In it’s hundred year history, cinematic language has been developed and expressed within the confines of a 2D square or a rectangle. You could argue that computer animated films were the gateway for filmmakers to start thinking of their material in three dimensional space, because that is the toolset of 3D modeling programs. They place objects inside a space and then decide how to shoot it.
This thinking is now able to jump to movies as filmmakers are able to play with depth and blocking, much like a theater director and create scenes in three dimensional space. In an odd way cinema is coming full circle from it’s inception when a movie was no more than a stage play filmed from the front from start to finish.
It’s been close to a year since I had the opportunity to visit the set of the remake of “Fright Night” when it was shooting in the Hard Rock Hotel in New Mexico. At the time, the fact that they were shooting in 3D was somewhat of a rarity for a medium-to-small budget horror film and there hadn’t been enough 3D movies out there for people to start lining up in the various camps pro and con.
Director Craig Gillespie, best known for indie “Lars and the Real Girl” was an unlikely candidate to direct a 3D horror extravaganza. He was very studied in his approach, however, telling me later that he and DP Javier Aguirresarobe did endless camera tests for most everything they wanted to do before getting on set.
On the day of our visit they were shooting a sequence in a night club where Jerry the vampire drops down out of the rafters and cuts through the crowd. A long crane was used to track his movement and fly over the crowd of dancing revelers.
“I got the idea for this (shot) from that U2 3D video.” Said Gillespie, “It was awesome with all these crane shots going over a crowd. We’re in a packed environment here so that’s where the quality looks great so we’re doing it here.”
The effect was cool, and the large camera moved constantly during the each take, Gillespie added “For 3D it’s always nice to have the camera moving and the background always changing.”
The camera itself was much larger and heavier than conventional cameras, but Gillespie said it had the added benefit of slowing him down. “What I like about 3D is it’s a little more like classic filmmaking because you can’t be as frenetic in terms of the hand held stuff. So you’re really doing these scenes that take longer blocking out and it’s more fluid, it’s like old school coverage.”
Actor Anton Yelchin, who plays Charley Brewster, agreed with this premise, telling us that since the cameras were moving all the time their takes tended to be longer, and so he got more of a chance to let his scenes play out with other actors. “Its much more natural as apposed to keep having to [constantly] stop. It grows in more interesting ways and you have more freedom to really let the interaction grow.” Yelchin mused, adding “I’ve been enjoying that, definitely.”
Co-star Imogen Poots who plays Charley’s girlfriend Amy, had a slightly less theoretical approach, saying “I haven”t noticed too much of a difference apart from that the camera is much bigger and that you get to wear cool glasses in between takes.”
That’s not to say she wasn’t paying attention to how the film looked. Ms. Pootz made sure to compliment DP Aguirresarobe, “Javier is a genius and things just look so crisp and beautiful. I”m really excited about being part of this new 3D.”
The decision to shoot in 3D was made very early on, and writer Marti Noxon, knew that the film would be shot that way before even sitting down to write her script. When asked if that changed her approach, she said that it didn’t influence her writing, but definitely was of interest.
“There are many opportunities in the script for real 3D moments.” Said Noxon, but “we didn”t say, ‘ok, Jerry”s gonna leap towards the camera at this moment,’ it was much more like, ‘where is it natural in the movie to have that?'”
Producer Mike De Luca, who had just done “Drive Angry” is a big fan of 3D and shooting in 3D. He approached it’s use in a horror film as a particularly effective way to draw you in and scare you, saying “We thought 3D might be oddly really well suited for a traditional horror film. “
“In horror movies it’s all about dread and anticipation,” continued De Luca “so if you’re in that corridor on a steadicam shot and you’re moving down the hallway you really feel like you’re floating into the movie because of the 3D. So when you finally get the “boo” pop-out scare, [it’s really scary]”
Love it or hate it, 3D will be influencing filmmaking from here on out. It can be argued that it forced Michael Bay to chill his camera work out and made for a better “Transformers” movie, even if watched it in 2D.
Fright Night is now playing in theaters everywhere and opinions are all over the map. I have read reviews from people who have said that the 3D ruined an otherwise good film, and others who, like myself, think the effect improved the experience immensely.
“Fright Night” has added to our budding vocabulary of 3D filmmaking, which I’m sure has a lot of room for expansion.
If you haven’t seen the film yet, I obviously recommend the 3D version, but I’m curious to hear what you guys think, either way.
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