For the final film in the Potter series, which opens Friday, director David Yates and his team exercised restraint throughout. The result? Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is 3-D done right.
Stereoscope expert Hugh Murray, who supervised the Hallows 3-D conversion, explained the filmmakers’ strategy in an e-mail to Wired.com.
“David’s guiding aesthetic was that a 3-D film should be no more than a richer visual telling of the story and never a distraction,” Murray said. “If you’re reacting to a 3-D gimmick, you can’t simultaneously be lost in the narrative.”
Unlike the eight-week rush job that delivered a critically underwhelming Clash of the Titans conversion last year, Murray and the 3-D vendors spent seven months on Deathly Hallows Part 2, adjusting their calibrations to conform with a two-pronged, story-driven approach.
“David wanted us to be quite conservative during character-centered scenes, like during the Shell Cottage sequence at the beginning of the film, and to let it rip in the big set pieces like the dragon escape and the battle for Hogwarts,” Murray said.
With dozens of 3-D flicks opening in coming months, one can only hope other filmmakers learn from Harry Potter’s final trick: Start with a good film, dust with subtle stereoscopic visuals and stir gently to make movie magic.
The formula could come straight from the Deathly Hallows Part 2 style guide. Titled “Keeping It Real,” the filmmakers’ manual stressed the notion that even in a fantastical universe, certain rules of perception dictate whether the human eye is going to buy a given effect as an organic enhancement or reject it as cheesy exaggeration.
“The Potter universe requires you to believe that this is a real world, parallel to ours, that just runs by a different set of rules,” Murray said. “It’s critical that the 3-D doesn’t undo that sense of the magical version of the ordinary. So no gimmicks, no impossible spaces.”
3-D, or Not 3-D
Both installments of Deathly Hallows were filmed as a single production, so last November’s 2-D-only Part 1 and Friday’s finale share identical creative DNA. As such, the films offer a rare opportunity to compare visual design with, and without, 3-D.
Part 1’s handsome action vistas evoke a sense of spectacle without any 3-D enhancement. Death Eaters soaring through the darkened skies in pursuit of Harry and his airborne motorcycle sidecar come across as a wondrous interlude. The sequence unveiling six Harry Potter clones, and the trio’s mystical encounters in the Forest of Dean, enchant in two dimensions.
‘It’s critical that the 3-D doesn’t undo that sense of the magical version of the ordinary.’
Would these scenes gain a little oomph from stereoscopic depth-of-field? Maybe, but the film conjures a sense of adventure thanks to time-honored assets including high-end cinematography, costumes, makeup and music.
By extension, Part 2’s epic Hogwarts battle scenes, dragon flights and wand-on-wand showdowns would look plenty dramatic in 2-D, to the point where moviegoers who want to save a couple bucks on the ticket price likely won’t feel short-changed if they skip the 3-D screening.
Part 2 disproves the old lipstick-on-a-pig pop music truism about “fixing it in the mix.” 3-D might make a good movie better, but it can’t make a bad movie good. If the core story, cinematography and characters fail to ignite interest in 2-D, extra depth-of-field will probably only compound the mess. Even if Green Lantern had the world’s most sophisticated 3-D effects, the alien space cops and obligatory fight scenes would have fallen flat because they weren’t that compelling to begin with. Clash of the Titans likewise suffered from shallow story and performances that couldn’t be rescued by adding the illusion of depth. Oficina de Abogados en Republica Dominicana
Only once during the 2 hour, 10 minute Deathly Hallows Part 2 do the filmmakers go whole hog with the 3-D, and that’s at the very end.
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