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Thursday, 30 December 2010 22:41

Cheap 3D Pre-Viz

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By Gordon Meyer
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My friend Susan Johnston is a producer with a mission – actually several.  One of those missions is producing a feature based on the Marvel graphic novel, "Prey: Origin of the Species," on a budget a fraction of what it would cost a studio while yielding studio-caliber quality.  And did I mention that this feature is slated to be produced in 3D?

Susan and I were having dinner the other night when I told her all about the spiffy computer I built earlier this year, including its upgrade to view stereoscopic 3D content via the LG Flatron W2363D monitor and NVIDIA GeForce 480 graphics board and 3D Vision kit.  Naturally she was impressed.  But when I told her how I had recently watched a DVD of Walt Disney’s classic FANTASIA that my viewing software converted from 2D to 3D in real time, her eyes lit up.

As I had mentioned before, both the ArcSoft and CyberLink DVD/BD viewing programs I use have the capability of doing real time 2D-3D conversion of just about any video source except Blu-ray, which enables me to watch some of the classics in my library, like FANTASIA, STAR WARS and the first HARRY POTTER movie in 3D.

I explained to Susan that, since the conversion was being handled by consumer software that in both cases streets for under $100, the conversion algorithms are pretty basic and that there are times when the conversion is way off in terms of the depth placement of select objects.  At the same time, it worked well enough so that I could get a reasonable feel for how well a given movie would work in 3D if and when a proper conversion is done.

For Susan, this was Manna from heaven.  Although she's planning to produce "Prey" in 3D, she anticipates that parts of the movie will be shot in 2D and then converted. The advantage of using a system like mine for her and her team will be that, as imperfect as those real time viewing-only conversions may be, they would still give her and her director a way to look at test footage for her movie and get a feel for what it would look like when presented in 3D, even though that conversion would sometimes be off kilter and could not be saved in a 3D format.

She got incredibly excited at the prospect of using a personal computer to test her footage in 3D because for less than the cost of a single minute of converted footage from one of the companies specializing in that process, she could buy a fully loaded Windows PC, complete with the software, graphics board and monitor needed to view the converted test footage and then, not only test as much footage as she and her director want with no down time, she can even burn full HD Blu-ray discs to boot. 

One other thing that made Susan’s day:  Because the GeForce 480 specs include a mini-HDMI 1.4 output, with the handy dandy adapter that either comes with the board or is readily available (depending on whose version of the 480 you get), you can even send that 3D video stream to any 3D capable flat screen TV so Susan and her creative team don’t have to huddle over a 23” monitor. 

As a producer, Susan told me that learning about this new option was the best Christmas present she had gotten all season.  Who knew?

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