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Natural 3D

What do nature films have to do with the future of 3D?

Natural 3D

Aug 24, 2011 5:17 PM,
by Cynthia Wisehart

I worked on my first 3D movie in the late ‘80s, and 3D movies—both film and digital ones—have helped pay the bills in my household for nearly 25 years. I’ve seen 3D movies all over the world including some truly incredible works of imagination and even—dare I say—art And of course I have seen technical feats of projection—3D on domes, on the floor, on enormous walls, in wraparound tubes, on windows, from moving vehicles, and around the pool at a birthday party.

Three of my most memorable movie experiences were 3D: At its best immersive 3D sticks in your memory probably for life. But—as my three teenage nephews emphatically tell me in a united and very loud voice—sometimes it’s just annoying, and expensive for no reason. Those same nephews found the planetarium show at the Griffith Observatory “amazing,” but they insisted I buy tickets to Captain America: The First Avenger in 2D because the 3D “just looks a bunch of cardboard cut outs lined up behind each other.”

All this is a roundabout way of explaining why the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival will continue its 3D leadership at their festival in October. Nature cinematographers understand amazement and the experience of being transported. I remember 10 years ago attending their technical symposium when filmmaker James Cameron and his partner Vince Pace were showing off their 3D rig (two Sony HD cameras duct-taped together), and we watched 10 minutes of eye-popping dailies in a mocked up theater. As it turns out, nature cinematographers are early adopters. While they may not seem “techy,” as storytellers they gravitate toward immersion and experience because they understand it on a gut level.

Meanwhile, the people who buy and program nature films understand it on an economic level. As festival director Lisa Samford points out, immersive and 3D are among the brighter spots of opportunity, especially for museums and visitors’ centers competing in a crowded media landscape. There are still domes going up worldwide.

At this year’s festival in Jackson Hole, UK-based Global Immersion will build an 80-seat 40ft. diameter dome theater on site at the festival; the regular screening room will have a Barco 3D projector and a Sony 4K for showing 3D and 2D programming respectively. Among the festival’s prestigious awards, categories include one for immersive 3D and one for immersive full-dome programming. The festival will continue its tradition of 3D and immersive workshops, pushing filmmakers to consider a variety of 3D experiences—not just theater but walkthroughs and other uses of the technology outside the proscenium paradigm. This is important to us because where content goes, systems follow and likewise, without a compelling use, technology fades. So wish them well in Jackson Hole.

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