DP Simon Duggan Explains How 3D Created Character Depth in Baz Luhrmann's 'The Great Gatsby'

Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby might've been met with mixed reviews, with some reviewers saying that style was chosen over substance, but the film's visuals are as beautifully over-the-top and champagne-poppingly glamorous as the director's other work, including Moulin Rouge! and Romeo + JulietOne thing, however, that Luhrmann did differently on The Great Gatsby, as opposed to his other projects, was shoot in 3D, and cinematographer Simon Duggan explains in a Cinefii interview how 3D helps to add another perceivable dimension to not only a movie screen, but to characters as well.

In a time when action, sci-fi, and children's animated films are the ones being shot in 3D, one might wonder why Luhrmann's vision for an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's masterpiece included it. Sure, the director's films tend to showcase wild spectacles, from colorful burlesque shows to lavish costume parties held in the house of Montague, which would surely give 3D enough space to work its magic in -- taking the audience out of their sticky theater seats and into that of a cream-colored Duesenberg Model J as it speeds over the Queensboro Bridge. Many times, 3D can be more about heightening the action or bringing the spectacle right into your lap.

But, as Duggan points out in the Cinefii interview, that wasn't necessarily the reason why they shot in 3D. He does explain how Lurhmann wanted to achieve depth in the film:

He very often mentions how he relates it to theatre; there’s a proscenium, there’s an upstage, downstage and that’s how he related it to shooting 3D and that’s how he looked at staging the actors and the performances, with different layers all through the foreground and through the background -- We played out 5 or 6 of the scenes in Baz Luhrmann’s production office, just setting up props and foregrounds, just looking at how 3D affects your depth and choices you make with composition.

However, Duggan also states that by shooting in 3D, using a RED EPIC with Zeiss Ultra Primes, he was able to capture more detail in each actor's face, something that he says, in turn, helped capture their performances.

3D for our film generally played so well with just the character reveal of the actors. I think it’s amazing when you’re in close to an actor, how much more information you get from their faces and performances in 3D -- It was such an artificial world in some ways so we didn’t mind pushing that element, which was making a beautiful portraiture of the character so the audience could read all the emotions from the characters.

Here is Cinefii's interview with Simon Duggan below.

Though shooting in 3D is not for everybody, Duggan does bring up some interesting points about how it can work in your favor to create subtle depth (as opposed to in-your-face depth that we see a lot of in many 3D flicks), as well as to really bring out an actor's performance -- whether or not you think that was achieved in The Great Gatsby is a whole other story. (Leo did look so cool as the man in the cool beautiful shirts.)

What do you think about Simon Duggan's perspective on 3D? Are you considering shooting in 3D for something other than an action, sci-fi, or animated film? Let us know in the comments below.

Link: Simon Duggan ACS Adds Depth to the 3D Vision of Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby -- Cinefii

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I really enjoyed Gatsby. While I did not see it in 3d, I wish I had. The film popped out of the screen and was look enveloped you. I thought it was a masterpiece in the way of 70mm classics. Superb film, fantastic scope.

March 9, 2014 at 9:34AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

You voted '+1'.

This is why the Oscar for Cinematography needs to be separated into 2D and 3D. I am flabbergasted that this post is on the front page at the same time as this: http://nofilmschool.com/2014/03/petition-split-academy-award-best-cinema...

There is no question as to the value and implications of using CGI to enhance the visuals of a film: it is just another tool to work with, whether live action or animated from scratch. However, the boundary between the 2D and 3D screen is profound- and this interview makes it abundantly clear that the possibilities of 3D cinematography exist in a wholly unique dimension than that of 2D. 3D has been long degraded as a gimmick, but the technology is at a point where 3D has been legitimized, and needs to be considered separately from 2D films. Look at the recent Oscar winners for cinematography- Hugo, Life of Pi, and Gravity, all 3D films that were vastly overqualified in comparison to the 2D contenders.

March 9, 2014 at 12:58PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

Ben Gates

3D is actually officially dead; the major TV manufacturers stopped production on 3D sets.

Good riddance

March 9, 2014 at 1:57PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

john jeffries

That doesn't mean a 3D film couldn't be another in rotation through theater chains that are a business. Whether you like it or not films are a business. 3D is another vehicle for sale in the giant cog of this business, and last i checked many cinemas offer the choice of a 2D or 3D screening of most newly released films.

Techniques that took years to understand and develop like sync sound, color, focus pulls, vertigo effect, cranes, steadi-cam, etc to the point where it has to be common place for most people to not notice, or even know why a certain technique is used, just that they like it.

3D, with todays tech, brings a whole new level of techniques and results to add or enhance a moving image. Racking depth is just one of things achievable through advances in technology that might've been prohibitive in the early years of 3D.

It's sad news if manufacturers are indeed ceasing production of 3D televisions. But I partly blame that on the instant rush of getting product to markets. It quickly became a vhs vs. beta max type war between different brands going with proprietary and costly glasses to work. Then shortly the affordability of passive glasses.

Shame, 3D really is great when done right.

March 9, 2014 at 2:37PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

Jorge Cayon

I wouldn't call it officially dead, since it's been called that a lot of times before. But if it going to maintain its eligibility, there needs to be a lot of improvements to the system. I for one thought 48 fps was a big improvement, but apparently I was one of the very few with that opinion.

March 9, 2014 at 4:07PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


I some what agree but would not say its completely dead, especially when it gives cinemas a reason to charge extra markups on tickets.

Great Gatsby was a great book with characters that came to life off the pages, its that almost any man can relate to and a story that many women dream about, Gatsby came back after riches for a woman that he always had feelings for, this same woman also happened to be beautiful, but shallow and impressed by the over top things that Gatsby offered.

Trust 3D did not have anything special to do with this movie, actually itsquite disturbing that this movie was even 3d considering that 3d effects would take away from the story and focus more on the effects themselves.

I some what agree but would not say its completely dead, especially when it gives cinemas a reason to charge extra markups on tickets.

March 9, 2014 at 6:45PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Yuck. All this talk of shooting and framing with depth in mind for 3D...it's total BS! Lik every painter from the renaissance onwards didn't do this...like Toland/Welles didn't think of depth when they shot Citizen Kane.

3D is a gimmick. It is still essentially no different from the gimmick it was when it first was used in the 50's to try and combat television (it coming back out was for the same reason...but more for fighting Internet and streaming and get people back into the theaters). I actually think3D technology hadn't improved since then, it's actually gotten worse because it switches between eyes, so excluding the ugly 48fps stuff in the two Hobbit movies, you're only seeing 12fps in each eye. It makes fast motion and action (the kind of film that is typically shot in 3D) look terrible.

It's NOT more realistic, it's actually less b/c it asked your eyes to do something inherently impossible in the real world. My eyes are converging and focusing at the same point. People think the 3D in Gravity is so good...I think that most people don't realize that the real deal is that it's less bad, less offensive. By doing long takes, your eye isn't changing convergence shot to shot. The faster the cutting (like 99% of action movies in the past several years), the more difficult to follow and exhausting 3D is.

Gatsby was an overload of 45° shutter rap video nonsense with fast moves and convergence changes. Even the camer stopped moving around and it became about character was the movie was tolerable. 3D just exaggerated that annoying over the top, distracting Luhrman style. It's too bad b/c you take away the contrived flashiness and it's such a great story.

March 18, 2014 at 7:51AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

Daniel Mimura