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‘Transformers’ to pump up 3D brightness

Par, Bay maximize luminosity in 2000 RealD theaters with enhanced digital prints

Complaints about dim 3D projection and worries about how to “save 3D” are finally prompting action — from one studio, anyway.

For “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” Paramount and Michael Bay have gone beyond simply asking exhibs to turn their lamps up to proper brightness. Par is taking the unprecedented step of releasing a special digital print aimed at delivering almost twice the brightness of standard 3D projection — even more than the dual-projector Imax Digital theaters.

By releasing the enhanced digital prints, which have been mastered and color graded for the extra brightness, Par is pushing the 3D envelope even further than James Cameron and Fox did on “Avatar.” “We want the best presentation possible,” helmer Bay said in an email to Variety. “We have created a special version with extra sharpening, color and contrast. It is a superior look in the format. The brighter the image, the brain processes in a different way (sic) and the result sharpens and makes it more vibrant.

“We did many studies on the formats for presentation and I found this to be the best result.”

The special brighter digital prints will go to about 2,000 theaters, all using the RealD 3D system. Remaining screens, including all RealD competitors, will run at standard brightness.

Rave Motion Pictures said it would play the enhanced 3D packages at seven auditoriums in Baldwin Hills. AMC Theaters confirmed that it will show the enhanced package but declined further comment.It’s unclear whether exhibs will advertise the special extra-bright 3D screens. Exhibs may want to avoid planting the notion that some 3D screens are better than others when there’s no price distinction between the screens.

No previous pic has been released with multiple 3D digital prints for different levels of brightness.

Standard brightness for a 2D digital cinema system is 14 foot-lamberts, measured off the screen. About 75%-90% of the light is lost in 3D, so the informal standard for 3D systems is 3.5 FL, measured through the glasses. That’s the light level for which 3D pics are color graded.

However, some theaters either dim their lamps to save money or don’t change them often and therefore show pictures below standard brightness. That gloom, which prompted grumbling from cinephiles for regular 2D, has generated significant pushback over 3D.

The special DCPs for “Transformers 3” have been graded for 6 FL, almost twice the brightness of the usual 3D standard. By comparison, the dual-projector Imax Digital system averages only 5.5 FL for 3D.

“We believe in delivering premium 3D, so we applaud Paramount Pictures and Michael Bay for their focus on quality and presenting the brightest, most immersive and ultra-realistic 3D entertainment experience possible,” said a rep for Real D. “RealD 3D projection technology delivers twice the light of other 3D systems, making it possible to present an optimized 3D presentation like this on screens of all sizes.”

No studio has sent out multiple DCPs for different 3D light levels for general release. According to Fox post VP Steve Barnett, Cameron wanted extra brightness and dynamic range for the “Avatar” premieres, so he did a special DCP graded and color corrected for 10 FL, but that required two projectors.

“Jim wanted it to be the best dream he could have for 3D color and projection,” Barnett said. “That shows the real stunning possibilities for what 3D can be. It’s why directors of photography would like a higher light level for 3D. That’s why we’re hoping that laser light engines will get that light level up for 3D.”

For press screenings, they also did a separate version graded for 7 FL. So few critics saw the same presentation as the public. For general release “Avatar” was graded only for the de facto standard of 3.5 FL.

Barnett expects the new laser light engines to get 3D light levels up to 7-10 FL.

Reaction to the news of the enhanced 3D package was swift and generally positive. Barnett called it “really great.” But visual effects veteran Stu Maschwitz voiced some skepticism via Twitter: “I’m sure theaters will not screw this up at all. Such great track records with this stuff.”

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