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Friday, October 04, 2013

Over The Rainbow To Oz in 3D

The Journey To Oz Just Got Deeper

Some flying monkeys on a UPS truck brought The Wizard Of Oz in 3D Blu-Ray, and it was curious me that loaded up this first-ever classic retrofitted for depth projection. Does 3D Oz work, or is it sacrilege? I say Yes to One and No to Two. Seems to me if you can juice up an oldie to such striking degree as here, why not do so? It's not as though they're replacing the original with this. Oz is running on IMAX screens, I'm told. That's like projecting it upon a skyscraper. We're sure enough not in Kansas anymore. Mine eyes saw this 3D Wizard as very much a whiz of a wiz, with depth effects to make it look to have been shot that way. I was waiting for the House Of Wax paddle ball man to greet Judy at Oz gates. Search me how they did it. Must have cost like dickens. I checked B/W plus color scenes and both looked fine. This negative's in obviously good enough shape to stand the tampering. The twister gains force from several levels back: you actually feel the thing at a distance but moving near. I'm a purist on matters like the Shane ratio, and yes, The Wizard Of Oz gets a makeover here to top widescreen conversion for 1955's reissue, cuts by CBS to accommodate ever-more advertising, and electric eel color-enhance to early DVD's, but where's harm of a Yellow Brick Road we can follow into distance, so long as the standard version remains an option as well?

My prediction, and I'll bet it comes true in our lifetime: Oz will one day be a place we'll visit in terms of total immersion in the film. The setting will surround us and we'll walk among the characters. Home projection will encompass the whole of screening rooms and ones with resource to buy in will truly experience the drama being played. We look at three-dimensions now, but they're still on a flat screen. One day, that screen will swallow us whole and make a real journey of moviegoing, not unlike those World's Fair or Disney exhibits with picture encircling viewers. Difference is, we'll no longer be isolated from what's happening in the movie. Watching with an audience won't be necessary, or even desirable, because you will have left a spectator's seat to live the action as it unfolds. For all I know, technology has already come this far. Last night, I watched Judy open her door into Oz and wondered when I'd be able to enter the Technicolor dream with her. Shouldn't be long, what with anything digitally possible. Most of us have imagined what it would have been like to stand on the set of a film beloved. I now see that day coming. How will this change movies? Probably for the worse aesthetically, as ones designed for true viewer absorption will omit techniques that once simulated involvement, like close-ups. If movies have become more or less video games, how long can it be before we're "watching" from the inside? I fully expect to walk down Casablanca streets and linger among Xanadu treasures before I die.


Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson talks about the immersive experience of 3-D movies and elsewhere:

Question: Do the painted drops around Munchkinland and the cornfield still look like painted drops, or did they manage to put depth on those?

I can see where they could do it with scenes involving matte paintings and such -- Disney has a process they use on animation backgrounds created in 2D. But "Wizard of Oz" has moving boom shots that, if you take your eyes off the foreground action for a moment, tip that there's a painting -- a pretty darn huge painting -- encompassing the set.

I still like immersive environments with some actual presence, and evidently I'm not alone in this. With motion simulators almost a carnival standard, theme parks sell it hot (subliminal book plug) with brick and mortar prologues.

Disney's Star Tours walks you through a galactic airport, simulating the rituals of an actual flight. Elsewhere a 3D film plays in a recreation of the familiar Muppet Show theater, complete with a few robotic Muppets and in-theater effects to pitch the idea of a live performance .

At Disney's California Adventure, the biggest hit is, ironically, a concrete recreation of a town that previously existed only in the computer-animated "Cars". And the entire area is almost devoid of virtual effects.

Meanwhile, Universal prefaces the mostly virtual Harry Potter ride with a whole street, capped by a tour of familiar Hogwarts castle. The city of Springfield has likewise been simulated in front of a similar but simpler Simpsons ride, albeit more jokey than immersive. Both have been wildly successful.

Universal is now adding the Hogwarts Express, where you sit in a real train car -- actually moving between two neighboring Universal attractions -- and witness virtual landscapes zipping by flat screen windows. A spiritual descendent of the Runaway Train, by way of another silent entrepreneur who exhibited milder scenic films in a simulated passenger coach.

7:44 AM  
Blogger Jim Lane said...

I just had to satisfy my curiosity when the 3D Oz came to our local IMAX. What the hell, I figured, even if the 3D is a total washout, it's still The Wizard of Oz. Well sir, no washout here; the conversion was truly -- almost literally -- eye-popping. For me it was like seeing the movie all over again for the first time, and I just had to go back and see it again. When Disney's 3D conversion of Beauty and the Beast (a rather less successful job, I thought) came to town, I wrote in my review, "At this rate, can the 3D Gone With the Wind be far behind?" This job on Oz takes us a giant step down that particular Yellow Brick Road, if anybody wants to take the trouble.

5:42 AM  

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