NASA has stereoscopic cameras pointed at the sun and on the surface of Mars, leading to this duo package of 3D exploitation. NASA has legitimate purpose, i.e., guiding their rovers Opportunity and Spirit across Martian landscapes while peering into the sun to predict solar storms from duo Earth orbiting satellites. The use is scientific and a learning experience.
From a content standpoint, these 20-minute features have a problem. The available images run around 10 minutes combined. There are only so many still shots of Mars to go around and even fewer animated shots of our solar system’s star. Mars 3D is carried by NASA scientists involved with the rover missions. Technology and the search for proof of life can liven this science documentary short. It’s the winner of the two.
3D Sun is scrambling for significance, waiting until its closing moments to splurge on those anticipated authentic NASA shots. In-between, Al Roker narrates flat and uninteresting demonstrations of magnetic fields, satellites, auroras, coronal mass ejections, or other sun-based snippets of information. Sub-par CG images fill space so audiences see something while they wait for educational value. Unless you are a newcomer to the sun, there is little to gleam from this weakly constructed piece.
In terms of exploitable value, Mars 3D contains stereoscopic images for half of its brief running time. 3D Sun is often hilariously terrible with an uncomfortable stretching of the gaseous sphere making it appear as an exaggerated egg shape. Final images of a spinning sun direct from NASA – glorious as they are – barely prove sufficient to suffer through the rest.
Both pieces struggle for relevance and narrative cohesion. 3D Sun spends time warning about the loss of electronics and potential doomsday scenario if ejections penetrate Earth’s magnetic fields, but then draws no conclusions. There are no possible protective measures, what-ifs, or other interesting tidbits. Mars 3D feels equally panicked to do something with these images, although the people involved in the launch are of more interest than much of the narration. Both mini features seem over eager to fill themselves in an attempt to utilize NASA images, sans consideration of how best to present them. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]
Source images are varied across these brief science exhibitions. Footage ranges from abysmal, low-grade digital in 3D Sun to on again, off again HD level materials in Mars 3D. Jumps in quality and resolution are many. Consistency is never a commonality between them.
Provided CG images are often sharp, if suffering from aliasing due to lower resolution work. Materials are lightly textured with limited fidelity to appreciate the best qualities. Talking head interviews are brief with natural color and limited image density. Lighting is not searching for hefty facial definition.
Images of space feel intentionally brightened, likely to ward off cross talk in 3D. Space’s depth is artificial when used. Colored lunar surfaces are rich in saturation and the touch-up work on the sun with various thermal filters creates some dazzling hues. Mars’ rocky terrain is glazed with sepia tones and hints of a blue sky to give the planet a bit of welcoming, Earth-esque touch up.
For the issues in 2D, nothing can come close to the abomination of 3D. These features are overwhelmed by cross talk and headache-inducing imagery. Shots exaggerate elements to extremes or incorrectly assign pieces to the backdrop. Live action footage of engineers in 3D Sun are quite possibly the worst 3D imagery this format has offered to date with no sense of natural depth. This is a mash-up of overly intense and inadequate stereoscopic material.
The only bright spot (somewhat ironically) are NASA’s actual images of the sun. Those contain the sphere in its natural beauty for maybe three minutes. Attempts to sell the effect with poky satellite legs are ruined by an abundance of cross talk. Hyped up shots of Mars push out the foreground to such a degree as to make viewing them painful. Only a small handful of shots actually succeed, but they’re never worth the inevitable headache, even for 3D veterans. [xrr rating=3/5 label=2D-Video] [xrr rating=0/5 label=3D-Video]
Both features include DTS-HD 5.1 mixes of minimal consequence. Mars 3D holds the highlight for its rocket launch (with surrounding countdown call and engine thrust) and bouncing surface landing of the rover. Bursts of LFE are a shock in an otherwise dry documentary.
3D Sun carries a solar storm and wind to offer a smidgen of surround use. Otherwise, audio sticks to the center with a slight blow out to the rears for ambient music. Narration and interviews are equals if that was of any concern. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]
Eight 3D trailers are included, the only extras. [xrr rating=1/5 label=Extras]
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Note: Because the images are mixed between the two features, no time stamps are provided.