Christopher Nolan talks physics and film

I was delighted to find Christopher Nolan casually talking physics in the middle of a discussion at the Hero Complex Film Festival Hollywood in June, and reported in the Los Angeles Times. It emphasises how intrinsic physics is to cinematography, and to the director creating his vision.

When asked about the current craze for 3-D cinema, Nolan said he resented the suggestion that cinema was somehow flat without those special glasses for 3-D viewing, and said that he was not a huge fan.

“The truth is, I think it’s a misnomer to call it 3-D versus 2-D. The whole point of cinematic imagery is it’s three-dimensional. … You know, 95% of our depth cues come from occlusion, resolution,

color and so forth, so the idea of calling a 2-D movie a ‘2-D movie’ is a little misleading,” he said.

The Los Angeles times recounts that he nodded to the movie screen behind him, and told the audience that he, literally, had a dim view of the 3-D releases he’d watched: “The truth of it is when you watch a film in here, you’re looking at 16 foot-lamberts, When you watch through any of the conventional 3-D processes you’re giving up three foot-lamberts. A massive difference. You’re not that aware of it because once you’re ‘in that world,’ your eye compensates, but having struggled for years to get theaters get up to the proper brightness, we’re not sticking polarized filters in everything.”

So, that’s physics of illumination, depth perception and human vision. Not bad for a film talk.

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