3D Cinema - Expand Addendum - Steve Friendship Blog

3D Cinema - Expand Addendum
Thu, Jan 3, 2013

Exhibition Technology – 3D XpanD Addendum


Following my previous blog about the Hobbit in HFR.  I have just seen Life of Pi in 3D via the XpanD system, I am not sure of the projection standard, though certain it falls short of 4K.


My points are about the technology and projection rather that the creative and artistic merits of the film. Though it has to be said that the film contains some mesmerising and beautiful cinematography, and some creative uses of the 3D technology, which enhance this vision.


The first images we see, as part of the titles sequence, the camera is static and we see a montage of different animals in the zoo. There is movement within the frame and it is quite easy to resolve the different 3D planes. I am glad to see that filmmakers are waking up to the reality that it takes some time to become accustomed to viewing in 3D – thanks Ang (Lee)!


The image throughout this screening was too dark. I mean it was really gloomy, and I don’t think that this had anything to do with grader pulling the mid-tones down. In some of the footage the brightest parts of the image were very nearly mid tones, with the whites looking as if they had been severely clipped. I realise the grading trend is for darker images in the cinema, but I think this has to be a projection and XpanD technology problem. It was too dark. This was particularly apparent during the sections where the adult Pi is conversation with the Writer.


Ang Lee’s direction is sympathetic to the use of 3D throughout, with long takes rather than quick cutting. There are a few sections of disorientating movement and quick cutting, though these are used for effect and contrast rather than being the norm. For the most part it is easy to read the film as 3D media, with shots and sequences set up to make the most of the technology. More than this there are some ecstatic moments of pure cinema. Typically the camera is still, which means as a viewer there is time to apprehend the depth of the image, and there is action in the foreground and background, though the movement within the frame is controlled. For example Mamaji swimming, Pi watching the sinking ship, and Pi on the lifeboat at night. In each of these examples the reduced movement of the camera allows us to see the moment and perceive the depth.


I watched the film on XpanD (big red glasses) and was happy to note that all the glasses had been well cleaned. I had a good look at the glasses, given my previous post, and whilst the glasses are big and chunky the area of glass is pitifully small. As the adverts and trailers were rolling I put the 3D glasses on and checked where the glasses frame was relative to the specs I habitually wear, and the edges of the screen. There is not much lens real estate!


I did get used to the 3D system, but it was never as effortless as the RealD system (see previous post), though by the hour mark I did develop a headache over my left eye. This disappeared about an hour after the film had ended.


My conclusion is that I will endeavour to avoid screenings using the XpanD system and opt for the RealD system wherever possible. For me, as a viewer, it is a more sympathetic system.





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