Los Angeles, CA–At the 3D Summit here
, panel discussions looked at every piece of the production and distribution chain. The three sessions I was able to attend were all interesting, and I’ve summed up the discussion below.
POST PRODUCTION ISSUES
Moderated by Peter Debruge, associate features editor at Variety, the panel gathered together a group of people with experience in the post production of 3D. They included Van Bedient, director of market development at Avid Technology; Brent Kaviar, post production executive for Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D; Jeff McNall, cinema product manager at Dolby; John Nicolard, head of digital production at FotoKem Digital Film Services; and David Seigle, president/CEO of In-Three.
Each panelist briefly described the “wow” moment with 3D and his involvement in the field. In-Three is a company that “dimensionalizes” 2D films into 3D in depth grading sessions with the director. Fotokem’s digital lab does Digital Intermediates, and effects work for film/TV and special venue projects. Several years ago, the company added 3D post services when they saw bigger 3D projects coming out.
Avid is on the verge of releasing its first stereo editing project, after much investigation, said Bedient, who reported that they talked to animation and production companies about their needs. And Dolby supplies post production screening rooms that can be used for 2D or 3D.
How does the post process in 2D compare to that in 3D? asked Debruge? “Every 3D film is different, just like every 2D film is a little different,” answered Nicolard. “If youâ€™re doing a multi-camera shoot, convergence changes happens in post production. Is it twice as much work? Potentially yes, potentially no. If the cameras are balanced, you color correct one eye and match the other eye. The gotcha is when we get to putting it together in 3D. Thatâ€™s when we find what the issues are. Was there a balancing problem between the two cameras? Was there a vertical offset?: These are the problems you donâ€™t find until you get into the 2D world. Theyâ€™re idiosyncratic to 3D post.”
Kaviar admitted that Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D was labor-intensive. Scheduled to release in Summer 2007 (after a June 2006 shoot), the premiere was delayed because there weren’t enough digital screens. “We ended up working the net year, putting more money and visual effects into it, and then ended up releasing it in 2D and 3D,” he said. “If we had a deadline, we would have made it, but the film was much bettter after that extra year.”
In-Three takes completed footage and introduces the process of dimensionalizing it, or adding the z axis. “We have a suite of techniques and tools that let us take any picture and turn it into 3D,” said Seigle. “Studios give us layers, we dimensionalize it and put it together. As we apply it to day-and-date work, itâ€™s less expensive. So thereâ€™s some advantage to doing it concurrently.”
Avid’s upcoming 3D editing product will take full advantage of peoples’ existing familiarity with the Avid interface. “We wanted to make sure any editor could sit in front of a stereo system and be comfortable,” said Bendient. “We took a 2D interface to work in a 2D timeline, selecting either right or left eye. Thereâ€™s a simultaneous 3D output coming to a DLP or projection system so you can focus on the story, be comfortable in the edit bay, but also have a real-time 3D output. We gave editors the best of both worlds.”
Nicolard approved that “when theyâ€™re cutting in 2D, they donâ€™t realize how the 3D impacts the storytelling process.” “One of the additional costs is the continual re-conforming so the filmmakers can see what the scene looks like,” he said. “Thereâ€™s a tremendous amount of time and money spent on the conform process. Itâ€™ll be a big advance to see more in the cutting room. Thatâ€™ll translate to more throughput in the post room to do more projects.”
Films will continue to come out in both 2D and 3D versions for some time to come. Kaviar reported that the initial game plan for Journey was to come out 100 percent 3D and digital. “But there werenâ€™t enough digital screens, so we went out 2D 35mm and 2D Digital Cinema [as well as 3D],” he said. “It was difficult: not the process of making all the elements but teaching the people at the studio about all these different 3D formats.”
Releasing 3D films in the home entertainment market currently relies on anaglyphic, an interim measure at best, agreed the panelists. But a 3D filmmaker needs to release the film on as many different screens as possible. “Studios look at platforms around the world,” said Kaviar.
Is that at discentive to work in 3D? “There are lots of headaches in post, but not big ones,” said Kaviar. “Itâ€™s a learning curve.” In the meantime, a great deal of responsibility falls on post to handle man of the issues that arise in 3D production. “We spend a lot of time making it an enjoyable experience,” he said. “For example, we did very aggressive 3D with Missy Elliotâ€™s music video “Ching a Ling,” but you canâ€™t do that for a feature film. We spend long days with the glasses on looking at the screen. Weâ€™re confident if it looks good to us itâ€™ll look good to you.”
