Is 3D Better for Animation Or Live-Action Films?

By Mike Reyes 2014-06-13 08:35:07discussion comments
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Is 3D Better for Animation Or Live-Action Films? image
To 3D, or not to 3D? That's a question we ask and answer on a regular basis here at Cinema Blend, and it's an important question that means everything when going out for a film. After all, not all 3D films are created equal, and with the various physical effects and symptoms the quality of a 3D film can inspire, it's nice to know who you can trust and who should be bypassed in terms of the third dimensional experience.

There's another, equally important question that we find ourselves (as well as a good portion of our audience) asking themselves, and that's which type of film is better in 3D: animated or live action? This is particularly important considering Edge Of Tomorrow and How To Train Your Dragon 2 are the two major/recent 3D films that will be vying for your hard earned box office dollar. As if choosing between 2D and 3D weren't enough, the question of which 3D film gives you more for your money has now been breached.

To evaluate the usage of 3D in both Live Action and Animated films, I'll first be taking scores from the last 10 3D releases on both sides of the aisle and averaging them out. The results will be explained and some notes will be given as to the difference between the two film's markets and how they correlate with the numbers. After that's done, I'll go into just what the top minds in the industry think of 3D and what it brings to the table. Taking both the critical and industrial thoughts on the subject into account should help give a more complete picture on which branch of filmmaking ultimately benefits more from 3D.

Please put on your 3D glasses, as we're about to get ready to measure up which format pops better with the view behind the window.

Edge vs Dragon
By The Numbers
As stated in the introduction, the scores of the last 10 Live Action and Animated feature films were taken into account when evaluating the advantage of which medium benefits more from a 3D production. For the sake of a more level playing field, as well as a better level of comparison, I've only taken the last 10 Live Action films to be converted into 3D. The reasoning being that much like animated features, post-converted features are made into 3D films through computer processing, and not through filming the movie in actual stereoscopic 3D. (The benefits of conversion versus native 3D is, perhaps, the subject of a story on its own, considering how many native productions have been bungled in recent history.) With the numbers crunched, we can see that the victor is animated films by around a 6 point lead, with the average scores coming in around 30 (out of a possible 35 on our grading scale) for animation and 24 for live action films.

Now keep in mind, this is our own proprietary scale that has been used for evaluation on Cinema Blend, but it is a scale that takes into account all of the key aspects of a 3D film's successful deployment. It can be assumed that the reason most animated films tend to excel when competing with live action films in 3D is because of the fact that the reality of an animated film is completely contained within the process of making that film. In the case of these animated films, they are computer-generated realities that can be tweaked a lot easier than actual reality captured on a digital "negative". Much like enlarging a photograph versus enlarging a computer-crafted image, the tweaking of computer-generated imagery is loss-less when compared to altering an actual landscape filmed with a camera set at a certain aspect ratio. Simply put: you can alter the formula of perspective with a digitally generated image, but you can't alter the formula of perspective on actual images to the same degree.
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