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Something to consider

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the new Speed Racer movie from the Wachowski brothers is going to be shot using special cameras from which perfectly in-focus images are derived.

I’m skeptical about this. Not that they can’t do it, but rather that it will be some significantly cool thing.

After all, our eyes have a natural focus that has some part in depth perception. Likewise, a normal camera does the same thing.

So how does their camera put everything in focus? My guess: Each frame is a digital composite of multiple frames taken concurrently or in very rapid succession, put together by a computer’s idea of focus, or relative distance. The end result: every frame looks cartoonish. Is this good, even for a film based on a cartoon?

No. It is novel, and people will say that the effect is cool, if nothing else. The combination of millions of other cool special effects based on the action of the movie and the whim of the Wachowskis will most likely stand out more in conveying anything thematic. Like the rotoscopy of A Scanner Darkly or similar films, the humans-to-cartoons distracts from the actual storytelling. One reason for this is the inability to judge distances or importance. If everything is as emphasized in the frame (size aside), then what are you supposed to be looking at?

Therefore, the filmmakers’ biggest task is to give emphasis to subjects via sizing, as well as other cues. Expect for more “background action” gags to stand out in carrying the plot. One minute, you’re watching close-ups of a person — the next, an explosion or other event in the background. This is prevalent in many films — however, it will be most effective and therefore most used in Speed Racer.

These are all predictions based on some vague comments Susan Sarandon made at an interview, so I could be way off-base. But I don’t think I am. I’d almost prefer the rotoscopy…