Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I Took My Eyes To San Francisco

Last month I spent some time in San Francisco attending a couple of 3-D events. First, the Noir City Film Festival, the annual fest dedicated to preserving and presenting classic film noir, screened a double-feature of
vintage 3-D motion pictures. Sony provided a newly restored digital print of the 1953 Columbia Pictures crime drama 'Man In The Dark' - the story of a mobster who develops amnesia and forgets both his identity, and where he hid the loot from a payroll heist, much to the chagrin of his gang. And 20th Century Fox provided a digital version of their 1953 classic 'Inferno' - a wealthy businessman is left to die in the desert by his wife and her lover, but the murder plan goes awry when he somwhow manages to survive. 

The restoration of 'Inferno' was the same one that the LA 3-D Club screened at the Downtown Independent last October, and the story of how it came to be is an interesting one. Apparently, several years ago 20th Century Fox had commissioned the late 3-D movie expert Dan Symmes to create an anaglyph version of 'Inferno' for a home video release. That DVD was ultimately cancelled, but Dan continued working on his own and completed the restoration anyway, creating a 3-D BluRay for his own personal viewing. Last February, at the Symmes estate sale, Ray Zone and I found this BluRay disc and saved it from the trash bin, along with many of Dan's other rare 3-D videos. When we discovered that we could license 'Inferno' to screen at the Downtown Independent through Criterion USA, we jumped at the opportunity. The distributor informed us that we would need to supply our own print, as they did not have one available, so I created a DCP (Digital Cinema Package, the digital equvalent of a film print) from the BluRay. The "Czar of Noir" and President of the Film Noir Foundation, Eddie Muller introduced the film at our screening and grew excited at the prospect of being able to show 'Inferno' at his annual film festival in San Francisco. He contacted the 20th Century Fox archive and let them know that he would like to show our DCP, and then put them in touch with me to work out the details. Fox asked to see the DCP, so that they could make sure it passed their quality control, and ultimately approved it to be screened at Noir City. I attended the show as their special guest, and the evening was dedicated to the memory of Ray Zone. The sold-out show drew an audience of over 800 people, most of whom had never seen 'Inferno' before, and the feedback I received after the show was unanimously positive, with quite a few "Best 3-D I've ever seen!" comments floating around. I'm really thrilled to have been able to help revive this 60-year-old 3-D film classic, and I'm pleased to learn that the Noir City Film Fest will be bringing it to their LA noir festival at the Aero Theater next month. 

Following the SF noir fest, I spent the next week attending the Stereoscopic Displays and Applications conference. SD&A is primarily a technical conference, with presentations covering the latest research in 3-D image creation and display. Highlights of the event included the demonstration session, where exhibitors showed prototypes of their displays and proof-of-concept examples of their research; the 3-D Theater presented two hours of clips from all kinds of 3-D content, ranging from independent experimental animation to Hollywood studio productions (I was asked to judge the film competition, see the results on page 3); Club member Terry Wilson presented a special exhibit of phantogram prints by various artists and photographers (thanks for including my work Terry!); and I was honored to be included in a panel discussion on the state of 3-D in movies and television. I shared the stage with Jenny Read, Vision Scientist, University of Newcastle (UK), Paul Judkins, Director of Technical Film Projects, IMAX Corp. (Canada), Phil McNally, Stereoscopic Supervisor, Dreamworks Animation (USA), and our moderator, Gregg Favalora of Optics for Hire. For more information about the Stereoscopic Displays and Applications conference, you can go to their website Stereoscopic.org