The key tool to making 3D post run smoothly, said Nicolard, is real-time convergence, with the Quantel Pablo
. “Youâ€™re using the convergence tool to balance things up, to build up to a 3D moment. You gradually work up to one of the gags and then youâ€™re back. Itâ€™s like a depth script in animation. We have a depth script, and real-time convergence adjustment, with the release of Quantel software, has really made the difference.” Nicolard reported that convergence will soon be part of the dailies process. “The editor is looking for the most compelling images with no idea of where the convergence points are,” he said. “Then we look at how to do the best convergence for how the diretor wants the story to be told.”
ADVERTISING IN 3D:
Lindy Sheridan, director of marketing at PACE, moderated a panel that included Chris Gunn from Endemol USA, James Stewart of Geneva Film Co., and Melissa Weber of Grey Los Angeles.
Stewart described the shoot of a 3D commercial in Japan for the Toyota Tacoma truck. “Toyota said to the agency we want to do something new, futuristic, innovative, something that reflects the technological advances of the product,” he recounted. “We said how about live-action 3D?” Up until that point, Stewart’s experience with the medium was watching the NHK test at the Nagano Olympics. “I knew it could be done,.” he said. “I believe we can do this.” He did, and the piece was first shown on a 50-foot silver screen, from two projectors. “Theyâ€™re broadcasting 3D HD to the home in Japan,” said Stewart. “So when we ask if itâ€™s coming to the home, of course it is, because itâ€™s already happening in Japan.” Stewart reported that he is now encouraging all his clients to shoot 3D, “the same way I used to say, shoot in HD even if you donâ€™t need it today.”
Weber said that 3D can help a brand like BMW. “When you get in the car, the impact is big,” she said. “Being the brand rather than telling people about it is every advertiserâ€™s dream. Many of the advertisers Iâ€™ve worked with could benefit from using 3D in an organic way.” Sheridan said that this “moves beyond the sales message and into an experience.” But making the client understand that experience is still a job, added Weber. Gunn noted that 3D has to be organic, “or its insulting to todayâ€™s consumer.” “People will fast forward,” he said. “If itâ€™s immersive and organic and experiential, thatâ€™s where weâ€™re moving.”
Will advertisers move into storytelling? Weber believed this was the general direction whereas Stewart was less certain. “Iâ€™m from the philosophy that in the future all media will be in 3D,” he said. “Does it change storytelling? Iâ€™m not sure.”
Product placement will be enhanced in 3D, noted Sheridan. But Gunn pointed out that “one of the concerns is having too many products filling the screen.” “It can become over-ambitious and it turns people away,” he said. “In TV or the web, we create our productions with layers of experience in it. If you do a sponsorship deal with Macyâ€™s, for example, and a character is wearing a green dress, you build into the website the ability to go to Macyâ€™s and buy that green dress.”
“In 3D, we tend to have a deeper focus so thereâ€™s more room for more information in the frame,” countered Stewart. “Peoplesâ€™ brains work harder and theyâ€™re taking in so much more–including your product.” Gunn agreed that brands will seek product placement in 3D programming, but mentioned another caveat. “If they can see everything in the home, is one brand going to want to be associated with the other brands in your home?” he asked.
The biggest expense in making 3D ads right now, said Weber, is selling the idea. “The more senior I get, the more my job becomes captain of the debate team,” she said. “Iâ€™m constantly building the argument of why something should be done, the ROI, the benefits of being an early adopter. A lot of the negativity comes in trying to get people to wrap their heads around something new. Thatâ€™s a big challenge.”
She pointed out that one enticement is to show that 3D can be amortized as part of a multi-platform campaign. “The piece in the theater will then go on the mobile device,” she said. “So even if there’s an incremental cost of working in 3D, they can leverage it across all these other platforms.”
Stewart showed off “the worldâ€™s first 3D iPhone,” a prototype made by Spatial View that will be launched as a 99 cent app in the iPhone store in February. “My clients ask where they can use the 3D version,” he said. “I say, the movie theatre and, in 2009, it can go on the iPhone as a download. Everything in between will eventually happen.”
