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3-D films can sometimes be 'too extreme'

March 3, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The hot filmmaking trend right now is 3-D films. But not everybody loves it. It can actually make some people sick. One filmmaker is making a difference.When "How to Train your Dragon" hits movie screens later this month, it will also hit moviegoers right in the eye.

It's the latest 3-D movie from DreamWorks Animation, which spent more than two years making it and an extra $15 million to make it stereoscopically -- which is a fancy way of saying 3-D.

Just ask Phil McNally -- he's DreamWorks' "global stereoscopic supervisor," or as he prefers to be called: "Captain 3-D."

McNally and his crew of 80 technicians have their hands full. Every new DreamWorks Animation feature is now being released in 3-D.

And with the 3-D mega-hit "Avatar" setting box-office records, what was once a Hollywood gimmick is now gaining respect.

"For me, it's just another way of experiencing the story to a greater level than we could before, and gimmick or not, it's fantastic," said McNally.

Of course it's hard to demonstrate just how fantastic watching films in three dimensions is when your TV is 2-D. Most images probably aren't making many viewers duck, but in the theater, when you throw on those really cool polarized glasses, the new digital 3-D effects are so brain-twisting that if they're done wrong, movie-goers could become a little ill.

"So far there's been no problem at that level," said McNally.

Maybe not at DreamWorks features, but there have been many reports of movie-goers getting nauseous while watching "Avatar." Which could explain why it's now the highest-grossing film of all time.

McNally admits that if done to extremes, 3-D can cause headaches and eye fatigue. That is why his technicians tweak every scene in every 3-D movie they release, controlling just how pronounced the effects are.

"How much is too much?" asked McNally. "How little is too little, is it too close, is it going to hurt the audience? Is it too far away, is it not going to be very exciting?"

"It's really important for us to smooth out the bumps between the close-ups and the wide shots because otherwise in the theater your eyes are snapping forward, snapping back and that's really tiring," said McNally.

Especially when you have to dodge fiery explosions and flying battle-axes. But standing guard over your stomach and cranium is a man who's future's so bright he has to wear shades.