3D That Will Really Bug You

I've written enthusiastically in the past about the SENSIO 3D video processing system. 3D - at least in its current technological incarnation - isn't the type of thing that lends itself to casual TV viewing (i.e., news, sitcoms, and exercise videos - although the faceurs at "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" probably have the right sensibility to make great comedic use of it). When done right with appropriate subject matter, on the other hand, it's like having a thrill ride in the middle of your living room. But as amazing as the SENSIO 3D system is, it's little more than a sideshow wonder without a good base of 3D software to maintain your interest.

That's why it's exciting to see that the latest DVD release for the SENSIO 3D system is Bugs! Shot on location in the rainforests of Borneo, the 40 minute live-action nature drama can be seen in 3D on IMAX screens around the world - and on your HDTV if you own a SENSIO 3D processor (plus a DVD player with interlace component video outputs). Bugs! explores the dramatic and savage lives of an intense praying mantis and a happy-go-lucky butterfly, from their birth to their harrowing and inevitable (thankfully for the filmmakers) encounter in the rainforest where predator meets prey. ("Why, hello, Mr. Predator!" merrily says Mr. Prey. "Gulp!" mumbles Mr. Predator. Think of it as standard nature docu-drama meets 8MM.) Each "character" is known by its Latin name: Hierodula for the Old World praying mantis, and Papilio for the sacrificial butterfly.

Director Mike Slee explained the insect flick this way. "From caterpillar to butterfly is a classic tale, and complete metamorphosis is one of the most amazing events in nature. We wanted to bring this in all its glory to the big screen. It also worked well for our story that the mantis and butterfly would eventually meet with inevitable consequences." Co-writer Abby Aron took a more scholarly view of this real-bug's-life tragic tale. "We wanted insects with a completely contrasting lifecycle, which were accessible and exciting for an audience to watch. The mantis has a great personality, does absurd things and is a complex stunning machine," Aron casually mentioned while munching on a plate of raw hamburger. (Aron didn't really, but it makes for great copy doesn't it?) "The butterfly goes through an amazing transformation, and, on an insect scale, is lovable and cuddly in comparison to the lean mean mantis. It's a fantastic education."

"As we see the world with two eyes, a 3D movie allows the audience to see the visual world in depth," said Director of Photography Sean Phillips as he extolled the 3D aspect of the film. "Bugs! creates an image that extends in depth from one's nose to infinity. The screen simply disappears, and there is nothing between the audience and the image. In Bugs! the creative goal...is to bring the audience into a world they cannot see any other way. This level of immersion brings empathy and understanding of that world and its inhabitants to the viewer." And, of course, leaves you cheering for the defenseless butterfly and cowering in fear of the mighty mantis.

To bring this bug's-eye view to the audience, a new method of photographing in 3D had to be developed that involved two cameras attached to a mirror rig. The tiny mirror used in front of the large-format cameras allowed Phillips to get amazingly close to the insects while keeping a great deal of the background in focus as well - a quite difficult trick for big closeups.

Narrated by Dame Judi Dench ("M" in the Bond films Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, and The World is Not Enough, as well as appearances in too many other movies to list), Bugs! includes a cast of millions: Leaf Cutter Ants, Rhino Beetles, a Trilobite Beetle, a Scale Bug, a Spiny Katydid, an Orchid Mantis, scorpions, tarantulas (of course), frogs, lizards, and a colony of three million bats. One wonders at the size of the catering bill for such a large cast. The film does have a bittersweet happy ending, but I won't ruin it for you here. I guarantee, though, that someone does get eaten.

The quality and concept of this movie is just the sort of thing 3D technology needs to propel it into more home theaters around the world. With plenty of sex and violence combined with beautiful cinematography and excellent narration, what more could you ask for? If you haven't yet seen the SENSIO 3D system in operation, find a dealer and bug - I mean, beg - for a demonstration of Bugs!. If your last experience with 3D involved flimsy, cardboard glasses, you're in for a mind-expanding treat. It sure beats looking at Mars Rover pictures from NASA. (And you just might think twice before using that insecticide stored under the sink...)