Saturday, October 1, 2011

Back to the Future

I’m writing this from the future. Really! I’m currently in Seoul, South Korea, where I am on the jury for the Seoul International Extreme Short Image and Film Festival’s 3-D category. The organizers of this festival, which celebrates all forms of short film, attended our 8th Annual LA 3-D Movie Festival back in May (where their submission “27 Years Later” was awarded the Jury Grand Prize), and very graciously invited me to attend their festival as their guest. So I am in the future - sixteen hours ahead of Los Angeles. Of course I’m not really able to see events that are yet to come; no winning lottery numbers or horses, and only my best guess as to where 3-D is headed.

At the end of last month, quite a few people were very interested in discussing the future of 3-D. The 3-D Entertainment Summit, held in Hollywood from September 20-22, was an opportunity for the stereoscopic motion picture and television industry to gather to discuss the state of 3-D cinema, television, mobile and internet. Conference highlights included a “state-of-the-industry” presentation that showed 3-D cinema continued to grow over the past year, with some 30,000 digital 3-D screens now installed in theaters worldwide; panel discussions on  3-D storytelling, distribution, and creating content for personal mobile devices, such as phones, tablets and handheld games; and a keynote presentation by James Cameron, still very bullish about the future of 3-D. Cameron voiced concern that the studios may scale back their 3-D production due to recent box-office disappointments, but felt confident that 3-D televison broadcasts would create a growth market for 3-D content creation. He also talked about lessons learned from the making of Avatar and the upcoming conversion of Titanic, admitting that if he were making Avatar today, he would be less conservative with the depth. Cameron said that the 3-D experience will continue to improve as artists take the reins of stereo from the technicians.

The 3-D Entertainment Summit also included a 3-D trade show, featuring booths and demonstrations from a wide range of companies, from production and post solutions, to electronics manufacturers, to companies that make designer 3-D polarized sunglasses. Thanks to the generosity of our friends at Strong/MDI Screen Systems, the LA 3-D Club was able to have a presence at the event. Benoit Maillout, of Strong/MDI, was unable to attend, and offered me the opportunity to operate his company’s table in his absence, and promote the club. There was quite a lot of interest from attendees, many of whom were learning of the club for the first time, and were enthusiastic to hear about our organization and how we bring together stereoscopic still photographers, filmmakers, and CGI artists; welcoming both amateurs and professionals to come together to share their knowledge and their images. SCSC member Shannon Benna joined me at the table to promote the launch of her new group, Stereo Sisters, a community for women working in 3-D.

So here I am, one week after the summit, sitting at a computer on the other side of the international date line, preparing to attend several screenings of international 3-D short films. And I can see that the current trend toward 3-D is truly a global occurrence. Many of those 30,000 3-D screens are in Asia and Europe, and independent artists from around the world are creating volumes of new stereoscopic content in a wide variety of media. I may not be able to see exactly what the future holds, but I hope it’s so bright, I gotta wear shades. Polarized 3-D shades, of course.