Jon de Vos: Reach out and touch someone
July 25, 2008
Jules Verne is deservedly called the “Father of Science Fiction.” Writing in the mid-1800s, Verne wrote convincingly about machines that flew through the air and machines that probed the depths of the oceans ” machines that had yet to be invented.
In 1865, he wrote, “From the Earth to the Moon” describing a manned space voyage to the lunar surface a hundred years before John F. Kennedy threw down the challenge to America.
The French author’s novels have seen over 4,000 translations and his most famous effort, “Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” has been remade in movie and television almost twenty times since Disney’s 1954 Technicolor epic. Verne’s 1864 novel, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” has held up poorly due to the implausibility of a prehistoric world hidden at the earth’s core, accessed portals in Iceland. What a foolish concept. If there were such a place, the Bush administration would have been drilling for oil there years ago.
There have been about a dozen remakes of Journey, the latest is notable by being filmed in a brand new 3D technology called RealD 3D. Journey is the first live-action digital 3D movie to be made in this format, a format so impressive that Steven Spielberg has announced that the entire DreamWorks Animation SKG slate of future films would be filmed this way. Disney/Pixar followed a few days later with a similar announcement.
Me? I hated Journey. Brendan Fraser bugs me, I just can’t shake off his 1999 appearance as the goofy mountie “Dudley Do Right”. Other than Fraser’s overbearing lantern-jaw, Journey, the movie, was a lot like Journey, the trip through Kansas, long and boring. The film’s redeeming quality is the best 3D effects so far.
The road to the third dimension began some 2,000 years ago when a Chinese philosopher described the Pinhole Camera which is nothing more than a box with a pinhole in one side. Light entering the pinhole projects an upside-down image on the other side of the box of what the pinhole is pointed at. This is one experiment you can try at home without professional supervision. Use a shoebox. You might astound the kids if you can pry their teeny fingers off their gameboys. Other inventors later tweaked the pinhole camera with mirrors to produce correctly oriented images. It was used and highly valued as an aid to tracing and beginner painters because the projected image maintained a correct perspective.
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An Iraqi scientist invented the Camera Obscura about a thousand years ago. It was little more than the pinhole principle in a box large enough to seat an audience who gaped in amazement at the outdoor scene projected onto an inside wall.
Six hundred years passed before the invention of the Magic Lantern, a fancy name for simple images projected onto a screen by shining a light through painted glass or cloth. This all sounds pretty pedestrian to us today in an era of digitized special effects, but it was considered almost miraculous in the day when a lantern, which formerly provided mere illumination to dark corners, now created an image that could be projected onto a wall. It was hailed as magic. Multiple layers of paintings, moving independently, projected images with motion and action. Moving the light source back and forth made the images grow smaller and larger. Simple things were more awesome before every kid had their own Nintendo Wii.
By 1800, inventors were dabbling with the forerunner of permanent images using paper saturated with silver nitrate, leaving shadow images of items laid on it in the sun. By the mid-1800’s, 3D images were being viewed with a stereopticon and collections of photographs were arranged in narrative sequence, laying the path for the modern motion picture industry. At the end of the 1800’s, several divergent paths were heading for Hollywood. The first public screening of a movie at which an admission was charged happened three days after Christmas 1895, in Paris when Auguste and Louis Lumiere presented 10 short films, each filmstrip was 17 meters long and ran for approximately 45 seconds and had such exciting titles as “Rambo, the Confederate” and “The British Empire Strikes Back.”
The earliest 3D movie was “The Power of Love,” shown at the Ambassador Theater in Los Angeles in September 1922 and used the red/green glasses we all grew up with.
The most profitable 3D movie to date was the X-rated, “The Stewardesses.” Released in 1970, and shot for a budget of $100,000, the U.S. box office alone exceeded $114,000,000. In this 3D porno production, you could just about reach out and touch ” well, maybe you better not, but take heart. An updated RealD 3D remake of “The Stewardesses” is slated for the fall of 2009.
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