Shazam! Director Shares Blunt Thoughts About 3D Conversion

Billy Batson and Freddy Freeman in Shazam!

When David F. Sandberg’s Shazam! opened in theaters last year, it was released in both the standard 2D format as well as 3D. The DCEU film was not shot in 3D and instead received a post-conversion. In our To 3D or Not to 3D piece for the film, we found that Shazam! in 3D was just okay and not the best the format had to offer. Now Shazam! director David F. Sandberg is sharing his blunt thoughts about 3D conversion, saying:

For film though I think it's not really worth it unless you not only shoot 3D but also change your whole film language to adapt to 3D and take full advantage. And we really need a way of viewing it without glasses. It's all too much of a hassle currently. I've seen a ton of movies in 3D but when I think back on them my memories are in 2D. I don't remember the 3D. Maybe that's just me though. As a director I know it's expected for bigger movies to be in 3D and I don't have a problem with that. There's some really cool 3D stuff in Shazam. The priority for me will always be the 2D version though.

Taking to Twitter to elucidate his thoughts on 3D after purchasing Shazam! on 3D Blu-ray, David F. Sandberg made it clear that while he’s a fan of the format, citing his love for Nintendo 3DS, he doesn’t think 3D is really worth it for film, at least not right now. Elsewhere in his the thread, David F. Sandberg explains the compromises involved with 3D conversion, using Shazam! as an example.

There were elements to Shazam!’s 3D that weren’t what David F. Sandberg would have preferred that were unavoidable due to the nature of the post-conversion process. While the director thinks there are some cool 3D elements to Shazam!, in general, he seemingly believes the 3D format is only really worth using if used to its full effect by shooting in 3D, like James Cameron did with Avatar.

To take full advantage of 3D, a filmmaker needs to shoot the film with the format in mind, not add in 3D later and try to make it work the best they can. Beyond the technical limitations of 3D conversion and its inferiority to native 3D, David F. Sandberg also touched on what is without a doubt the most common complaint about 3D: the glasses.

Like so many other people, particularly in America (3D is more popular internationally), David F. Sandberg finds wearing 3D glasses to be too much of a hassle. The glasses just add another barrier to the format and being able to view 3D without glasses would really go a long way towards justifying 3D in film.

David F. Sandberg also brings up a great point about how you remember a movie. Do you remember a movie you saw in 3D? I tend to judge 3D on a case-by-case basis, but I’ve only ever had two experiences stick with me from the format: Avatar and, to a lesser degree, Alita: Battle Angel.

So given the current state of the format, without shooting in 3D and using a cinematic language suited to that extra dimension from the start, and as long as it still requires glasses, David F. Sandberg thinks that 3D isn’t really worth it for film. He will therefore always keep the 2D experience at the forefront of his vision when making a movie.

That said, the director of Shazam! totally understands why these conversions take place and made sure to praise the thankless work that goes into them, saying:

By the way, the people who convert movies really get the short end of the stick. VFX are finished last minute and they can't convert shots until then. They have to do a ton of very difficult work in very little time. Hats off to the 3D conversion folks!

Good on David F. Sandberg for shouting out the little guys who do a lot of tireless work on 3D conversions, but receive none of the glory that other people involved with these big budget films do. If you’ve ever wondered part of why 3D conversions are often so lackluster, David F. Sandberg hits on it right here.

The 3D conversions take place after shots are completed with finished VFX. As we’ve seen, particularly recently, VFX is always a compromise in and of itself as deadlines and release dates force artists to get a film to where its good enough, when oftentimes more time would result in an even more convincing product. So that really the 3D conversion people who come in after are really up against it time-wise.

David F. Sandberg returns to the DCEU for the Shazam! sequel, which is now slated for release on April 1, 2022. While you wait, there are plenty of huge movies hitting theaters this year, check them out in our 2020 Release Schedule.

Nick Evans

Nick grew up in Maryland has degrees in Film Studies and Communications. His life goal is to walk the earth, meet people and get into adventures. He’s also still looking for The Adventures of Pete and Pete season 3 on DVD if anyone has a lead.