The “Resident Evil” franchise didn’t start out in 3D, but as the stereoscopic format caught on as a box-office driver, the filmmakers behind the franchise decided it was time to go deep.
Cinematographer Glen MacPherson shot three titles in the series. “Afterlife” and “Retribution” were both shot in native 3D, and “The Final Chapter” was post-converted to stereoscopic. The addition of 3D added around $3.5 million to the budget for each film, with native and conversion coming in around the same. (A small price considering the 3D films have drawn the biggest global b.o.)
To prepare, director Paul W. S. Anderson watched a slew of 3D titles to get a sense of the format’s creative possibilities. Some directors regard 3D as a nuisance imposed by the studio, and delegate it entirely to a 3D crew. “But Paul is not that guy,” says MacPherson. He and Anderson looked for bits that would let them provide the off-the-screen 3D moments — Anderson calls it “pokey-pokey” 3D — that genre audiences expect. Special attention went to moments when Alice draws her guns from the holsters on her back and points them at the camera.
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“We actually worked in testing, to determine the best lenses and distance and everything to make them iconic 3D moments,” MacPherson says. Blood splatters and gunshots definitely got “pokey.”
The shift to 3D dictated some changes in the style of “Resident Evil” action. The films are all essentially chase films, he says, with heroine Alice on the run nearly from beginning to end. Much of it had been shot with shaky hand-held cameras, which aren’t suitable for 3D. Instead the 3D “Resident Evil” films stressed very clear images with a lot of slow-motion. “So you’d sit there and watch a move in the middle of a fight in perfect clarity and go ‘Wow, that’s cool.’ ”
Case in point: The “Axeman” shower fight sequence in “Afterlife,” which is one of MacPherson’s favorites. The vicious giant Axeman attacks, severing pipes and sending geysers into the air and droplets flying everywhere in slow-motion. “It was tough having to waterproof the 3D rigs, but that water looks really great in 3D.”