The future's 3D?

I've been reminded by the recent postings of those lucky enough to go to NAB this year (although really I can't complain too much, given that the volcanic activity of Iceland would mean that I'd currently be stranded in Vegas if I'd attended) that I never made my update on the Broadcast Video Expo 2010.

The theme of the show was undoubtedly 3D, with a lot of blu-ray worked in on the side (and often at the same time). I'm beginning to understand the appeal a bit more now that I've been able to view things such as football and rugby matches in 3D, and now that people are becoming more familiar with the techniques to correctly shoot for 3D.

I'm not bothered about the new technologies and terminologies so much. I generally enjoy the challenges and opportunities to see how new methodologies can be used in storytelling. It's the creative implications that this could have for editors, as well as the cast and crew of any given production, that concerns me.

Previously, a 'bad' shot (from the perspective of the DoP) could be used if the performance justified it, or if the other options were perhaps even less appealing. Consider the number of shots in features which may have an unintentional soft focus on an actor's mid-shot, or a boom pole in view. The sort of thing that the IMDb fanatics add to the goofs section on a film's page. During the editing process the DoP may have complained, and there would have been interaction on what they noticed about the shot versus what the audience would ever notice, and the shot would make it in or not based on a range of creative and perhaps technical considerations.

However, with the absolute need for cameras to be aligned correctly in order for the stereoscopic effect to correctly function minus the headaches which so often resulted in the 'early' days of polarised 3D (now termed "retinal rivalry"); a performance could be ideal, the most perfect emotional response for the scene, and it would be completely unusable. And not just within a single shot - the transition between shots also comes in to play. Whilst a certain workaround is referred to as making an "active depth cut" in which the transition is smoothened through slight animation, there's a limit to the damage control that can be done. And to what extent will scenes now have to be storyboarded/ pre-visualised? Will this necessarily be with or without the editor?

A lot of this could be vital to workflow - is a film cut in 2D (with the "left eye", traditionally) and then merely conformed in 3D, or should all work be done in 3D from the start, with takes selected on their ability to merge with each other and draw attention to the correct part of the screen? All of which will of course have to be done in full-res, with frequent viewings on large screens.

That said, the two full-length features I've seen in 3D so far have been amazing - although there is perhaps something to be said that they've both been animated films (Up and Coraline), for which the workflow is traditionally much more suited to planning cuts before the action is filmed. And of course both Avatar and Alice were heavily built by VFX crews.

Ultimately, the future may be 3D, but for now I remain skeptical on claims that it's going to be the revolution akin to the transition from silent films to "talkies" that its supporters claim.