Shooting “3D Music Albums” for Blu-ray
How AIX Records Founder Mark Waldrep Embraced a New Kind of Stereo
Mark Waldrep: Talking with cinematographers who’ve had experience with beam-splitter rigs, my contention is we would never have made it through our shoots with all the two-camera alignments and rotations, and my post process would be heavily complicated. After we shot the stuff, I transferred some into my Final Cut system from the left eye and the right eye and edited it left and right on a split screen. I bought a [3D-capable] 65-inch screen – which was delivered on Sunday night – plugged it in and put the glasses on and went, “Holy cow, it worked.”
MW: It was magic. The guitar neck was sticking out of the screen and [acoustic guitarist] Laurence Juber was sitting right across the room from me. In exchange for the generosity of Jan [Crittenden] and the people at Panasonic, I happily supplied some footage and talked in glowing terms about this camera and its capabilities for little guys like me to do real-world production work.
MW: The first phone call I made was to 3ality. I talked to a wonderful woman who said they could help me out. I asked, “Can you give me an idea of the cost for a camera and an operator for a set-up like this?” And she said, “It’s about $67,000 for one camera for one day.” Well, that was bigger than my entire budget, and I needed more than one camera. That wasn’t going anywhere. I reached out to 3D Film Factory, down in San Diego, where Karl Kozak was very knowledgeable. That’s certainly where I was going. But we needed great efficiency in our sessions – over three days, I shot seven records. It all had to go flawlessly.
F&V: What kind of limitations did you have to keep in mind with the single-body Panasonic cameras?
MW: You can’t be up on somebody real close. But I didn’t need to be up close. I want the band to appear to be on stage, and we are on the periphery. We stayed back eight to 10 feet as a minimum distance. That’s as close as you can get to the subject without introducing some convergence problems and parallax issues. I didn’t find it to be much of a limitation. We did have to restart one of the cameras once in a while after changing out the media.
F&V: As a director and editor, what did this project teach you about successfully working in stereo 3D?
MW: I didn’t have a single cross-fade in the thing. I know now what a 3D headache is – your head hurts from all the stuff that you’ve done wrong. I’d have rotated one of the lenses one degree, or I’d be a frame out of sync between the left and right eye, or I’d be converged wrong, and when you watched the thing it would hurt. I’d go back, one segment of the edit at a time, and hand-converge them. I’ve got the Dashwood stereo toolkit [from Noise Industries] as well, but found you can’t place stuff in real time unless you’ve got a solid-state drive, and I don’t.
F&V: What about the Blu-ray format? Does authoring for Blu-ray currently present any major challenges?
MW: Doing a disc in BD-J [the spec for advanced Blu-ray interactivity] in 3D has been a pretty big deal in discussions lately. Upgraded firmware for the PlayStation 3 is never going to support BD-J 3D. If you want to make a disk you have to do it as an HDMV disc [with less-sophisticated interactive features]. It’s a much more brute-force approach.
We did learn that, while we actually shot at 1080i/29.97, the Blu-ray spec doesn’t take that format. It only takes 23.98, and you can’t get from 29.97 to 23.98 easily. These things are being put out as 720p Blu-rays because I can get there. Everybody says, “Well, of course you did it at 24.” But I have no interest in 24. I don’t want to look like film. Film looks like crap when you’re shooting fast music stuff. I want the higher frame rate, and 720p worked out great.
F&V: What are your feelings on Blu-ray as a format for audio programs?
MW: Blu-ray is a perfect solution. It’s easy and inexpensive and the quality is so far superior to any other audio playback format, including vinyl and analog tape, that it’s a no-brainer. You can spend a few hundred dollars on an Oppo with the SE option on it, and you’ve got better than the best CD player on the planet for a fraction of the cost [of an audiophile unit].
For more information: www.aixrecords.com.