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Posted on February 3, 2010 and read 4,173 times

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0 1206 3D | NEW GAME | NEW RULESJames Stewart
Producer/Director and Owner
Geneva Film Co.

One year ago, James Stewart of Geneva Film Co. penned a very popular article here on ihaveanidea about his field of expertise, working with 3D technologies. Fast forward to 2010, and James is back to talk more about 3D, a world that that has suddenly become more real to mainstream audiences.

Is there anyone out there who still doesn’t believe that digital 3D has changed the game and is here to stay?

avatar movie poster3 3D | NEW GAME | NEW RULESWith Avatar setting new sales records every week, and getting set to sail right past Titanic as the highest grossing film of all time, it would be hard to argue that this genie could, or should, be put back in the bottle.  A quick Googling of the number of 3D films in the pipeline — from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland to Toy Story 3 to TRON — shows that the publics’ appetite has just been whetted.  Or take a look at any of the many surveys asking people whether they prefer 3D movies to 2D and it’s evident that few want to go back to the second dimension.

Many of those same surveys report a growing number of people want the same viewing experience at home.  And they’re going to get it.  As you probably know by now, both ESPN and Discovery have announced that they’re launching all 3D channels.  ESPN will go on air this June in time for the FIFA World Cup.  They are planning to show at least 85 live sporting events in their first year of operation.  Discovery’s 3D effort goes live in 2011. Across the pond, Sky television in the UK is preparing to broadcast 3D soccer matches into pubs and eventually living rooms, and the BBC has announced part of its coverage of the 2012 Olympics will be in 3D.

I know, I know. There are still some hurdles to get over on the television front: the minor extra cost for a 3D-ready television and 3D glasses, the lack of 3D programming out of the gate… it reminds me, in its own way, of the objections so many people had in the early days of HD.  The fact is digital 3D is coming. It’s coming to your laptop, your Blu-ray, your PlayStation, your mobile phone.  And before you know it, glasses-free 3D will be in a theater or home theater near you.  So I say embrace it.  Explore it.  Revel in it.  A whole new dimension in which to be creative has just opened up.

Next Question

Still, I do come across articles and industry types that question why television producers and especially advertisers should follow the crowd.  (To them I say, go see Avatar!)  But those questions, in my experience are getting fewer.  In fact, over the last three years as I’ve had the opportunity to speak at a number of industry gatherings-from the first 3DX Film and Entertainment Technology Festival in Singapore to the latest Dimension3 in Paris and 3D Summit in Los Angeles-the questions I get asked have less and less to do with the viability of 3D and more and more to do with the nuts and bolts of working with the medium.  The top three questions:

  • How do we do it?
  • What does it cost?
  • When is it going to be on my iPhone?

The short answers: easier than you think; less expensive than you think; and sooner than you think.  Here’s the longer version.

How We Do It

To begin with, we live in a 3D world.  As ‘binocular’ beings, we see everything with two eyes.  Each eye sees a slightly different angle, creating depth perception in the brain.

Live action 3D recreates this effect by filming with two cameras, each camera replicating the view of one eye.  Looking deeper, human eyes are 2.5 inches apart and that’s the starting distance for the placement of each camera.  By moving the cameras closer together or farther apart, or by pointing them slightly inwards it’s possible to create all kinds of effects-from making objects appear to jump off the screen to scenes of incredible depth.

The workflow is also entirely digital; digital acquisition, digital post-production, digital projection. All of which means that anything and everything can be captured, from real-time concerts to live-action sports, with little opportunity for the technical challenges that have plagued 3D in the past to enter into the process. And the state of the technology, especially on the projection end, eases the eyes into seeing and perceiving images as “hyper-crisp”.  Polarized lenses have replaced the cardboard glasses; each lens has a different direction of polarization allowing only the correct image to enter each eye.  Your brain fuses them as it does everything you see, to create depth.  No more headaches.  No more eyestrain.  No more seizures. Industry advances will soon do away entirely with the need for 3D glasses.

What It Costs

For live action 3D —I’ll leave the issue of 2D to 3D conversion out of this discussion — my rule of thumb is 10 to 25 percent more than shooting Digital.  It is a wide range, and where a particular project falls on that scale depends on the size of the initial budget.  If you are producing a high-end spot and working with a substantial budget, the move to 3D will be less because you are already investing in higher production value — more comprehensive storyboarding, more shooting days, more time lighting, etc.  If you are dealing with a small budget, then the move to 3D is going to be that much more, and possibly prohibitive. But don’t kid yourself into thinking this is only for Avatar sized budgets.  Right now, music videos, independent films, commercials, TV series, documentaries, concerts, sports are being shot in digital 3D, with budgets large and small.

Cost, I suspect, is what was holding many brands back in 2009. But that has now changed. Speaking at the  Screen Advertising World Association (SAWA) conference in Australia this November, the enthusiasm for 3D was absolutely palpable. Several global brands have already made forays into this brave new dimension, including Pepsi with a Sobe Life Water spot during the SuperBowl last year, Mazda in Sweden, Vodafone in Europe and the US Air Force (maybe not a global brand but a global player). And my company, Geneva Film Co., has produced six 3D spots for some decidedly not global brands, including

Coming to an iPhone Near You

In fact, 3D is already available on your iPhone.  I’ve had a prototype of an application on my iPhone for two years.  Today, you can download the app for ninety-nine cents — it’s made by a Canadian company called Spatial Viewand play 3D content or 3D games anytime, anywhere.  This is on your iPhone, with no glasses. Look for a major launch of 3D iPhone music videos and commercials following the Grammys this past weekend.

To close, I’ll rephrase the question I opened with: Is there anyone out there who would want to go back to living in a pre-Avatar 2D world?  I suspect not.

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