When DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg invited us to see the tech behind his studio's Monsters vs. Aliens debuting in theaters today, we didn't think we'd be impressed by the 3D movie. We've been highly skeptical of the 3D push on the part of DreamWorks and several other Hollywood studios lately, and we called it "a gimmick" and "an attempt of movie studios to extract even more money out of the hands of moviegoers."
After seeing the 3D film in an advance screening for the press, we still think 3D movies are a gimmick and an extra profit center for studios, but you know what? We were also blown away with 3D. That's right, this movie has changed our minds about the much-hyped 3D moviemaking and screening process. Even though you still have to wear the glasses
that are blue on one eye and red on the other, it's an astounding effect that's improved drastically over previous iterations.
Hit the jump for our detailed impressions of the new 3D.
From the first moment of the film, when a guy smacks a paddleball right into our faces, we knew we were watching something special. We fully realized this 3D effect had worked its magic on us when a character in Monsters vs. Aliens was pictured standing in the foreground, but we thought someone in the audience had stood up in front of us. For an instant, we had forgotten the movie was in 3D and felt immersed in the action. No more cross-eyed weirdness — even though we were watching an animated movie, this felt real. It was the most impressive 3-D imagery we've ever seen.
The tech to make such a flick is equally impressive. DreamWorks artists told us there were over 9,000 processor cores used to render Monsters vs. Aliens, using 45.6 million hours of computer time to get the work done, with 15 million hours spent on just one character (Bob, for those who have seen the flick). They told us the shot where the alien mother ship was destroyed took up 6TB alone. And for that 3D projection, it all had to be created twice, once for the right eye, and another for the left.
Although the DreamWorks Animation artists get their work done on a vast campus that we toured today, the data processing for the film was done in a 3,500-square-foot data center (which they wouldn't let us photograph), packed with hundreds of blade computers running the Unix-based Linux operating system. Keeping it all cool and running 24/7 is an achievement in itself, for which DreamWorks engineers say the U.S. Department of Energy commended them for their uncanny efficiency.
Monsters vs. Aliens was created in Intel-driven Intru3D (pronounced "in true 3D"), and displayed to the press in the DreamWorks screening room using Dolby 3D Digital Cinema. No question about it — these were ideal conditions. DreamWorks also demonstrated the technique on a 42-inch LCD display in the theater lobby, with equally convincing results.
What a show! This 3D technology has arrived, and for those who love child-like animated features, Monsters vs. Aliens is worth seeing, even at those inflated 3D prices. Even if you don't care for that genre of film, you'll want to see this new approach to 3D moviemaking for yourself. It's a breakthrough that convinced us that 3D movies have finally arrived.