Can Titanic 3D Be Saved From “Filter” Effect?

On 2.17 I summarized the reactions of Roger Ebert and MCN’s David Poland to Titanic 3D (Paramount, 4.4), which they both saw at Valentine’s Day (2.14) preview screenings in Chicago and Burbank, respectively. Both were disappointed by the relative darkness of the image. Ebert called what he saw “a defacement,” partly due to low light levels, and Poland said “it’s like watching the movie through a filter.”

It appears that Ebert and Poland saw Titanic 3D, which was converted from 2D to stereoscopic for the RealD process, on either Sony or Christie 3D projectors at their respective plexes in Chicago and Burbank.

There are specific technical reasons for darkish, filtered-looking 3D. And to hear it from respected Chicago-based projection consultant James Bond (of Full Aperture Systems), there’s a technical way out of that, or at least a way to make 3D look a little better.

This could happen, Bond believes, if Titanic 3D were to be shown in concert with the Panavision 3D process, which is basically a 3D image-enhancement system that works with 3D projectors manufactured by Christie, Barco and NEC, all of which enjoy decent industry cred. Panavision 3D‘s system (a) involves no polarization, (b) allows exhibitors to project 3D on white or silver screens, and (c) allows for brighter 3D light levels (which are measured in foot lamberts) than what Bond says is the usual-usual, or 2.5 to 4 foot lamberts.

Panavision 3D, which has only been around for about a year, allows for something closer to 5 or 6 foot lamberts. This cuts into contrast, Bond says, but is nonetheless much more preferable to what most people are seeing with other lower-light-level systems.

Right now Panavison 3D is “the very best of all…a very seamless process,” Bond says.

The one 3D system that Panavision doesn’t work with, according to Panavision 3D rep Sean Lohan, is Sony’s, which is much less admired among high-end projection consultants. (The Regal Cinema chain, he notes, “has finalized a decision to remove any Sony 3D machines they have in the booth.”) And yet in 2009 it was reported that Sony’s 3D projectors are technologically allied with RealD, the 3D projection process that Titanic 3D will be shown through.

Ebert and Poland both saw Titanic 3D at AMC plexes — Ebert at Chicago’s AMC River East 21 and Poland at the AMC Burbank 16. I don’t know if Titanic 3D was shown in either venue on 2.14 with a Sony or a Christie 3D projector, but if a Sony projector was used that would explain a lot.

I do know that AMC’s reputation has been less than sterling among projection consultants in recent years. One told me three or four years ago that the acronym stands for “all movies compromised.”

Either way it would seem like a good idea to catch Titanic 3D commercially at a theatre using the Panavision 3D system. Except there are only two theatres in the general L.A. sprawl that have installed Panavision 3D, according to Lohan, and both are located about an hour south of downtown L.A.

Panavision 3D has been installed at the Ultra-Star Garden Walk in Anaheim (321 West Katella Avenue) and Ultra-star star Tower 10 in Temecula (7531 Ynez Rd). It hasn’t been installed in any Los Angeles county theatre, and, according to Lohan, hasn’t been installed in any high-end private industry projection room.

It always takes a while for a new idea or approach to make its way into the system.

Panavision 3D has also been installed at theatres in Rexburg, Idaho, and in Woodstock, Ontario, Lohan says.

I’ll soon be looking at Panavision 3D at Panavision’s headquarters in Woodland Hills. They run a demonstration every Wednesday at 2 pm.

  • The Hey

    I’m wondering how the IMAX 3D quality will be. IMAX has polarization as well but the foot lamberts are always higher than “regular” 3D.

  • Alboone

    If it wasn’t shot in 3D then its not worth it. We’re talking about sitting in a theater for over three hours wearing glasses and suffering through dim imagery and 40 bucks for a pair of tickets to boot if you’re bringing a date? Uhm….pass.

  • Edward Havens

    The problem is, there are many different kinds of 3D systems, digital and film-based, with varying degrees of clarity and brightness, as there are many times of projectors and lenses with their own sets of issues. While the 3D process is essentially the same, the exhibition of 3D can be fantastic or horrific, not only based on the above factors but also the people operating each individual theatre and how they take care of their equipment.