“Brands will come around to it,” added Weber. “Thereâ€™s the opportunity to be the thing thatâ€™s fresh and new, and a new way to experience your brand. Itâ€™s invaluable. Itâ€™ll go from a trickle to a tidal wave overnight. It feels like itâ€™s just at the tipping point.”
3D is the new HD, concluded panelists, and 2009 is the year of 3D and the year of 3D advertising.
THE FUTURE OF 3D:
Moderated by conference chair Bob Dowling, the panel of futurists consisted of Josh Greer, Real D co-founder/CEO; Sandy Climan, CEO of 3ality Digital; Jim Mainard, head of production development at DreamWorks; Jason Brenek, senior vp, worldwide digital cinema and cinema programming at Walt Disney Studios; Greg Foster, chairman/president, filmed entertainment IMAX Corp.; Vince Pace, founder/CEO of PACE; and Andrew Stucker, director of Sony Electronics Digital Cinema Systems.
Mainard believes that all digital films will “converge towards 3D.” On the animation side, added Foster, “itâ€™s a perfect world to work with.” “In the live action space there is still some work to be done, not on the technology side but education,” he said. “That means getting the filmmakers, post executivess, even the scriptwriters comfortable with the medium. With some successes, itâ€™ll be on its way.” Brenek noted that “we need more pioneers like Jim Cameron to get us there.”
Climan pointed out that filmmakers now have more resources: 3ality offers an end-to-end solution, PACE is also a pioneer. But filmmakers are inventing the language of 3D. “At 3ality were told all the things you couldnâ€™t do in 3D,” he said, speaking on U2 3D. “Fortunately, the first-time director Catherine Owens, did many things she wasnâ€™t supposed to be able to do-â€“zooms, pans-â€“that were said to be physically impossible.”
The creative community is working more comfortably with the technology community, said panelists, but the trick is to convince the bean counters. “Itâ€™s easier now than it was two years ago,” said Greer. “I think everyone now understands the economic success. More and more, itâ€™s becoming not if I do a 3D film but when.”
Climan believes that indie filmmakers will start to embrace 3D, making movies for $15 million or less. For the foreseeable future, however, 3D films will also have to roll out in 2D because of the lack of 3D screens. Greer reported that they have 1,500 screens rolled out and 6,000 more contracted. IMAX , being self-funded, is in a different kind of business but Foster noted the continued problem. “Itâ€™s a chicken and the egg situation,” he said. “In the next few years, itâ€™s clear there are enough 3D movies but if the exhibitors donâ€™t back it up, the well will dry up. Obviously we hope that doesnâ€™t happen.”
There are 3D screens currently in the top 150 markets, said Brenek, and exhibitors are working to get more screens online. He believes that people will “soon be willing to drive the extra 15 minutes to get to that 3dD theatre, so the studio will take the leap and only release it in 3D.”"Iâ€™m optimistic weâ€™ll get there faster than we think with the financial crisis,” he said.
Climan is bullish on special 3D programming in theatres, such as sports events and concerts, but Stucker encouraged people not to become complacent in terms of 3D origination and exhibition systems. “One of the pillars for getting started with digital cinema is to differentiate it from the home,” he said. “As a moviegoer, Iâ€™m concerned that the 3D experience at home will leap past the theatrical experience.”
Mainard also noted that “itâ€™s still a Wild West in terms of formats.” “As a studio and a filmmaker that distributes those products, we have to think about what the library will look like,” he said. “Not a lot of people are thinking about the back-end and I hope we can inspire people to think about it. I think we want to store something that will allow us to adapt to new display mechanisms. Iâ€™m in favor of something where the depth information is recorded. There will be new display technologies in the next decade that will require you to provide multiple views or will render different views from the material provided. Weâ€™re wrestling with how much weâ€™re willing to spend to make sure Shrek 4 will play a decade from now on those new display technologies.”
Internationally, 3D is a fragmented, complicated market, still largely driven by U.S. studios,” said Brenek. “Weâ€™re making headway in working there,” he said. “Theyâ€™re prioritizing 3D systems to be installed in their homes.” Mainard believes that, in Europe and Asia, the mobile market will adopt 3D much quicker and then see that expectation created. But in the U.S., the trend will run the opposite way, from theater to mobile.