This blog aims to share my thesis research on stereoscopic cinema. I will regularly write down my thoughts and discuss a topic from one of the following categories: technical issues, stereoscopic 'correspondances' (this is directly related to my thesis), S3D films reviews, the history of French stereoscopic cinema … and more!

Last year, I wrote about auto-stereoscopic systems that French men designed. Some of them, Maurice Bonnet and François Savoye, were particularly active from the 1940’s to the 1960’s. Have French inventors lost interest in auto-stereoscopy since?

Contemporary auto-stereoscopic displays

When Avatar release gave the S3D film production a new boost, the entire industry wondered how to bring S3D contents from movie theatres to people’s homes. But S3D films cannot reasonably be the only S3D contents for people to massively invest in adequate S3D displays. We cannot say that S3D broadcasting has been a success so far. Besides, manufacturers probably did not realise that what people would tolerate in cinemas, they would not accept it at home. I am here talking about the glasses. Some of them tried to make glasses-free 3DTV screens.

No technical alternative to the lenticular grid has been found, so the difficulties to build a glasses-free 3DTV are the same as for photography and cinema projection (cf. French Autostereoscopic Systems (PartI) and (PartII)). As a consequence, to enlarge the viewing area, you need to multiply the number of  views. This works rather easily for computer generated contents, as the cameras are virtual. But can you just imagine filming live action using a S3D rig built with 8 to 10 cameras filming in sync on set? Rather difficult, I might say.

We cannot say that S3D home-screens have become a success either, and S3D books do not say much about S3D displays. When they address the S3D TV issue, Martin Barnier and Kira Kitsopanidou observe the lack of contents and the failure of some S3D channels, that only worked for a couple of years [1]. Writing about auto-stereoscopic systems, they describe art installations and videos that, thanks to the projection or the display technique, reproduce a sense of depth and volume [2]. Céline Tricart, who graduated from Louis-Lumière National Film School and now works as stereographer in the USA, however mentions [3] a French man named Pierre Allio, as a precursor for auto-stereoscopic displays.

Pierre Allio took out his first patent in 1987 and founded Alioscopy in 1999. Thanks to a proprietary algorithm they developed, that permits to generate 8 views of a scene, associated to a lenticular array fixed on the screen surface, Alioscopy society can provide glasses-free S3D screens that allow 20 to 50 people to watch S3D contents at the same time, depending on the screen size (from 21.5″ to 55″).

I have been lucky enough to speak with Mr Allio in person recently. He told me they managed to improve their proprietary algorithm so as to raise the number of views from 8 to 16. My only hope is that they continue to develop and improve their system.

[1] BARNIER Martin & KITSOPANIDOU Kira (2015), Le Cinéma 3-D, Paris: Armand Colin, 159–160.

[2] Ibid., 144–145.

[3] TRICART Céline (2013), La pratique de la mise en scène en 3D relief, Nice: La Baie des Anges, 134. (in French)

References

See also Alioscopy’s website: http://www.alioscopy.com/en/home.php

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Last year, I worked as script supervisor on Jonathan Bocquet’s S3D short horror film Endless Night. This film was part of the Action 3Ds research project that linked Binocle 3D and Thalès-Angénieux societies, Louis-Lumière National Film School (La Plaine Saint-Denis, France), and the French National Institute for Computer Research and Automatic (Institut National pour la Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique – INRIA). The film was a life-size test for the Dynamic Stereoscopic Previz, a S3D pre-visualisation software that INRIA engineers Rémi Ronfard and Laurent Boiron had developed.

The film was finally screened at Louis-Lumière School, so everybody who worked on the film could watch the result.

During the filming, we thought of ways to use stereoscopy as a mean to emphasise the emotion, as danger increases. I have been surprised to discover that Jonathan finally decided to reduce the S3D budget and to keep it little during the entire film.

The stereoscopic consistency (as well as the editing) however helped lifting the three ellipsis within the film that, when reading the screenplay and even later during the filming, created breaks that might have compromised the story’s integrity when watching the film.

As James and Mary, the two protagonists, took refuge in an abandoned house, the atmosphere is full of dust. Although the property master kept throwing cement in the air before each take, there is no dust left when looking at images. It is a shame, because it is the kind of small particles that contribute to give S3D images the illusion of materiality. For example, stereographer Demetri Portelli used it in both Martin Scorsese’s Hugo Cabret and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet, and the result is quite nice.