    At my theatre, we have six screens with Real D systems installed, as well as an IMAX digital system. I have learned everything I can about both systems, and I have several assistants who have been equally trained. We regularly our systems to make sure everything is working as well as possible, and make sure to recalibrate everything when we change a bulb. We run our bulbs at 100% to make sure the image on screen is the best it can be. And it kinda pisses me off that there are other operators who don’t take the same care with their equipment.

    Wells to Havens: The Panavision 3D website says that the system is compatible with: (a) white or silver screens, (b) digital or film projectors, and (c) all DCPs and 35mm over-under film prints. Please read the technology page:

  • Rashad

    Transformers 3D was the brightest I’ve seen. Not even a hint of darkness, but then again I saw it in IMAX 3D.

  • Edward Havens

    Havens to Wells: I am well aware of the Panavision system. What I am saying is that, sadly, the human factor can make the best system look less than great. The best system, not maintained to its optimal levels, will no longer be the best.

  • erniesouchak

    What kind of technology was used when Cameron screened his sample reel for the press a few months ago at Paramount? It looked great there.

  • Edward Havens

    The Paramount Theatre on the Paramount lot uses a 2K Christie CP 2000 projector, so it’s likely a RealD, XPanD or Dolby 3D system.

  • Cde.

    Compatibility with white screens is a big deal. Silver screens throw out white levels, so all 2D movies are presented differently from how the filmmakers would prefer for the sake of a limited number of 3D screenings.

  • Cadavra

    I hate 3-D at the Arclight, because the shutter glasses they use not only render the image darker than with other systems, but the damn glasses are all child-size, meaning I have to wear them inside my regular glasses, which gets real painful real fast. OTOH, the Real-D films I’ve seen at assorted AMCs (mostly Century City and Burbank) look just fine to me. So go figure…

  • Markj74

    After seeing the horrific 3D of The Phantom Menace I don’t think I would ever pay for a post-converted 3D film again.

  • Alboone

    The Phantom Menace again blew a major opportunity. With the exception of the opening crawl it was akin to watching a movie through a master viewfinder.

  • Raising_Kaned

    I think we’re missing the “real” story here — the projection consultant’s name is actually James Bond?? I dunno about the rest of you, but I’d really like some more info on this character.

    “We’re talking about sitting in a theater for over three hours wearing glasses and suffering through dim imagery and 40 bucks for a pair of tickets to boot if you’re bringing a date? Uhm….pass.”

    Where do you guys see movies?? It seems like every year, the price of tickets is exaggerated by another 5 bucks. Ever hear of matinees? Don’t your theaters do a discount day once a week? Now, granted, I live in the Midwest, but if I time it right I can see an IMAX 3-D presentation of a new film for $6 apiece.

    I’m having a hard time believing inflation is so bad in bigger cities that it’s costing you more than THREE times what I pay (and, if it is that bad, maybe it’s time to consider moving?)..

    I also don’t really comprehend the complaint about long running times — so you just wanna spend your “$40” and be in and out within 85 minutes like Chronicle?

    Buncha weirdos up in here.

  • TL

    Kaned – I’m not in NYC or LA, but am in a different top-10 metro area. My closest theater (AMC) is $6 if you go to the first show of the day (10AM-ish), $9 at the next show, and everything after that is $11. There’s no discount day. 3D adds $4 to every price, so $10 is the cheapest you can ever get into a 3D title.

    The other nearest theater charges $17.50 for fake IMAX tickets all day long.

  • Raising_Kaned

    Jesus…$17.50 a head for fake IMAX is madness! I can go with two buddies on a Tuesday — it can even be at night — and it’ll cost us $18 total. It’s not a 100% Real McCoy IMAX presentation, but it’s pretty close (much less “fake” than my other metro alternatives).

    Am I totally alone in getting in this cheaply? I guess flyover country has its advantages, after all…

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    I didn’t had a chance to watch this movie on 3D. But i think there’s no difference at all. This is still a good movie ever since. – Incredible Discoveries

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    The Paramount Theatre on the Paramount lot uses a 2K Christie CP 2000 projector, so it’s likely a RealD, XPanD or Dolby 3D system.

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