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Thursday, 08 March 2012 15:10

The Movement to 3D

Written by  James Thompson
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cameron_sfwWhile the last few years have seen a substantial movement toward 3D, it’s now safe to say that 3D projects are here for a long haul as it is the next wave of movie and television entertainment. Most of the television sets that are now being made will be 3D enabled while the advent of 3D theatrical viewing in multiplex theaters sprout up in record numbers — and consumers are forking out the extra cash for this entertainment. Large corporate companies, like ESPN, are also moving into 3D and consumers can now find 3D entertainment in most sports and live-event programming. “They were brave, they were smart, they are pioneers and they’ve done a really good job at it,” says Marty Shindler, CEO of The Shindler Prospective, a management consulting team for companies in entertainment and entertainment technology. Shindler promotes the 3D movement and often holds 3D sessions at trade show events, such as Digital Hollywood and the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

During CES, the BCS National Championship Game between LSU and Alabama was broadcast live on ESPN 3D at the Las Vegas Hilton Theater to approximately 750 excited participants. According to Shindler, the reaction of the viewing audience enhanced the experience. “One of the things learned from CES is that more and more TVs are going to be 3D enabled,” says Shindler. “That means the consumer won’t have to decide whether to pay extra for 3D or not. By this time next year, it’s not even going to be part of the decision.”

wim-wendersAcclaimed Director Wim Wenders spent years developing Pina, a 3D documentary featuring the unique and inspiring art of the great Tanztheater Wuppertal Choreographer Pina Bausch, who died suddenly in the summer of 2009. Since Bausch’s work was physical and involved the bodies of dancers, Wenders felt that it would be difficult to showcase the performers in 2D. “It was mainly wishful thinking because we weren't really there yet,” says Wenders, who waited until the technology for 3D shooting evolved to start filming in 2008. “When we started prepping and doing tests in 2008, 3D was in its infancy. At that time, the rigs were handmade. Today I would have a whole range of options.” Wenders’ hard work on his 3D film paid off — Pina has been well received by audiences. “We didn’t want the technology to be the hero of the film,” notes Wenders. “We wanted the dance to be the attraction to the movie. Technology was at the service of these emotions. Technology was a way to finally show Pina’s work in all its complexity.”

Wenders feels that the 3D format made its strongest impact with the simplest shots of the dancers’ faces. “For me, the big revelation and the most effective shots were these close-ups, the silent portraits,” says Wenders. “I wanted this to be like a session with a painter. I wanted them to be alone and be in their own thoughts. That was a real shock for me. To realize that 3D did something that I hadn’t seen before, [that] I hadn’t seen in all the big configurations on the stage. I had seen depth and space but I had not seen that the body could have volume. The body was round and the face was the landscape.... I had goose bumps ... because that was the big thing that I didn’t even think 3D could do. It could represent the human body in a very different way [that] also brought out depth [and] their individuality and identity.”

The 3D movement has also created opportunities for Cinematographer Martin Lisius, who spends his time getting 3D shots of severe weather. For his company StormStock, a stock footage company that specializes in capturing dramatic storm footage, Lisius shoots thunderstorms, stormy seas and blizzards in addition to chasing the mother of all natural disasters: tornados. To capture these events, Lisius and his crew use a Sony HDR-TD10 3D camera on a medium-duty, Betacam-style OConnor tripod. “Most of our shooting with the TD10 on the tiny Sony is outsized by this support system,” Lisius reports, “but we need the extra bulk for the high winds we shoot in.”

lucas_sfwCameron/Pace Group Co-Founders James Cameron and Vince Pace have been very active in promoting their new partnership and speaking about the industry’s movement to 3D. “3D is very much the wild west right now,” says Lucas Wilson (pictured left), VP of sales and marketing at Cameron/Pace Group. “Part of our philosophy at the Cameron/Pace Group is we want to be able to take our clients from slate to screen. We want to be able to partner with them very early in the process and stay with them throughout the process.”

Headquartered in Burbank, Calif., the Cameron/Pace Group has taken a leading role in bringing 3D content to the broadcast and movie industries. The company offers a state-of-the-art DI theater, full machine shop and approximately 100 different 3D setups using various cameras and lenses. In addition, they offer a “3D Sandbox,” a room where producers, directors and cinematographers can play with the variety of 3D setups. “It’s just people doing craft, coming in and learning and testing stuff,” reports Wilson. “Education is such a huge component of 3D right now. We have the best lenses [and] we have the best cameras. We want everybody to shoot 3D.”

For broadcasters, Cameron/Pace Group has created a 3D patent that they refer to as “Shadow” technology. This technology allows a 3D rig to attach to a standard 2D boxed lens and standard 2D camera so both can be obtained by one camera operator. Anytime the 2D camera performs a focus iris or zoom, the shadow system automatically tracks it with the 3D setup. This allows a smooth transition from 2D to 3D for operators, so they don’t need two setups or extra camera positions. “Broadcasters need to shoot in both,” explains Wilson. “For broadcasters, this is fantastic because this is a transition step for them to get comfortable with 3D.”

As the industry embraces the challenges of transitioning to 3D, audiences are certain to enjoy the end results. “3D when done right by directors and people that understand how to use it as part of the storytelling process,” says Wilson. “[It’s] understood [that] when you pull someone off the screen a little bit, it creates a dramatic tension [and] you create an emotional reaction that doesn’t exist in 2D.”
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