The stereoscopic result of Endless Night is very smooth, but almost imperceptible, even at the end of the film, when danger and suspense reach their maximum intensity. That is probably the reason why I am a little disappointed. I cannot help thinking that stereoscopy could have been kept little most of the time (as it helps to keep the film as a whole) with a few sudden bursts. In other words, including stereoscopic variations that are not in synchronisation with the story’s time variations.

About a year ago, on April 17th, the exhibition A Terceira Imagem (The Third Image) opened at the Arquivo Municipal de Lisboa – Fotográfico, Lisbon, Portugal.

This exhibition was the result of the research program Stereo Visual Culture led at the Research Center for Applied Communication, Culture and New Technologies – CICANT of Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Technologias (Lisbon, Portugal). During two years, the research team analysed and classified about 11,500 images belonging to 31 of the 45 portuguese public collections they identified.

I have been lucky enough to visit the exhibition when it opened at the National Archive Torre do Tombo during the Stereo and Immersive Media Conference last October.

It highlighted the S3D photography production in Portugal, especially from the late 19th century to the beginning of the 20th. I have been surprised of the influence of France at that time: lots of the stereoscopic equipment (cameras and viewers) and documents (advertisements and commercial brochures) presented were French, mainly Jules Richard’s products.

This exhibition presented a huge amount of stereoscopic photographs. Visitors were able to watch original stereoscopic cards through antique stereoscopes, but the originality of this exhibition was to present S3D photographs on 3D TV screens. Stereo Visual Culture’s investigators digitalized dozens of original S3D images and prepared it (side-by-side) so as to display them on our contemporary 3D screens. It offered a journey through Portugal and European countries during the late 19th as well as the beginning of the 20th century period. A journey that would have otherwise been difficult, as most of the S3D images displayed  were original negatives and that, speaking generally, S3D photographs are rarely showed to the public.

I wish this exhibition travelled out of Portugal so that the great majority of people could access these images.

What? A Terceira Imagem. A fotografia estereoscópica em Portugal e o desejo de 3D. (The Third Image. Stereoscopic Photography and the Desire of 3D.)

Curators: Victor Flores (Stereo Visual Culture), Ana David (m⎪i⎪mo – Museum of the Moving Image) and Sofia Castro (Lisbon Municipal Archive – Photography).

Where? Arquivo Municipal de Lisboa – Fotográfico, Lisbon, Portugal.

When? From April 16th, 2015 to August 22nd, 2015.

As Miriam Ross notices, “Although critics have suggested that an anaglyph version of the Lumières’ L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat (1895) was shown around 1903, the stereoscopic version was not screened until the 1930’s.” [1]

I myself got confused by sources that gave different dates about the Lumières’ experiments to make S3D films, especially when I started my research on S3D cinema in 2012. As most of the sources asserted that they made stereoscopic films around 1935, it is the year I indicated in my diploma thesis, without being really sure of these information…

I recently decided to clear this up and made investigations to learn more about how the Lumière Brothers have been engaged in stereoscopic cinema.

What was the date?

A few month after I graduated, as I was doing some tidying, I found out a book which I had forgotten. It is an anthology of the French weekly magazine L’Illustration‘s articles on cinema [2]. I glanced through it and came across an article, originally published on May 9th, 1936. It was untitled: “Les débuts publics du film en relief” (“The public beginnings of 3D film”). First, I have been surprised to discover this article. Then I held it a little against myself for having forgotten this book. Hopefully, this article confirmed that Louis Lumière made stereoscopic films in the 1930’s. This discovery took a weight off my mind: at least, I had not written anything wrong in my diploma thesis.

The article tells that projections of Louis Lumière’s S3D films started at L’Impérial, one of Paris’ cinemas, the week before. Two films were projected: L’Ami de Monsieur, a 950m long (around 3015ft) comedy and Sur la Riviera, a 800m long (around 2623ft) documentary.

Front_of_LImperial_1936

Kira Kitsopanidou and Martin Barnier also discovered, focusing on local newspapers, that Louis Lumière’s S3D films have been projected at Lyon, Marseille, and Nice as well [3].

None of these sources, however, mention the projection of the stereoscopic version of L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat at that time, though this version seems to exist. Kira Kitsopanidou and Martin Barnier assert to have accessed a restored version of it as well as a S3D view of Toulon’s port.

