When director Louis Leterrier shot the upcoming remake of Clash of the Titans, it was supposed to come out in 2-D, but the success of James Cameron's Avatar persuaded Warner Brothers to push its release and convert it into 3-D—a trend decried by none other than Cameron himself.
"It's typical of Hollywood getting it wrong," Cameron told MTV about the various studios' rush to convert existing 2-D projects into 3-D to capitalize on the additional money to be made. "If you want to make a movie in 3-D, make the movie in 3-D."
He's not alone: Others who previewed Clash's 3-D footage at ShoWest earlier this month criticized the quality of the conversion. Slashfilm's Peter Sciretta said, "At times the characters appeared to stand out like cardboard cutouts, while other times they appeared to be grafted to a computer-generated 3-D model."
Cameron's comments have some irony: He himself is planning to convert his 2-D Titanic into 3-D, and it's technology inspired by Avatar that has made it possible to convert such films as Clash of the Titans into the third dimension. Four months ago, it wouldn't have even been an option.
"It was two things," Leterrier said in a press conference last week in Beverly Hills, Calif. "It was the success of Avatar and the new technology called View-D developed by Prime Focus that just came to be. Actually, Avatar helped push it forward. It was the combination: the technology to convert 2-D into 3-D had just arrived, and then Avatar made it an obvious choice for us to do it now. We were all skeptical about it. None of us, the filmmakers, were like, 'OK, yeah, let's just do it. It's gonna be great.'"
Converting Disney's hit Alice in Wonderland into 3-D in a post-production process didn't hurt it at the box office. It's no accident that Alice producer Richard Zanuck also produced Clash of the Titans, but even he admits that converting Clash into 3-D was really an afterthought.
"We knew going in on Alice in Wonderland," Zanuck said. "Tim [Burton] knew and designed it [for 3-D]. It makes a difference, as Louis will tell you, when you know it's going to be exhibited in 3-D, the way you move the camera, the way you stage your people and have it move around. So if you know that going in, it's a great advantage. We didn't on Clash. That decision was made long after we'd finished shooting."
That said, Zanuck defended Clash's use of 3-D. "They're both very effective," he said. "Since we started working on Alice some two years ago or more, the technology of how to convert has improved tremendously. After Avatar, all these companies have sprung up, some of them better than others. It's a big business, and most theaters are now converting. It's costly, but they're doing it. Soon, practically every theater, I would think, will have 3-D equipment."
For his part, Leterrier says that he would have directed Clash of the Titans the same way had he been shooting in 3-D. Certain editing choices he made on the 2-D version determined the extent of the 3-D effect, but the Prime Focus technology allows him to adjust that.
"I've always been a frustrated 2-D director," Leterrier said. "I've always [said], 'Come on, guys. Get the technology right.' If I was shooting my next movie in 3-D, it wouldn't change my way of conceptualizing the scenes and shooting them. It would change my way of editing the scene, because it takes 22 frames for the eye to go from a close-up to a wide shot or even a medium shot. If you have those fast cutting scenes, those fights, for example, that's actually tough on the eye. We have a solution to this, which is using what we call the inter-ocular, which is meaning the depth so you can reduce the 3-D effect so it doesn't hurt you, and it doesn't give you that headache. So we can actually play with it and it's quite interactive. It will not change, I tell you, my directing, but it will change my editing, definitely."
Not every scene in Clash of the Titans is supposed to look like it's miles to the horizon or in your face, with stuff poking out of the screen. As Leterrier said, certain edits would be nauseating if the 3-D effect were too pronounced. Producer Basil Iwanyk added that certain camera moves required them to keep the 3-D subtle in the conversion.
"There are scenes that are mostly 2-D, because of the moving camera, like the scenes at the beginning of the movie on the boat," Iwanyk said. "You can't really do that 3-D, because the camera is moving, the boat is moving. It will really disturb and bother people. I can speak from the experience of my wife. We went to see Avatar, and she went bananas for it, but the first 10 minutes she was having trouble getting her sea legs back. I think that's going to be a challenge, not in terms of the technology, but maybe letting it roll out a little slowly at the beginning of the movie to let people adjust to the 3-D experience. It's definitely completely different, and some people may have trouble with it."
Clash of the Titans opens Friday in both 3-D and 2-D versions.
Which will you see?