Filming the invisible world – 3D documentaries
We are at a very disturbing point in film production, where we assume the audience has no imagination and no intelligence. Stories are spoon fed and wrapped up with explosions and effects to sell the same tired old plot.
Such is the opinion of Douglas Trumball, who has spent his career in science fiction animation and visual effects. He spoke on Sunday afternoon at the RiAus about the problems with the film industry and how science can save it.
What’s really lacking is immersion, a story that draws people in and the technology to make it hyperreal.
The technology is certainly improving, there’s no doubt about that. Take the infamous Avatar, which I was completely entranced by. The 3D was so subtle and authentic I honestly felt like I was there, and clapped like an idiot when it finished (much to the chagrin of my friends.)
But apparently, that’s nothing compared to what’s coming. Douglas is experimenting with cameras that capture at 120 frames per second (rather than the 30 they do now), and a projector that displays it at the same rate. For the audience he says it’s like opening a window to a different world. It’s a whole different feeling.
He envisions a cinema with a screen that curves around beyond 120 degrees, so it extends past the corners of your eyes.
And what does he want to do with this set up? Explore space. Vast, infinite and complex, space lends itself to immersive film like nothing else. It quite simply matches big content with big delivery. It needs a story to go with it too, something that captures the imagination of the audience, where they can fill in the blanks and have their own “ah ha” moment of discovery.
Truth is stranger than fiction, and science has some pretty cool stories of its own. Tim Baier is a stereographer who worked on feature films like King Kong and Lord of the Rings, and spoke on the panel about his recent work making science documentaries. I watched a preview of his work “Standing in Amazement” on Sunday, and it was breathtaking.
In 3D, he captured still pictures and stop-motion of Arkaroola and the Flinders Ranges.
The sun rose on mountain tops encrusted with quartzite. Macroscopic photographs showed the indentations on a snakes head which sense heat, and the pads on gecko feet which let them hang upside down on glass.
It wasn’t just a film, it was a presentation. During the movie, Tim talked about the geology of the Ranges and how the mountains had formed.
He described the van der Waals forces that work on gecko feet. It was visually breathtaking AND intellectually stimulating. The full film lasts for 90 minutes, and is playing at the RiAus this week, Tuesday to Saturday. Session times here.
He thinks there is a lot of untapped potential in 3D science documentaries. I’d agree, particularly in talking about geology. I’m thinking right now about David Attenborough’s Cave episode on Planet Earth, and combining it with Sanctum 3D.
Sunday night I watched a doco with Sir Attenborough (he is EVERYWHERE!) and they showed a stadium-sized machine that could see inside fossilized embryos in 3D. Now that’s my kinda movie!
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