Silicon Imaging, the company that enabled the digital shooting of this years Oscar winning Best Picture Slumdog Millionaire, is now changing the face of stereo-3D cinematography and production. The company unveiled the world’s first integrated 3D cinema camera and stereo visualization system at NAB 2009. The SI-3D shoots uncompressed raw imagery from two synchronized cameras and encodes directly to a single stereo CineFormRAW QuickTime file, along with 3D LUT color and convergence metadata. The stereo file can to be instantly played back and edited in Full 3D on an Apple Final Cut timeline, without the need for proxy conversions.
Traditionally, 3D content was captured from two independent left and right cameras, each with its own settings, color controls, record start, timecode, content management and monitoring outputs. A variety of complex devices would be used to synchronize the recordings or combine the outputs for viewing. The content would then have to go through a tedious process of being ingested or converted to formats compatible with the editing or grading systems, matched up from the independent left and right sources, flipped if the shot was on a beam splitter and the timeline adjusted to have the first frame overlapped. A color grade could then be applied, convergence adjusted and finally a stereo image viewed for dailies playback.

“The SI-3D camera system streamlines the entire stereo-3D content acquisition and post production process;” states Ari Presler, CEO of Silicon Imaging. “Combining two cameras into a single control, processing and recording platform enables shooting and instant playback like a traditional 2D camera with the added tools needed on-set to analyze and adjust the lighting, color, flip orientation and stereo depth effects. In post, a unified stereo file plus associated metadata can be immediately graded for dailies, edited, and viewed in either 2D or 3D.”

The SI-3D system uses two remote SI-2K Mini cameras with an P+S interchange lens mount connected to a single processing system via gigabit Ethernet where they are synchronized and controlled through the familiar SiliconDVR touchscreen interface. On-set, each camera can be viewed individually or in stereo mixed modes using modern 3D LCD and DLP displays. Various tools are used to visualize and adjust the focus, lighting and 3-D effects including alignment grid overlays, false color zebras, digital zooming, edge detection, spot meters, dual histograms, parallax shifts, anaglyph mixing and wiggle displays.

Unlike modern HD cameras, which develop and compress colorized imagery, the SI system captures raw “digital negatives” where they are non-destructively developed and colorized for preview using the cinematographer’s desired “look” for the scene. This color metadata, along with stereo convergence, flip orientation from beam splitter rigs and alignment data are encoded into a single CineFormRAW QuickTime stereo file. These files can be edited directly in Apple Final Cut without the need for conversion or rendering. With the addition of CineForm’s Neo3D, convergence plus stereo or individual eye color adjustments can be dynamically controlled and modified, while viewing live 3D playback using side-by-side, over-under, or interlaced output modes.

“Driven by increasing numbers of 3D film projects planned by Hollywood studios, the demand for efficient 3D camera and post workflows has increased significantly in the last two years,” said David Taylor, CEO of CineForm, Inc. “The combination of the Silicon Imaging SI-3D camera with CineForm high-fidelity compression-based 3D workflow will significantly reduce overall project complexity and costs.”

“The Silicon Imaging camera’s form factor and flexible lens mounting system enable us to develop innovative lightweight beam-splitter and parallel rigs to shoot steadicam and hand-held stereo footage with incredible latitude and film like results” stated Max Penner, CTO of ParadiseFX. We have the SI Mini’s as part of our 3D camera package to shooting feature films including Thomas Jane’s “Dark Country 3D”, Patrick Lussier’s, “My Bloody Valentine 3D” and Joe Dante’s “The Hole 3D”.”

The SI-3D system is also establishing new benchmarks in image quality and data rates with its ability to record dual-stream 12-bit uncompressed raw directly to mobile 2.5″ SSD (Solid State Drives), with peak rates up to 200Mbytes/sec (1.6Gbit/sec). A 250 GB drive can store up to 1-hour of footage per camera. The resulting Silicon Imaging Video (.SIV) footage can be seamlessly viewed and graded directly in Iridas FrameCycler and Speedgrade XR with look and stereo metadata applied. The files can also be exported as a CinemaDNG sequences or converted to CineFormRAW 2D or 3D files, at a later time.

“There is an incredible amount of latitude and resolution from the Silicon Imaging cameras” states William White, CEO of 3D Camera Company. “Shooting directly to SSD gives us the flexibility to record stereo footage in an extreme lightweight and rugged configuration as shoulder or vehicle mounted for ‘Rescue 3D’ and even body worn for shooting from a skydiver in the upcoming ‘Human Flight 3D’. The SI-3D system with on-set visualization and integrated stereo workflow will speed up our entire shooting and production process for creating compelling 3D content.”

Silicon Imaging will be demonstrating the SI-3D system at NAB 2009 in Booth SL11605.