Titanic in 3D

First up, full disclaimer – I was a guest of the sneak peek media event with producer Jon Landau a couple of weeks ago, and then last night attended a media preview screening of the new remastered 3D version of Titanic.

That being said, I have to say that this is easily the most impressive conversion of a 2D film I’ve ever seen. As someone who knows a bit about post production and VFX, I can honestly say I have next to no idea how on earth they manage to so successfully separate the various elements in the frame, to allow them to create Z-depth information.

Having said that, there were a few things I noted which I’d encourage you to look out for if you choose to go and see this re-release. And for the record, I encourage you to do so.

Everyone loves to bash Titanic and talk about how shit a film it is, but it’s easy to forget or overlook how much of it is done really well. The romance story is indeed hackneyed, clichéd and saccharine, but the sequences of the ship sinking are directed with an incredibly assured hand. And there are actually many good dramatic moments, although they usually aren’t the ones between Jack and Rose. But on to a few more critical (and nerdy) observations:

  • The filmmakers made what I feel was a very flawed decision to put every shot in 3D. This includes shots that should remain in 2 dimensions, such as the POV shot through a black and white video camera’s viewfinder. This doesn’t make any sense, and actually pulls you out of the experience. In real life when I look through a video camera’s viewfinder, I see an image in 2D. It makes even less sense when you contemplate that the image is black and white, pixelated and filtered with noise – all of which are 2D artefacts.
  • I’m pretty sure there is a fault in one of the shots close to the start of the film, which I noticed at both the media event and at the full screening. Watch closely during the helicopter shot, which comes straight after the old Rose’s “…That woman in the drawing is me” telephone conversation. If you look at the ocean below the helicopter, the ripples and waves appear to be a ‘double image’, like what you see at a 3D film when you take off your glasses. It looks like some kind of compositing mistake, where the two perspectives are visible to both eyes, and thus create doubling.
  • Titanic was one of the first movies where I distinctly noticed the sound design. This was partly because at that time I had a website that reviewed Melbourne cinemas for their technical performance, and I saw the film at two different cinemas and was comparing how they sounded. I remember the sound to be very impressive, and it was of course one of the 11 Oscars that it received. However it was interesting to hear (perhaps it was more exposed these days due to the higher sound quality of D-Cinema delivery) just how many clunky bits of sound mixing / editing were audible. Examples included the coming and going of Rose’s dialogue track during the scene where she is being drawn nude by Jack. It sounded like they had an air conditioner on set, which can be heard fading in and out for her lines.
  • There were a few other sound design moments that stuck out, like the use of clichéd stock gunshots during the panic for the lifeboats. There was also an inexplicable abrupt change in atmos – almost like a whole track dropping out – during the “Thanks for saving my life last night” scene between Rose and Jack on the deck of the boat. Some of the synthesised vocal sounds (self consciously imitating Enya, who declined to score the film) haven’t dated so well.
  • Actually speaking of gunshots, I forgot about that bit where Cal grabs his side kick’s gun, and tramples after Rose and Jack through the half submerged staircase to try and shoot them. It’s totally ridiculous and unnecessary.

Oh and lastly, if you do go and see the film, make sure you stay behind for my favourite moment – the bit of the credit roll where all the stunt people are listed. It’s ridiculous.

One thought on “Titanic in 3D

  1. J-Fax,

    Thanks for the expo!

    My 2c…

    Fair play to credit the film with what it does well. I think my pouring of borax onto the film is mostly in response to how much love the Academy Awards and various people seem to have for it – it just seemed OTT when my favourite parts of film-making (narrative, characters, acting) had big holes.
    James Cameron is a great Hollywood entertainer, though I think Terminator 2 and Aliens are much more enjoyable and play to his strong points, personally.

    And I remember being amazed at the boat sinking scenes and really enjoying them, and Billy Zane’s performance particualrly.

    But it did seem to go way too long – a mistake that is hard for me to forgive (but Peter Jackson has started doing this a lot to, sadly.

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