Squashing Five Common Criticisms Of 3D With Lion King Stereographer Robert Neumann

Posted by October 7, 2011 Comment

Today’s the day that the smash-hit 3D version of The Lion King reaches UK cinemas, where I expect it will replicate its Stateside success with ease. It’s rather good, don’t you know – and, yes, I’d say that the 3D definitely adds something. But more on that later…

Because before we deal with the specifics of The Lion King, I want to tackle some of the typical brickbats hurled at 3D films.

There’s a number of complaints that one hears again and again and again, and while I’ve become quite tired of swatting these flies myself, I wanted to put them all to Robert Neumann, the Disney-based stereographer who gave Tangled, Beauty and the Beast and now The Lion King their depth.

So, one by one, here’s what Neumann had to say about this bunch of familiar criticisms:

“3D is just a gimmick”

It depends on how it’s used. What we like to do is to think of 3D as another storytelling tool. One of the first steps that we do is we take a look at the film and try to chart out the emotional content, scene by scene, and try to quantify that. We can then apply the 3D according to this depth script. When something is echoing what’s going on in the narrative, like this it becomes more about storytelling and not a gimmick.

“That didn’t need to be in 3D”

Does it need to be in colour? Does it need to have sound? if it’s done right, any film can be enhanced by it. You could take My Dinner With Andre and 3D could be applied to enhance the experience. If it’s not done well or done uncomfortably, or it’s not applied artistically, then it probably wouldn’t add anything to it.

At the end of the day, how I evaluate if 3D has been successful is if after seeing the film in 3D I go back and see the film in 2D, do I feel if something is missing. That’s how I know that I’ve plussed it.

“3D is just for certain kinds of films”

There is the argument that you could only do one film in 3D, there might be some that would benefit from it more than others.

Some content you get more of a result out of. Lion King happens to be one of the more cinematic of Disney animations, the aesthetic of it. The way it was put together has a very live-action dimension, but if you took other animation that’s more cartoony with staging all flat to camera, you could still plus it, but are you going to get more bang for your buck?

Maybe an action genre film might benefit more than My Dinner With Andre, but the bar to me is “Have I added something?” and almost anything – or anything, because I can’t think what the exception would be – would benefit.

“You can’t have fast editing in 3D”

There are some things that might benefit from having a longer, slower cutting pace, and this might be more stereo friendly. But if the stereo is done right, you can make it work at any cutting pace. It’s all about making sure you have your eye fixes from shot to shot hooking up just like you would in X-Y space, like with any eyeline – it’s just doing that in Z space too.

And maybe sometimes holding off on how much depth you’re using because with fast enough camera work you won’t be able to take in that amount of depth, you need to keep the depth to what a viewer will take in between the boundaries of the cut.

“I didn’t even notice it was in 3D”

There’s two reasons why that happens. One is that it’s just right, it’s natural, and you just enjoy the rest of the film. There’s the other thing, where people have gone too conservative with the amount of depth. That’s the type where you’re taking you glasses and lifting them up to verify that it’s still in 3D. There have been some films that have been so conservative in depth that you can lift up your glasses and see there’s nothing going on.

And this far, Robert and I were in agreement. Later, though, I’ll report on our disagreement, my doubts about some of his philosophy of 3D… and, of course, on his rebuttal to my challenges.

(Last Updated October 7, 2011 5:30 am )