Ace cinematographer John Bailey’s newest posting on 3D, “3-D, 3-D, 3-D, in All Directions,” is essential reading for those interested in stereoscopic cinema. In it, he reports on “a 3-day 3-D workshop sponsored by IATSE Local 600 and longtime master 3-D guru Buzz Hays” as a jumping off point to discuss the problems and possibilities of the technique. Among other observations, he notes that,
One thing quickly became apparent to me. Working in stereo movies in a responsible way is not simply a point and shoot affair, even in the most simple of conditions. Oh sure, you can do that—but that kind of off-the-cuff approach is what partly undid 3-D moviemaking in the past. Such a slipshod effort is one of the principal sources of viewer eyestrain. There is a dictate that became a mantra doled out by the workshop instructors and taken to heart by we eager students—3-D in movies is NOT REAL. Like an Escher drawing, it is an illusion. Our actual eyes simply don’t function the way 3-D movie imagery does. In constructing the 3-D movie frame we professional cinematographers have to evaluate carefully all the visual elements contained within the shot, as well as their cumulative effect as the sequence develops, shot by shot. One of the gravest mistakes we can make is to create exaggerated depth cues. This makes for an unreal sense of space that conflicts with the ability to integrate more dominant monocular cues. The result is a confusing sense of scale.
Among other things he discusses the process he went through in ultimately deciding not to use 3D for a film he will soon be shooting in the Arctic. As usual with John’s writings, it is essential reading.