Two directors offer opposing views on 3-D

So, what do the creative minds in Hollywood really think of 3-D technology? It depends upon whom you ask.

Director James Cameron, whose blockbuster “Avatar” set off the current 3-D frenzy, told TV producers last week to put aside their worries about higher production costs and embrace 3-D technology. He even extols the technology for home viewing.

They’d do well to listen, because “Avatar” and three other 3-D movies since then have accounted for more than a third (33 percent) of the total box office earnings, according to the International 3D Society. These movies will make it to the home at some point, but it’s clear that more content is needed to get those few early adopters of 3-D TV sets to boast to their friends, is how these things are sold.

“We’re going to have 3-D TVs all around us ... and we’re going to need thousands of hours of sports, comedy and music and all kinds of entertainment,” Cameron said at a technology forum in Seoul, South Korea.

However, Francis Ford Coppola, the Academy Award-winning director of “The Godfather” series and “Apocalypse Now,” took the opposite view, saying that 3-D does not enhance movies and cited the need to wear glasses as a major drawback.

While admitting digital technology is well-suited for 3-D image making and that the new technology has improved, Coppola said 3-D today is “no different from the 1950s” because of the need for glasses. “I feel that until you can watch 3-D without glasses, it’s the same thing we know,” he said. “I personally do not want to watch a movie with glasses; it’s tiresome.”

Of course, the promotion of 3-D is all about money. Manufacturers hope the technology will be as big a boost for the industry as the transition to color TV from black and white. Growth, however, is being restrained by high costs for content makers, leading to a critical lack of programming.

Even “Avatar,” the highest-grossing film of all time, taking in more than $2 billion, was also reportedly one of the most expensive movies to make, with a budget of at least $300 million due in part to its 3-D filming.

Cameron said it would prove cost-effective over the long run for TV producers to learn how to shoot in 3-D instead of trying to convert existing 2-D content to the format. “There’s not going to be the time or the money to convert that. It’s going to have to be shot live. We’re going to learn how to do live shooting. The cost will come down on live 3-D production,” Cameron said.

“You’ve got the channel; you’ve got the sets,” Cameron said. “The missing piece is content. You’ve got to get the content.”

Coppola called “Avatar” a “fantastic” film and even has experience in 3-D himself, having made "Captain Eo" in 3-D in 1986 starring Michael Jackson. But that doesn’t change his opinion. “I don’t see why a movie is better in 3-D,” he said. “I would rather make a movie in regular 2-D and move to larger format for some big scenes much like Abel Gance did with ‘Napoleon.’”

Gance’s 1927 silent masterpiece introduced a “polyvision” technique using three side-by-side projectors in certain dramatic scenes that created a triptych.

Coppola made his remarks to a handful of guests at his private winery in Rutherford, CA. The group had gathered as part of Coppola’s engagement with SIM2, a manufacturer of digital projection systems for home theaters.

Coppola believes one reason 3-D is being hyped is because it is so much easier to make a 3-D movie today in digital versus the 1950s when the technology was first introduced on photochemically processed film. He adds that the marketing being done by the Hollywood studios about 3-D movies is just a way “to make you pay more money for a ticket.”

TV manufacturers are pushing 3-D because they want consumers to buy new flat panels at higher prices, even though it “only costs them $75 more to make 3-D TV,” Coppola said.