With James Cameron’s state-of-the-art epic Avatar endlessly burning up the box office, it seems that 3-D fever is going to be around for a spell.
The gloriously gimmicky art of creating dimensional depth from an otherwise flat screen has been with cinema since the early part of the century and has enjoyed two previous feature film renaissances, the first kick started by Arch Obler’s Bwana Devil in the 1950’s, the second with such split stereoscopic fare as Jaws 3-D and Comin’ at Ya in the early ’80s.
Now, even the National Film Board of Canada is jumping on the bandwagon. Currently, the Canadian cinema institution is streaming a host of short, strange, eccentric home-grown works on their website that, with the aid of special decoding glasses, creep right off your computer screen and into your lap.
“The NFB has been experimenting with 3-D animation throughout its 70-year history,” says Deborah Drisdell, NFB’s director general, accessibility and digital enterprises.
“First there were two Genie-winning films by Norman McLaren in 1951 and then the world’s first 3-D IMAX film in 1986. These latest experiments are to test the user experience of 3-D technologies on computers and hand-held devices. The response has been remarkable.”
Using the far less sophisticated red and blue “anaglyph” technology (as opposed to the digital polarized system used in theatres to make Avatar literally come to life) to illustrate their illusions, some of the 3-D films the NFB is offering include the animated romance Falling in Love Again, complete with careening cars and floating clouds thrust at the viewer; Drux Flux, an abstract piece of eerie surrealism whose strange, steampunk illustrations look fantastic in any dimension and Facing Champlain, a gorgeous, impressionist experiment in depth shown in two parts, both exploiting the sensorial impact of 3-D to maximum effect.