The fifth 3D Entertainment Summit is just a few weeks away. We speak to organiser Bob Dowling and ask why there is still a need for a 3D conference.
The 3D Entertainment Summit will take place at the Hollywood & Highland Center, Hollywood on September 19th and 20th. Produced by Bob Dowling after leaving the Hollywood Reporter in 2006, the first conference was organised shortly before Avatar was released and the 3D boom was about to explode. After a rollercoaster five years, are conferences dedicated to 3D still relevant? Or are people experiencing 3D conference fatigue? We ask Bob Dowling in this exclusive interview…
3D Focus: What have been the biggest changes in audience expectations and concerns since the start of golden 3D era of 2009, the time of the inaugural 3D Entertainment Summit?
Bob Dowling: Since the 1930s there has always been the question of whether 3D was here to stay and I think in the early stages of our conference, there was always the hidden question, “Is it a gimmick? or “Is it a part of serious filmmaking? Then Avatar came out. It was a huge success and I think that validated the 3D concept. Shortly after, filmmakers started to realise 3D was a tool for telling stories. It didn’t mean the whole story had to be told in 3D, rather 3D was a tool that allowed filmmakers to bring people deeper into the experience. With the idea of 3D validated as a concept and tool, I think the next step was to question where else we were going to see it.
The TV set makers came along and said there were going to make 3D enabled TVs. People were then saying there was no product with just 20/30 3D movies a year and so sports came along. We are now beginning to see 3D function in other areas like medicine and science so our conference this year is going to take that broad landscape across filmmaking, alternative programming, theatres and in-home, to widen and give greater breadth to 3D.
Finally, the concern about the glasses is also going to be discussed because we now have 3D enabled smartphones, tablets and gaming without glasses so we are going to talk about that as well. We are going to superimpose all of that to the idea of multi-level screen so we go from a smartphone to an iPad to a computer and to a TV screen so no matter where a consumer is, they have access to a screen.
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3D Focus: You mention the existing glasses free 3D gaming and smartphones but the 3D features of the LG Optimus 3D phone and Nintendo 3DS have not proven to be as popular as expected. Will you address this?
Bob Dowling: There are always people who jump in too fast, assume too much and then become disappointed with their own expectations yet the technology itself continues to go along at the pace it was going to. As a result, people will go too far in front of that and fail and others will get right behind it and go with it. It then evolves; other companies will see it and get involved. It’s not surprising that companies who jump in with too little and too fast are somewhat disappointed. This more sobering element will come up in the summit for sure.
3D Focus: How has the audience changed over the years?
Bob Dowling: I think in the early stages the first advocates of 3D were looking at live 3D music where people could watch bands and rock groups in 3D. Then the more Avant Garde filmmakers came along but today I think it’s more mature people. I think Martin Scorsese made a big step forward with Hugo because his name as a traditionalist director solidified the position so our audience for this conference has changed. Now we are getting inquiries from other industries such as aerospace, medical and the science community.
3D Focus: If 3D was meant to revolutionise the TV industry, why are there still very few 3D programmes being broadcast in America?
Bob Dowling: I guarantee that you don’t see anything 3D at the moment on the likes of HBO, Showtime or CBS but there are conversations going on behind the scenes. There are people asking, “What would 3D do for us if we shot 3D or distributed 3D for this particular programme?”.
DirecTV showed much of the Olympics in 3D but the shortcoming there was it had to be broadcast a day late but that’s only a progression. At some point in time, they will be showing live sport and HBO will offer boxing in 3D – it’s going to come.
3D Focus: Has the 3D TV market stagnated in America and is that why American companies like 3ality Technica and CPG are looking to China for growth?
Bob Dowling: If you look at an existing building and an empty lot you have a choice to retro-fit an existing building or start from scratch. The likelihood is the one that starts from scratch is going to be more technically advanced. There is a maturity in Great Britian and there is a maturity in the United States. You go to China and it is almost a blank piece of paper. Given the fact that they are in their embryo and couple that with the size of their audience and the potential is huge over there. China has a quota system on the number of films they will allow into the country from other areas and the majority of what they are allowing now are 3D versions.
The one caveat there I think where Cameron is concerned is that they start out by learning and producing and distributing to produce in 3D rather than convert to 3D so that they will have the purity of 3D.
3D Focus: What do you personally enjoy about the 3D Entertainment Summit?
Bob Dowling: The thing I like about any conference is I go there, take a pad with nothing written on it and, other than my duties of introducing people, I sit down as though I am a blank piece of paper and I write down all the things that I hear that interests me beyond anything that I had conceived of. I will give you an example. I was listening to a guy from Disney and he spoke about 3D as a tool and not something that should be thought of in itself. A filmmaker can reach in a certain scene. They can take the audience deeper into that experience. That opened me up to a better understanding of it. So I approach it not knowing very much.
Of all the panellists and speakers, I guarantee that two or three things will come out of this that will have an impact on what we do next time. That’s why I enjoy it so much.
3D Focus: Why should people attend the 3D Entertainment Summit? Won’t we have heard it all before?
Bob Dowling: I believe everyone who sits in that audience is there for one thing – to hear what is in it for them. I pretty much guarantee that you are going to hear something that you can apply to your interests. The second thing is you are going to be in contact with many people in that room so, if you heard something of interest, you are going to meet those guys at the break and share business cards with them. What I am personally interested in is, when they leave that conference, they go home and they start making phone calls so that, whatever they have spent in fees, is small change compared to what this is going to lead them to do.
3D Focus at the 3D Entertainment Summit
3D Focus reporter James ILiff will be reporting from the 3D Entertainment Summit. If you are attending and would like to be interviewed by James please contact the site.
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