This is not a review. If you want a review of this film then read Rotten Tomatoes. I think the whopping 17% is a good barometer for where this film stands. Just because its 3D is NO EXCUSE for bad story telling. If I was to hold it by its technical accomplishments I’d personally rate it much lower, and here is why…
I am going to show you some examples of the bad 3D I saw in the film, and how it could have been corrected easily in the composite. I got all the source anaglyphic images from the sites official website here. The originals are really this bad. You may say “thats not too bad,” maybe for a few seconds on a monitor. Maybe in small doses. This is a major film release by nWave, one of my favorite production companies for stereo 3D films. When FMTTM is projected on a large screen at a theater, or worse at IMAX, and multiplied across many shots for 89 minutes, the 3D cannot compete with our brains comfortably. This produces headaches, motion sickness, and nausea.
The first example of this is here. This family of maggots (who doesn’t want to cuddle on of these) is sleeping on the bed. Examining the anaglyph to the right, we can see a very large amount of horizontal parallax. This much parallax will push the image out into positive Z space or depth. The edges of the bed break frame and vibrate spatially as our brains try to resolve the screen plane conflict. I do not detect any vertical parallax, or toe-in keystone distortion. Over all the shot has decent composition, it just lacks a cohesive 3D inter-ocular that would be correct for this type of shot. Now put on your red/cyan glasses and check this out!
I have taken the first image into Adobe Photoshop and simply slid the red channel over about 20 pixels to the left to rest the correct screen plane for this image. I then cropped the image to clip off any missing channel information. Note that now, 90% or more of the image is behind the screen, creating a window into a 3D world. The definition on the characters is much more dimensional, it reads much better, and the edges of the image are no longer fighting your eyes/brain to resolve the breaking frame conflict. Ghosting has been minimized without the use of further color correction or manipulation.
The moon shot seen here is fairly decent, but it lacks a few things important considerations. For one there is no z depth beyond the screen plane. Evey thing exists in positive depth space and breaks the frame. Note how the sign they are sitting on and the leaves at the side of frame fight for ocular dominance. The moon looks flat and should at least be slightly tucked into the screen. Objects seen at great distances should have a parallax of 65 mm at its furthest point on the projected screen. This is your eyes in a parallel configuration. To have no parallax is to say the moon is at the screen plane and everything else in the foreground is popping off into the audience. This is wrong.
Again, I used Photoshop to slide the red channel. You can see the color fringing on the moon setting it back behind the screen. In fact because everything was in positive space, this slight shift sent everything back into the screen, making it much more pleasant to view. If I access to the full layers, I would had made more individual adjustments here to keep the depth a bit more dynamic, but you must be careful, objects seen at infinity will ALWAYS BE 65mm SEPARATION ON THE SCREEN. No matter if its the moon or a tree 100 yards from the viewer. Human depth perception falls off after 100 feet or so. Other depth cues like size, color and atmosphere are what gives it depth at that distances not parallax.
This image represent the very worst that FMTTM has to offer. This frame is a complete mess. We are almost exclusively off into positive depth space, every element is breaking frame, and worst of all, the cameras are toed in so much that its creating keystoning which invites vertical parallax. With a wide shot like this its imperative to keep things from not breaking frame. Let the viewer soak in all the great details. An Apollo capsule like this with all its details would had made such a great 3D shot. Its totally ruined by the volatile stereo. This shot is so harsh, that its difficult to view for more than a few seconds. your brain will fight and fight to resolve the discrepancies but this can only produce severe eyestrain.
I had a real hard time fixing this shot. Due to the large amount of keystoning and toe-in adjusting this was a battle with many competing factors. Too make the foreground comfortable, the background got pushed beyond what I would call a safe zone for far or negative screen parallax as I talked about in example #2. This also exacerbated the vertical mismatching on the rear window. Now this brings me to the biggest issue here, and I have a new image for that…
On you right you’ll see a breakdown of the three color channels that makeup the original anaglyph. The red channel is from the left eye, and green and blue are from the right. Now there are allot of artifacts and strange rendering issues in the left eye. There are shadows on the astronaut closet to camera that are only in one eye. There are strange artifacts all over the set in that same eye. It almost looks to me that they used some sort of optical flow with a z-buffer to construct the left eye? I am not sure, but that pipe screen left over the middle astronaut looks very mangled in the red channel. These kinds of issues can’t be fixed in post, and should had been re-rendered, and addressed at the layout level. This shot looked bad in the trailer, on the website, and in the finished film. Someone should had caught this.
For my last example I present to you a perfect shot of why depth of field should never be used in stereo 3D. I can’t even attempt to fix this, so I am just going to let you see the original image, un-retouched. Whats good about it? Well the idea is good. Bugs are floating in positive depth space, and there parallax is appropriate for this effect. Now the background has two big issues. One is its a flat 2D image with ZERO depth. This may work in 2D but it does not in 3D. At the very least this should had been in stereo and out of focus, at least then I could only complain about the depth of field.
Ok, now here’s the fun part. Go ahead and click on that image, look at it full size with your glasses. stare at it for at least a minute. Its bothersome isn’t it? I’m going to tell you why. Your brain and eyes wander through the image focusing at different depths. This is what we do naturally every day. and our focus darts around. If you present a 3D image to the brain your tricking us into a false reality, it looks real, you see depth, your senses are on high. If you don’t allow the brain to focus on the background like in this image, you have a big problem. In 2D you can trick the brain because its 2D, on a sub consciences level, the flattening allows filmic techniques like this to be powerful tricks in the cinematic language. In 3D its not the case. DOF (depth of field) does not work. It should never be used in this way for a 3D film. “But” you say… “I want to direct the viewer focus to here.” Well then, you need to find another way, like have something coming to the screen talking or demanding that you look at it. In an image such as the one above, your eyes will focus on the bugs, and the background will go blurry, just like real life when you focus on something right in front of you, and when your gaze drifts to the back, the foreground will drift into blur. Your eyes and brain will create rack focus for you as you gaze through the imagery, and it will be a joy to behold. Now, I will concede that a well done image can use some DOF. This opinion is not absolute. If you do use it, it must be well done and not over used or it all falls apart.
To conclude, I have great respect for nWave and all the artists who worked on this film. I own many of their films and I will buy this one when it comes to HQFS DVD. Getting a film done is such a huge task. I am a very critical person when it comes to 3D. I want it to grow and flourish, but it has to live by the rules of human factors and optical considerations. Digital 3D is just that Digital. Its made 3D more accessible, but it still has to be done with care and consideration to the viewer. I had great hopes for this film. I am deeply disappointed in its lackluster showcase of what great 3D can do.