Technica 3D pt.2
I apologize for the lack of new content on this site lately. It's peak production season on the east coast and I just haven't had the time for anything non-work related. I don't think I'm the only one though, the blog front seems a little sleepy these days. Canon Expo is coming up though and I think there will be some exciting announcements. That is if they've been paying attention to what's been happening in production this past year. I can't believe where I'm seeing 5D's and 7D's these days - big budget commercials that could handily afford an F35 or something similar are now often opting for a multiple DSLR package. The 7D with the PL mount seems to be particularly popular. Very interesting time to be in this business.
I'm currently out in Chicago working as the 3D Rig Tech on an indie comedy feature called, "Shakey." This production is using RED One Mysterium-X bodies and RED Pro Primes in the rock solid Element Technica Quasar rig. The week I spent at Element training on the equipment qualified me for the position and this shoot has been a baptism by fire to say the least. There's so much to learn about not just trouble shooting and aligning the Beamsplitter but also how the science of stereography is employed to craft depth on a shot by shot basis and how it will affect cutability within the scene. Taking eye strain as well and knowing when to push the 3D for a big effect and when to give the audiences a little breather is equally important. There's obviously a lot to learn and I've found the Technica 3D site to be a fantastic resource I keep referring to for both equipment related questions and the fundamental principles on creating stereoscopic images. I would recommend anyone starting out in Digital 3D have a click around in there.
There are a lot of naysayers out there looking to discredit 3D's long term viability, many of whom I suspect haven't experienced the production technology first hand. The fact is - it's here. It's getting people back in the theatre seats and that's all studios really care about at the end of the day. The cost of a 40" 3D display is now about 1500 USD and prices are coming down. I predict by this time next year, sub $1000 models will be available. Additionally, these emerging 3D Broadcasters need a mountain of original content to qualify as a network and it's got to come from somewhere. What's really going to push it home though is web delivery and I've recently seen demos of several 3D laptops. Once you can watch this content on your personal computer or smart phone with the passive 3D glasses you stole from Avatar, it's a done deal.
At this stage, the physical production aspect is substantially more involved, more cost prohibitive, and moves slower than traditional single camera, "flat" shooting. However as camera bodies get smaller and are more designed with this application in mind, the rest of the equipment package will get less unwieldy as well. Eventually as the gear evolves and consuming the media becomes easier, I think 3D will move out of niche production and you'll start seeing it on a lot more medium and low budget shows.
While there are already several small camera heads available (SI2K, Icnonix, etc), at this moment, the RED One is a pretty good solution for cinema because of the large resolution and the raw factor which makes matching the left and right eye images without degradation far more practical. As the Beamsplitter mirror does absorb a good amount of light, with the MX sensor and its improved sensitivity and noise floor, I'm pretty sold on the RED as a good choice for the rigs. There have been a lot of genlock / temporal sync issues reported with these cameras but on this show, the AJA Gen10 box seems to be keeping us locked up as no major sync issues have been discovered. In 3D - if you don't have Sync, you don't have s***. That should be the number one factor producers are aware of. That means you can't save money by putting 5D's in the stereo rig. Cameras need to be genlockable or else you don't have 3D.
The size of the rig with RED's is intimidating but if you can stay on a heavy dolly and have lots of hands on deck, the rig can keep up with production. The issue of lens changes is a challenging one as a lens change constitutes a fairly big re-alignment or at least more time intensive than just maintaining an alignment. This show came up with an interesting solution that has saved them a lot of time and that is were basically living on the 25mm and then lowering the resolution to punch in. For the RED this means windowing the sensor so our 25mm at 4K is about a 35mm at 3K and a 25mm at 2K. Because they've always planned on mastering in 2K, these resolution changes are a non-issue and the oversampled shots can easily be reframed in the online. One lens becomes three and in 3D you typically want to stay a little wider anyways as long lenses naturally flatten the depth. This has been a great way for them to get what they need with minimal compromise and keep the production moving.
That's it for now. I'll be back in NY in early September. See ya then.