Saturday, January 31, 2009

Super Bowl in 3D? Or is it IIID?

I recently attended a 3D screening of director Henry Selick's "Coraline," which opens Friday. Critics were given plastic glasses, which can present a challenge for those of us who wear regular glasses. I tried watching with the 3D glasses only, but it didn't work. I went glasses-over-glasses and was relieved to discover that I could watch with relative ease.

As it turns out, Selick, who also directed "James and the Giant Peach" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas, emphasizes depth over gimmicky effects in which stuff appears to fly off the screen. "Coraline," based on a book by Neil Gaiman, will be shown with and without 3D, depending on what theater you attend. You can prepare by reading an article in the New York Times in which Selick discusses 3D and stop-action animation, the technique he employs.

But if you're a fan of 3D, you needn't wait until next Friday to get your fix. The Super Bowl will feature a couple of 3D commercials -- or in keeping with Super Bowl's devotion to Roman numerals, perhaps we should call it "IIID." The package is scheduled to show after the second quarter and before the half-time show, which features Bruce Springsteen and the fabled E Street Band. DreamWorks is using the spot to hype its upcoming animated feature, "Monsters vs. Aliens." There'll also be a SoBe Lifewater commercial in 3D, a one-minute affair featuring the SoBe lizards.

Glasses, I'm told, are available at supermarkets and other retail outlets, but this is the kind of 3D that delivers a normal picture if you're already couch-bound and have no intention of leaving the house.

I'm hoping that I'm still interested enough in the game by halftime to use the glasses. Who wants to watch another Super Bowl blowout? I am not particularly psyched about the game. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals don't provide me with a strong rooting interest. I'm one member of the rude and scoffing multitude who's only looking for an exciting game.

But, yes, I'm going to watch the 3D commercials, mostly because we're going to see more of 3D at the movies and even on television. The technorati will roll their eyes at my woeful ignorance, but I've read that a variety of high-end televisions soon will offer 3D potential and some already do.

DreamWorks uses a process called Tru3D. DreamWorks' Jeffrey Katzenberg, long a proponent of animated features, did some touring late last year to talk about the company's approach to 3D, and at least one writer in Boston was impressed. Also in December, Roger Ebert offered readers a lengthy transcript of Katzenberg's thoughts on 3D.

So is this go-round of 3D a fad or the tip of an iceberg that will become as familiar as the wide screen? That's an open question, but how a massive audience reacts to the 3D commercials tomorrow may provide us with a clue.

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