Culver City, CA—Today, Sony Corporation announced that it will open the Sony 3D Technology Center at Sony Pictures Studios, to train cinematographers, directors, game developers and others in the art and science of 3D production and post. The Center was announced to the press by Chris Cookson, president of Sony Pictures Technologies, Sony Pictures Entertainment and now Chief Office of the Sony 3D Center. Also on hand was Buzz Hays, SVP of the Sony 3D Technology Center; George Joblove, EVP of advanced technology for Sony Pictures Entertainment; Steve Poster, ASC, who is president of International Cinematographers Guild Local 600; Elizabeth Daly, dean of the USC School of Cinematic Arts and others.

"Making 3D is easy, but making good 3D is hard," said Hays, introducing the topic. Cookson concurred. "It's too easy to rush out and shoot 3D that isn't pleasant," he said. "Bad 3D will sour consumers on the experience. We want to elevate the knowledge of people across the industry so that the 3D experience can be more pleasant."

To that end, the Sony 3D Technology Center–in concert with both Local 600 and USC School of Cinematic Arts–plans to hold a series of four-day workshops aimed at cinematographers, directors, live event crews and game developers and others who are directly involved in producing 3D content. The workshops will begin in March and first be aimed at cinematographers. "It's important that cinematographers and their crews come in as a unit," emphasized Hays. "This is organized as a production environment, and not for individuals." Cookson said that they have already received numerous requests from around the world to be part of that first workshop and noted that the USC connection will help draw in the next generation of filmmakers. Sony will absorb the costs of the workshops and Poster said that, like with other training, ICG will pay the housing costs of those accepted to the workshops.

ICG's Poster noted that Local 600 holds training programs all year, throughout the country. "This will be run like a normal training program," he said. "We'll handle it on our normal basis of first come, first served." Poster also noted that these workshops are the fruition of an effort he started at ICG three years ago to train cinematographers in 3D techniques."In the late 1990s, Sony trained cinematographers to use HD cameras, and I was involved with that," he said. "The idea is to do the same here."

Cookson noted that Jim Honore, EVP of post production at Sony Pictures has reached out to his counterparts at other studios with regard to education about post production in 3D. "And aside from more formalized training, we'll also do one-on-one training for people going into a 3D production," said Cookson, who noted the variety of ways that 3D is both captured or converted from 2D. The Center will also play a role in vetting all the new 3D technology coming out.

"It's in Sony's enlightened self-interest that everyone learn how to do this," added Joblove. "For us, it's about information sharing. If other studios do bad 3D work, it hurts everyone."

Cookson and Hays started off with a demonstration of some of the ways that 3D can be painful to view if not done correctly, in particular with divergence, or images that force the eyes to look at two images that are broader than the eyes' natural interocular distance. "From the moment you wake up until you go to sleep, you're seeing in 3D," said Hays. "But 3D in camera can be unnatural and tire your eyes."

Sony's expertise in 3D is now up to eight films, pointed out Hays, most recently including Disney's Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland–with live action characters integrated into virtual backgrounds–which the facility is converting from 2D into 3D. "Initially, many of the 3D movies were CG and now some of them are hybrids," he said, pointing out that Disney's G-Force was another hybrid, in this case integrating CG characters into live action backgrounds. (Both Disney films were converted at Sony Imageworks.) "We've learned a lot about how not to fatigue an audience," he said. He also noted the importance of 3D TV. "Due to different screen sizes and other factors, it's difficult to gauge actual 3D experiences in movie theaters," he said. "The size of sets and distance of viewer to the screen will be more standardized with 3D TV."

Curriculum at the 3D Technology Center will focus on 3D concepts and fundamentals, virtual camera, 3D production workflow and previsualization in 3D. "The cinematographer training will focus on lighting, practical shooting tests, 3D dailies review and 3D editorial and post," said Cookson. The emphasis across the board will be on hands-on shooting experiences and examination of the use of 3D as a storytelling technique.Post production tools include Cineform's 3D tools for editing and playback in real-time, in slightly compressed form.

Hays also demonstrated some of the nascent and developed technologies for 3D previs and production. In particular, he showed FrameForge 3D, a real-time 3D previsualization system. "It's a very practical system," he said. "Cinematographers and directors can understand how 3D works. It's a virtual way to experiment with cameras and lenses, as well as framing and convergence."

Also briefly demonstrated were 3D games (which use active shutter glasses) and the 3ality 3D beam splitter camera rig. In addition to showing clips from recent 3D movies–Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Alice in Wonderland–Hays introduced Harry Friedman, the EVP of the Sony TV shows Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune who said that they are experimenting with 3D versions of both long-running syndicated shows. "One of the biggest challenges we face is keeping the show fresh and interesting without changing the game," he said. "In 2006, Wheel and Jeopardy became the first syndicated shows in HD. For those shows, we have fully dimensional sets that are just made for the 3D experience."

Producing in 3D is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to creating new movie/TV watching experiences, said Hays. He pointed out that orthoscopy is a one-on-one correlation that can, for example, put the viewer in seat across from David Letterman. "We're excited when filmmakers explore 3D for storytelling," he said. Live events is, in particular, a work-in-progress, says Cookson. Sony is involved in the upcoming 3D broadcast of the World Cup, in partnership with European broadcast organizations. Behind the scenes, he said, Sony is working on many more 3D related projects he cannot yet discuss. "We want to bring people together from different industries to work on projects on things to come," said Cookson. "There are people around the world working on pieces that will create problem-solving systems."