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Ang Lee Wants to Go from 3D Novice to ‘Trailblazer’

 By Robert Mitchell

LONDON The film and television industries need to learn a new language to fully release the potential of 3D technology and engage with the audience. This was a key argument expounded by Ang Lee, David Attenborough and many others at the first international 3D Creative Summit held here March 27-28.

“I’m still a novice at 3D,” said Lee, who won the Academy Award last month for directing “Life of Pi,” his 3D debut. “It’s not the depth you see in real life, it’s not flat either, it’s its own thing. As equipment gets better and faster we’re going to learn more.”

The helmer spoke to a packed house at the BFI Southbank Wednesday via live link-up from Fox News’ studio in New York. His session, and Attenborough’s the next day, were the centerpieces of the event’s

26 presentations, Q&As and panel discussions that included speakers from DreamWorks Animation, Park Road Post, Disney Animation Studios, BBC, Sky, Dolby, Odeon, 20th Century Fox, Aardman Animation and more.

Lee admitted animation is far ahead of live action and argued that technology needs to be used more for types of film: “The thing that irritates me is when people associate 3D with action movies and big budget movies. We need to change that. 3D should be used in drama, as it gives you volume, it gives you so much realism. In 3D you’re there, you’re experiencing it.”

Many speakers over the two-day event said Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” and Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” inspire industry hopes, as do past titles such as Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo,” Werner Herzog’s docu “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” and, the most often mentioned title, “Life of Pi.” However, it was noted in one panel that it would be more exciting to see those helmers’ second venture into 3D.

Lee may be the one to deliver that. Asked about future 3D projects he vowed to explore the technology if right for the story. “I want to be one of the trailblazers in discovering that language. 3D is very exciting. We’re students. Let’s be brave, make mistakes and learn.”

“I think it’s very important people can get out there, shoot on the fly and experiment. Give yourself room to fail,” agreed 3D helmer Julian Napier, whose work includes event cinema productions of Royal Opera House productions.

Vision3’s Chris Parks, who served as lead stereographer on Bryan Singer’s “Jack the Giant Slayer,” believes more people are already taking risks. “We’re past that point of people always looking for conservative things,” said Parks. “It is a matter of trying things and seeing how 3D can be used. We’re at such an infant stage.”

Attenborough has now worked on four 3D productions with Anthony Geffen’s Atlantic Prods. for broadcaster Sky and has a fifth, “Micro Monsters,” due for broadcast later this year. Attenborough took to the stage Thursday in London alongside Geffen.

“The essence of 3D is wonderful imagery. If you lower the quality you’re defeating the point of the enterprise,” said Attenborough, arguing 3DTV is akin to the advent of color television, something he helped usher into the U.K. as controller of BBC Two in the 1960s and early 1970s. “If you make a film that’s boring in 2D it will be boring in 3D. You can compare it to the arrival of color. The temptation was to put people in very colorful outfits. The best color programs were where you got more information from them being in color.”

The world-renowned broadcaster also admitted he is always learning from the technology and that the filmmakers discovered a lot working on the 2012 skein “Kingdom of Plants” to be applied on later projects. “We were able to use all the things we’d learned about macro 3D, time lapse, etc. All the techniques we’d developed we were able to deploy in ‘Galapagos.’ “

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