Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lets Put the National Reconnaissance Office in Charge of Film Production

Although Hollywood is awash with so-called 3D films, more properly called stereoscopic, there are many of us who doubt their commitment to the medium. Hard to believe, I know, that Hollywood would not be completely sincere but in fact when people say that Hollywood is run by shallow and greedy scum whose only interest is in maximizing the amount of money they make that day/week/month, they are romanticising the situation.

Whether this lack of artistic intent is true in general in studio executives, it is certainly true in the case of stereoscopic films. This stereo "fad", which has lasted longer than I would have guessed, is based on two motivations: a desperate effort to do something that will bring people into the theatre and as part of a larger play with consumer electronics manufacturers to help them sell new televisions to consumers. Beyond that they don't really care.

In addition, stereo projection was enabled by an artifact of digital projection, so it cost the exhibitors very little to be able to reliably project stereo movies. "Very little" is a lot to exhibitors, generally speaking, so there may have been some cost sharing between studios and exhibitors. In other words, studios could hedge their bets by making a stereo version of the film and not have to outlay a lot of money to do so, and in return are covered if stereo exhibition or television becomes very popular.

Most of the filmmakers share this lack of passion and overt cynicism. A tiny percentage care about stereoscopic and work to explore what it means to filmmaking and the rest just accommodate the requirement as part of the deal they had to make with the studio to get the project financed. Their cynicism combined with the studio's unwillingness to extend shooting days to allow for the complications of stereo during principal photography is why the filmmakers choose to "add" stereo in the post-production process with the "dimensionalization" techniques. What is interesting about these post-production stereographic techniques is not that they work well, but that they work at all.

The dreary prospect about the lack of passion is the danger of the self-fulfilling prophesy: the filmmakers and studios do not care and the films thus produced are lackluster at best in the area of stereo and the audience senses this and gets bored. And one more time, an opportunity to create a vibrant stereo cinema art form is lost as it has been lost before.

What then can the believer in stereoscopic cinema do to avert this mediocre result? Is there a solution? I think that there may be and that the solution is to put someone in charge who believes in stereo, and has a proven track record of standing firm and putting their money where their mouth is. Is there such a person or organization? I know of only one: the National Reconnaissance Office.

Notice that the NRO logo image is in the 2.35 widescreen aspect ratio.  This shows that they are already aware of filmmaking conventions.

The NRO is one of the famous secret three-letter agencies of our country's intelligence community. It was and is the one with contract authority to build and launch the satellites and broker the result to the various other agencies and departments such as the CIA, the Dept of the Air Force, and so forth. For decades it has had the largest budget of any three letter agency because the satellites are so damn expensive. Although cloaked in secrecy, the NRO recently declassified their history, or part of it, in "A History of Satellite Reconnaissance" which can be found on their website here.

I think these NRO mission badges are hilarious.

A careful reading of this document will show that various groups inside the NRO have shown a passionate commitment to stereo in various satellite projects as well as an excellent track record for sponsoring the creation of new cameras for reconnaissance, 70mm, counter-balanced, and with other exotic attributes, as well as new and better high resolution film in collaboration with Kodak. They have a proven track record for managing large complicated projects and yet holding firm to what is important. They have integrity and vision.

A stereo project that was managed by the NRO would not be able to get by with shallow and uninteresting post-filmmaking stereoscopy tacked on at the end. No, they would insist on stereo being designed in from the beginning with principal photography being shot in stereo.

Lets end this mediocre effort by the traditional studios who neither understand nor care and put the NRO in charge of all feature film production in Hollywood and get some decent stereo films for a change.

I call upon all the stereoscopic partisans of the world to rise up and write your congressman or whatever the international equivalent may be and demand that the NRO be given this new assignment.  The stereoscopic cinema has been given another chance, lets not throw it away this time.

Visit the NRO on the Internet at

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