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Superheroes Coming Right At You
Moviegoers have been enjoying 3D movies for quite some time, but only recently has the form become a staple of animation. With DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg's mandate to make all of the studio's films in 3D, DWA continues to make large strides in both the methodology and look of its 3D offerings.

Director of pre-vis Kent Seki puts forth a discussion, "If you were to show an audience a current day action film 20 years ago, people would have lost their minds, because the editing is so fast, and it breaks a lot of traditional rules, like crossing the axis line. But we can understand it today, because audiences are more sophisticated and accustomed to that kind of cutting style. 3D is the same way. There'll be a film 10 years from now that you couldn't show people of today, because they wouldn't know where to look. We can begin to develop an additional cinematic language through the use of 3D. It's an exciting time in film making with the renaissance of 3D.”

Global Stereoscopic supervisor Phil Captain 3D McNally agrees. "3D is normal and 2D pictures are less interesting,” believes McNally. "The ultimate movie experience would be one where you feel like you're living in a fantastic dream. If we could re-create that in real life, that is what we would do to put audiences in this dream place and really bring these stories to life. That would be the ideal way to enjoy stories.”

And it isn't in the big explosions or epic battles where the experience pays off— McNally believes that Minion is one of the best ways the film shows off its 3D expertise. "Minion literally has a fish tank for a head, and every time you see him, you have these very detailed light refractions and reflections. That, to me, spatially makes it extremely interesting, just to look at him. It's like you're looking at it through a magnifying glass, and you have all these strange ripples and distortions going on. It's really something.”

The digital filmmaking finesse to create such a character might have turned McNally and the artists into the proverbial kids in the 3D candy shop—so a bit of self-restraint was intermittently necessary. David Lipton, head of effects, says, "Sometimes, we think, ‘Wouldn't it be cool if something came right at the camera?' But then, we would have to consider the viewing experience. We don't try to go over-the-top with it. When presented with a choice, we wanted to keep the audience immersed in the film. Something jumping out of the screen tends to knock a viewer out of it.”

While 2D animation is more than a perfectly serviceable tool for showcasing characters and their personalities, Phil McNally believes that 3D is a great magnifier of animation and what it can accomplish: "Animation brings the characters alive. 3D is just putting a layer on top of that. So, even now, after having worked on multiple 3D DreamWorks films, it's still very common for us to look at shots for the first time in 3D and be amazed. I still get knocked out, standing in front of these characters and sensing that they have a real presence.”

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