in complete agreement with his evaluation of that practice as a money-grabbing gimmick. Nothing that has been produced using the conversion process has been notably good, and much of it has been abhorrently bad, in particular the recent Alice in Wonderland. That movie featured sequences that were near unwatchable due to the crappy use of 3D technology, such as the rabbit hole scene which looked more like an extended motion blur than anything else.

It's not often that someone like Michael Bay comes out and says something so honest and awesome about the film industry. I just wanted to acknowledge this moment for the sake of posterity, and to highlight the fact that 3D upconversion is a shitty fad that we hopefully wont have to suffer through for very long.

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