Michael Bay Also Criticizes Post-Production 3-D Conversion
by Ethan Anderton
March 25, 2010
We know James Cameron's Avatar has ushered in the next big trend in Hollywood whether you enjoy it or despise it: movies in 3-D. However, there's much dissension in the industry beyond their like or dislike of the trend and moreso regarding the quality of 3-D presentation for these films, as many studios have taken a route different than Avatar, and opted to convert films to 3-D in post-production rather than shoot them in genuine 3-D. As the pioneer of modern 3-D, Cameron has been more than vocal against shoddy imitation 3-D, but this time it's Michael Bay slinging the mud at 3-D conversion, which he says "kind of sucks."
Back in February we heard that they were testing scenes in 3-D for its potential use on Transformers 3. Bay was waiting to see how the process worked with his footage, but he didn't sound all that optimistic. Deadline ran some quotes from Bay and it sounds like he may be even more opposed to it now. The general consensus from both Cameron and Bay is "the jury is out" on 3-D conversion, but the Transformers director had plenty to say about his worries of 3-D conversion working with his intense, rapid shooting style. Bay explains:
“I shoot complicated stuff. I put real elements into action scenes and honestly, I am not sold right now on the conversion process. I am trying to be sold, and some companies are still working on the shots I gave them. Right now, it looks like fake 3-D, with layers that are very apparent. You go to the screening room, you are hoping to be thrilled, and you’re thinking, huh, this kind of sucks. People can say whatever they want about my movies, but they are technically precise, and if this isn’t going to be excellent, I don’t want to do it. And it is my choice.”
The man is right on the money. You can tear apart his plots, hyperactive shooting style and more, but when it comes to action and precision on set, he knows his shit. The one consistent thing I've heard from cast and crew talking about working on a Michael Bay movie is how much he pushes them to the limits, moving very quickly, with complicated set pieces, action choreography and more, all while doing double the number of setups in one day than most movies do in three days. Michael Bay is a machine who needs Grade-A premium fuel, and he doesn't feel he's getting it with 3-D conversion:
“I’m used to having the A-team working on my films, and I’m going to hand it over to the D-team, have it shipped to India and hope for the best? This conversion process is always going to be inferior to shooting in real 3-D. Studios might be willing to sacrifice the look and use the gimmick to make $3 more a ticket, but I’m not. Avatar took four years. You can’t just shit out a 3D movie."
And as I've already recently expressed my worries with the cost-to-profit ratio of spending millions on post-production 3-D conversion for a film that may only be in 3-D screens for a week or two at most during the blockbuster or holiday movie season, Bay says the cost is much more than the industry has actually let on. The number that has been going around the media as to the cost of 3-D conversion is an estimated $100,000 per minute, but Bay says it's more like $120,000 to $150,000 per minute, which means at most, conversion for Transformers 3 would be $30 million. That's more than the entire budget of some films.
While I like the idea of 3-D becoming the next big thing, I'm not supporting it as long as studios will just be converting films in post-production. Studios will be attempting to use 3-D as a crutch and afterthought to try to fill seats for what may already look like a terrible film. I refuse to support a process that attempts to make 3-D a substitute for great direction, writing and acting, because if we continue to allow ourselves to be mesmerized by the visual trick in front of faces that acts as a pop-up book as opposed to a motion picture with depth, then we'll lose any of the technological ground James Cameron and Avatar may have gained.