Society

Porn Industry Goes 3D To Lift Sagging Skin Flick Sales

With Internet piracy taking a major bite out of their bottom line, adult film producers are going three dimensional in an effort to lure new, paying customers.

Marc Dorcel took a
Marc Dorcel took a
Anouch Seydtaghia

PARIS – On the screen, Black Angelika is lasciviously taking her clothes off on a white couch, her eyes burning with desire. She also seems to be staring right at us, something that's particularly exciting for Ghislain Faribeault, the "new media" chief for Video Marc Dorcel, an erotic film producer. "Look at the way she moves," he says, watching the now naked woman through his polarized glasses. "The actress is permanently in contact with the viewer."

Thanks to the 3D technology being used to shoot the scene, Black Angelika's arms and legs do seem incredibly close.

Some minutes later, an actor joins the porn star on the couch. The writhing of bodies begins. Black Angelika continues to gaze at us, professionally. The effects of the scene are highly realistic, so much so that we have the impression of being in the large living room right next to them.

Once we take our glasses off, we are back in the real world – in Marc Dorcel's conference room which, thanks to its huge screens, also serves as a demo room. From outside it would be impossible to know that this inconspicuous building, tucked away right in the heart of Paris, serves as the headquarters for Europe's biggest adult film company. That doesn't mean, however, that we'll be meeting the real Black Algelika: there is nothing else here than computers, files and a couple of posters on the walls. "Filming takes place in castles and private mansions," says Adeline Anfray, a press secretary.

Video Marc Dorcel, whose managing director is now Grégory Dorcel (Marc Dorcel, Grégory's father, recently retired), is one of the first studios to have adopted 3D technology. According to Mr. Faribeault, the decision was as much a strategic choice as a response to the changing realities of the adult entertainment industry.

"Because of the piracy, we have to use the latest technology available," he says. "We are aware that 90% of our films are illegally downloaded, so it is thanks to the remaining 10% of sales that we are able to exist. We also know that 30 to 40% of the Internet traffic in the world is linked to pornography. So, since last year we have invested 1.5 million euros in the production of around 100 3D films that are each 20 to 30 minute long."

Why are the films so short? "Because 3D technology can be tiring for the eyes," says Faribeault. "We prefer filming shorter scenes, with less frequent angle changes."

Certainly shorter from the consumer's point of view, 3D sex scenes are actually more time consuming for the actors involved. "Compared with conventional production, scenes take longer to shoot because we have to constantly make sure that the images look perfect in 3D. This means that the production time is four to five times longer than 2D films," says Faribeault.

The 3D technology also implies the use of more advanced technology. The Marc Dorcel studios use double cameras weighing 80 kilos. Each camera is equipped with two lenses, positioned 6.5 cm apart. "We used the so-called ‘jack-in-the-box" 3D technology so as to give viewers the impression that actors are just a few centimetres away," Mr. Faribeault says. The technique differs the "depth of field" approach, which Canadian director James Cameron used for his blockbuster Avatar.

Faribeault admits that 3D technology is still in its infancy. "In 2010, only 200,000 3D televisions were sold in France, but the numbers are rapidly growing. We are also waiting for TV sets that do not require special glasses to appear in the next few months," he says.

Marc Dorcel films such as Baisée sur la Photocopieuse 3D (Sex on the 3D Copy Machine) are currently available for television or personal computer viewing via VOD (video on demand) services. Erotic film consumers can expect to pay somewhere eight and 10 euros for a three-hour lease – a bit pricey, but not outrageously expensive given the quality, according to Faribeault. "There is nothing vulgar in our films," he says. "This is not amateur or gonzo pornography (filmed by someone holding the camera in his hand)."

Does this mean that the company will stop selling DVDs? Faribeault doesn't think so. "DVDs still represent 25% of our revenue, compared with 55% for VOD," he says. "But no one makes adult Blu-Ray DVDs, and especially not 3D films. Production costs are huge and the number of people going to watch a film in video clubs is getting smaller every day."

As a consequence, erotic film companies such as Marc Dorel are making a concerted effort to reach consumers right in their living rooms. In the coming weeks, the French company is set to launch Internet-connected TV apps (Smart TV).

Europe's biggest porn producer is also determined to break into the growing mobile telephone market. The immediate challenge for Marc Dorel is that neither Apple nor Google authorize the sale of applications dedicated to watching pornography. "We are going to improve our video technology so clients can rent films directly in their smartphone browsers," says Faribeault.

Marc Dorcel is also exploring the concept of "participative porn." Last year the company launched its first "crowdfunding" operation, inviting Internet uses to finance a film in exchange for ownership rights over the script. The operation attracted about 900 participants, who together donated approximately 85,000 euros to shoot a film called Mademoiselle de Paris. Some even had a chance to try their hand at directing certain scenes. Others participated in the film as extras.

Describing the company's approach as a "360-degree" strategy, Faribeault says Marc Dorcel looks to "constantly innovate and be present on all screens." Except maybe in local movie houses. "That's probably never going to happen," he admits. "Specialized cinemas are slowly disappearing and I am not sure that multiplex cinemas would want to screen our films."

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