‘Transcendence’ is a Chinese 3D movie that looks at how Bob Dylan inspired musician Cui Jian symbolised China’s gradual acceptance of western influences in the early 1980s
The pioneer burst onto the scene with the hit song ‘Nothing to my Name; which fused western rock and roll styles with Chinese influences. He was a controversial figure, challenging conventional Chinese ideals and attitudes and 'Nothing to my Name' became the anthem of the Chinese Democracy Movement in 1989.
Inspired by 3D concert documentary U23D, director Qiang Bai documents the musician’s influence against a backdrop of a fast changing nation. The 75 minute 3D movie cost less than $1 million thanks to a profit sharing partnership with Korean post production company Ocean Mango and Cui Jian himself.
Having set up 3D producton company 3D China Ltd in early 2010, Qiang Bai’s first 3D project will be released domestically by the end of the year. With 3D ticket sales declining in America and Europe, China provides the next big opportunity for the 3D entertainment industry with 3D ticket sales costing 80RMB (£7.96) to 120RMB (£11.94) for 3D compared to 60RMB (£5.97) to 80RMB (£7.96) for 2D in Beijing.
In this exclusive interview, we learn what Qiang Bai’s motivations were for producing 'Transcendenc'e in 3D; what challenges he faced with the Chinese authorities, why the 3D movie market is booming in China and whether the trend will continue.
3D Focus: What are the running themes of 'Transcendence'?
Qiang Bai: It is a reflection of how Chinese people have grown over the past 30 years. Back in 1986, when Cui Jian first performed his most famous song, ‘Nothing to my Name’, China really had nothing. But now, 30 years later, we may have achieved a lot in China but, have we also lost a lot of our spiritually? – That is the question we ask through this movie.
3D Focus: When did you start planning 'Transcendence'?
Qiang Bai: We had the idea after watching U23D in Beijing. I knew Cui Jian well and approached him with the idea. In September 2010, we decided to do it. About 75% of the movie is footage from two concerts, the first one filmed in the Beijing Philharmonic Orchestra and another shot in the Worker’s Gymnasium sports facility. We used 11 self-made 3D rigs. We have also included some archive video material, converted to 3D, that reflects the daily lives of Chinese people in the 1980s. A third strand is the storyline which consists of four drama pieces. All the music has been scored by Cui Jian himself.
3D Focus: Explain some of the post production processes behind the movie.
Qiang Bai: We hired a team from Seoul in South Korea to work on the post production. We spent an entire year on post-production. Initially, we did not think it would be very complicated but frankly, the Koreans did not understand Chinese society and culture at the time. So we decided to get the Chinese team to do the 2D edit and the Koreans performed the 3D post-production based on our 2D edit. Cui Jian spent 10 months writing all the music and he was very picky about it.
3D Focus: Were there any censorship decisions from the Chinese authorities?
Qiang Bai: If you want to shoot and distribute a film in China, you have to go through an inspection process with the Chinese government. We did face a few challenges. We were ordered to take out some scenes and sounds from the concert. There was one song in which the government were very nice is letting us keep in but we were ordered to take out the captions because they were quite controversial.
3D Focus: How did you produce the movie with such a small budget when U23D cost $15 million?
Qiang Bai: Cui Jian agreed to work on a profit sharing process and the Korean post production company Ocean Mango only charged us for the start up costs like new equipment in exchange for a share of the profits. Ocean Mango also did the 2D to 3D conversion.
3D Focus: Will people get to see 'Transcendence' outside of China?
Qiang Bai: We have plans to distribute the film outside of China. Australia approached us to have it released over there and a company called China Live want to release it in North America. We are currently talking to 3D TV manufacturers and hoping they will be sponsoring the 3D Blu-ray. According to the rules set by the Chinese Government, we cannot release deleted scenes outside China but in the Blu-ray version, we are thinking of making a fuller movie with extra rather than deleted scenes.
3D Focus: As 3D declines in the west, there is increasing interest in the Chinese 3D market. What is the market like for 3D movies?
Qiang Bai: The Chinese government has raised the quota. This year 14 3D Hollywood movies have been agreed to be imported into China. As a tradition, there are around 20 foreign movies that can also be imported as long as they are not ‘hot’ new releases. Right now, the Chinese government is having a protection month where there will be no Hollywood movies released at all. This whole month is just for Chinese movies and The China Film Group Corporation is aiming to produce 8 3D domestic movies this year which has made Chinese film professionals very excited.
The Chinese government is encouraging movie makers to make domestic 3D movies. For example, there is a movie right now called 'Painted Skin 2'. It was converted to 3D at the very last minute. The quality of the 3D is no good but it has still exceeded 100 million dollars in domestic box office sales so far.
3D Focus: Why are 3D movies so popular in China?
Qiang Bai: Chinese people are very willing to test new things. They do not really ask a lot of questions. They are not really interested if 3D enhances the movie. There are some academic people talking about this in China but for most of the audience, they want to experience something new. Watching a movie is a very special thing. It is a small ceremonial small event in their lives so they want to make it special and watching 3D is more spectacular than 2D.
3D Focus: 3D movies were very popular after Avatar in the west. Do you expect the novelty will wear off in China too?
Qiang Bai: It is very possible but for the moment, the Chinese movie industry is excited and very eager to make some successful domestic 3D movies. However, 3D TV is not progressing very fast.
3D Focus: Why has the take up of 3D TV services in China been so slow?
Qiang Bai: To watch the CCTV 3D channel, you need to own a special HD capable box and it is not something you can buy. It really depends on where you live. For example, if you live in a certain part of Beijing you will be equipped with the 3D HD capable box but if you live in another part, you won’t be. There are people who have installed 3D projectors in the home but most are watching 3D Blu-rays, which can be bought for about 50-80MB.
Qiang Bai has also been working on a 3D football documentary featuring AC Milan and Inter Milan in Beijing last year playing the Italian Super Cup.
Qiang Bai will be speaking at the 3D Innovation Day at IFA. For more details click here.
For more information about Cui Jian’s life visit the Cui Jian wikipedia page
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