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Pros warn that bad 3D could cause audience fall-off

Paying attention to light levels can maintain movie magic

A group of industry experts put the blame for most bad 3D theatrical experiences on outdated exhibition standards and the pressure on exhibitors to control their costs at today’s 3D Entertainment Summit at Hollywood and Highland.

During the Exhibition Technology for 3D Motion Pictures panel hosted by Variety’s 3D maven David Cohen, several speakers emphasized the importance of showing 3D with the proper amount of light. They also discussed that not doing so put exhibition at risk.

Steve Barnett, veep of post production for 20th Century Fox feature films, said not paying attention to light levels risks “People voting with their feet. We see it in the box office when the 3D doesn’t look like it’s supposed to look.”

Audiences and filmmakers have long complained that 3D films are often too dark when not shown as intended. Skip Kimball, senior digital intermediate colorist for Technicolor had other concerns.

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“You get the depth (of an image) back when you show it with enough light,” explained Kimball. “3D can look flat when there’s not enough light.”

Though the light issue confounds exhibition, movie theaters face a rapid upgrade cycle as 3D technology advances each year. Theater chains are then faced with the choice of what to upgrade, when it upgrade it and how often to upgrade it in order to stay competitive.

“One of the problems with the lamps used today is the brightness falls off pretty fast,” said Bill Beck, founder of Laser Light Engines. “The advantage with a laser is that those problems don’t exist because it’s a combination of more light in the same projector over time and so you keep the cost down.”

Panelists also agreed that the costs facing exhibitors are substantial and that moviegoers might be reluctant to spend the money on 3D films in this economy. They also agreed that when moviegoers have a bad experience with 3D it also makes them less likely to spend on it in the future.

“The light level is what allows the directors and the cinematographers to paint with emotion,” said Barnett. “When that’s not there you lose part of the experience.”

The two-day 3D Entertainment Summit is presented by Unicomm and the Bob Dowling Group in association with Variety.

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