Saturday, September 8, 2007

A Comeback in 3-D, but Without Those Flimsy Glasses

The New York Times
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March 1, 2007

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 28 — A little past the two-minute mark, the music video for Gwen Stefani’s recent single, “Wind It Up,” finds her chained to a fence while a flurry of bubbles and snowflakes float by. Viewed from a certain perspective — that is, through 3-D glasses — it is a dreamlike moment in which the flurry seems close enough to touch.

The video begins with Ms. Stefani yodeling, a homage to “The Sound of Music,” one of the her favorite films. But the idea of adding the bubbles and snow came from an unlikely source: James Cameron, the director behind effects-laden hits like “The Terminator” and “Titanic,” who visited Ms. Stefani’s set last October and shot a separate version of the video with 3-D equipment.

“I had mentioned to the director that any kind of atmospheric effects like snow or rain usually play in 3-D,” Mr. Cameron recalled.

While “Wind It Up” was not initially planned as a 3-D video, Ms. Stefani probably won’t be the last recording artist to follow Mr. Cameron’s lead.

As part of a newly created venture, Mr. Cameron is working with Jimmy Iovine, the chairman of the Interscope Geffen A&M record label, to produce music films, concerts and other content in 3-D to show in specially equipped theaters. Mr. Iovine and Mr. Cameron hope to deliver their first production by summer.

The two acknowledge that they have yet to work out many details: they say they don’t know how many productions will be created or which artists will be featured, but the idea has been discussed with Interscope artists including Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails. Many music fans may be too young to recall the last time 3-D was in vogue: the 1980s, when hordes donned flimsy multihued glasses to watch “Jaws 3” and other attractions.

But the latest version of the technology has Hollywood buzzing again, particularly since 3-D showings of animated fare like “Chicken Little” have racked up impressive sales. Mr. Cameron is at work on a $200 million 3-D feature titled “Avatar.”

Mr. Iovine and Mr. Cameron are aware of the odds of changing consumer behavior. They are wagering that fans will be willing to trek to a movie theater and pay perhaps a few dollars more than the price of a regular ticket to see their favorite stars on the big screen and in 3-D. The glasses now resemble standard sunglasses, and musicians may be able to make their own designs.

The venture, led by the film producer Gene Kirkwood, also represents a distinctive take on what both the music-video and the concert can be. If it works, the partners said, fans could experience a concert as if they were on stage next to U2’s guitarist, the Edge, or see the members of Kiss in full makeup perform a pyrotechnic show seemingly right in front of them, all for a fraction of the price of seeing a headline act on tour.

“What it does is put you, the audience, right there with the performer onstage, in their creative reality,” Mr. Cameron said recently during a break in production from “Avatar.” “The whole idea of a concert may change.”

Mr. Iovine and Mr. Cameron have discussed with executives at Harrah’s Entertainment setting up a night club in Las Vegas where visitors would be surrounded by 3-D images and watch 3-D performances, though no deal has been struck.

Mr. Iovine also said that 3-D performances could become a new way for artists to build ties to their fans and generate much-needed revenue for the ailing music business.

“The record industry has to have lots of different revenue streams, and this just looks like one that’s creatively cool,” Mr. Iovine said. “And you can’t download it. You can’t get it anyplace else.”

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