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3-D, this time with feeling

With digital 3-D, filmmakers aim to add emotional, not just visual, depth.

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Though 3-D movies have boomed and busted many times over the past 50 years, Hollywood insists that this current wave of digital stereoscopics (led by blockbusters such as ‘Avatar,’ left) is here to stay.

Newscom

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Over the past year, 3-D has changed the business of Hollywood. Both of this year's top-grossing films – "Toy Story 3" and "Alice in Wonderland" – made most of their money from 3-D screenings. One-third of all box-office receipts in 2010 came from 3-D ticket sales, according to the International 3D Society trade group. And "Avatar," widely considered to be the paragon of 3-D films, returns to theaters at the end of August after already becoming the most profitable movie ever.

But has the extra dimension changed the craft of Hollywood? Proponents say that today's stereoscopic (3-D) technology is finally powerful enough to add not only visual depth but also emotional depth.

Phil McNally, the stereoscopic supervisor for Dreamworks Animation, admits that many 3-D movies have used the effect as a gimmick.

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