All those datas give us to understand that only Louis Lumière had been involved in stereoscopic cinema. They also testify that he did succeeded in filming stereoscopic movies in the early 1930’s that have been projected in french cinemas during 1936.

Now that I answered the question about the date, here is another one: how did Louis Lumière made stereoscopic films? I will soon share the technical specifications of Louis Lumière’s S3D filming and projection systems.

References

[1] ROSS Miriam (2015), 3D Cinema, Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 3.

[2] BASCHET Éric (Ed.) (1987), Les grands dossiers de L’Illustration – Le cinéma, Paris: L’Illustration, 153.

[3] BARNIER Martin & KITSOPANIDOU Kira (2015), Le Cinéma 3-D, Paris: Armand Colin, 57–58.

This book is notable for being the first french book written by scholars (and not a technical manual by some stereographer or passionate stereo photographer) since stereoscopy has been associated with digital cinema.

See also: ZONE Ray (2007), Stereoscopic Cinema and the Origins of 3-D Film, Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 142–143.

Thanks to my PhD supervisor Giusy PISANO who teaches at the National Film School Louis Lumière (La Plaine Saint-Denis, France), I got involved in the “Action 3Ds” research project. In the previous post I wrote about the preparation of Jonathan Bocquet’s film Endless Night. I will now share my experience during the filming.

EndlessNight_Rig-AlignmentChart

CONTEXT

What

Jonathan Bocquet’s short horror film Endless Night is part of Action 3Ds research program. During the preparation we used the Dynamic Stereoscopic Previz (DSP), a new pre-visualisation software for S3D films designed by INRIA engineers Rémi Ronfard and Laurent Boiron. The filming aimed to validate the DSP.

Who

Rémi Ronfard and Laurent Boiron were on set to provide their support and to check that we were filming according to the previz.

Jeanne Guillot supervised the stereography with her assistant Fabienne Delaleau.

The rest of the crew was made of professionals and students.

Where

The shooting took place at Louis Lumière Film School (La Plaine Saint-Denis, France).

When

We started filming on Monday, June 15, 2015 and ended on Friday, June 19, 2015.

S3D TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

We used two Sony F55 cameras equipped with Angénieux’s Optimo DP zoom lenses (18-42mm & 30-80mm) mounted on a Binocle 3D beamsplitter rig. Binocle 3D team also provided the Tagger, one of their on-set tool, for setting the S3D. The cameras recorded on S×S cards (4K). We also had two 46″ 3-D displays to watch both the previz and the on-set frame.

S3D SCRIPT SUPERVISING on ENDLESS NIGHT

Working with the pre-visualisation

The first day was dedicated to the lighting. We also planned to film a couple of inserts, but we have been able to shoot only one.

We started on the second day with a one-page long dialogue scene, where James is sitting in the main room whereas Mary is laid in the bedroom. For every shot we had to film, we started by looking at the previz settings : focal length, camera height and distance from the actors. We placed the S3D rig according to these settings and adjusted the position to get the frame planned on the DSP. It permitted us to work faster: we had the time to film the insert that was missing and finished 25mn early!

I think the previz has been a useful tool to get the first version of the frame. No one wondered if we should equipped the cameras with 35mm or 40mm lenses. We neither lost time searching the camera position, its height, etc. The previz was THE reference: everyone knew what frame the director wanted, including the technical details. Endless Night was, however, a particular shooting as it was made for artistic as well as research purposes. We had to film the shots according to the previz first, then we were free to film them differently.

During the principle photography of a film, free from research goals, once the camera gets quickly in position according to the previz, the director is free to ask for adjustments. Of course, it is probably more complicated when there are lots of SFX, VFX, or if the changes the director asked for suddenly require a crane. But I think that even for simple shots, the previz has been a valuable tool.

Space continuity

We used many different lenses, from 30mm to 80mm. It has been the opportunity for me to learn what S3D shots really look like when filming with long focal length lenses. In that way, I shall have visual references for the next stereoscopic 3D projects. We had various space configurations: sometimes we shot close to a wall in a narrow room, other times we filmed in a deeper room. Speaking in general, we used the full range of focal lengths, whatever the space configuration was.

When filming in S3D, the focal length impacts the space representation. A long focal length lens would make the space and the objects looking like a scrapbook. On the opposite, with the same S3D settings, a short focal length lens would make the space look larger and deeper. It could even emphasise the roundness: the shorter the focal length is, the more the roundness.

It has been very difficult for me to imagine what the shots would look like, once put altogether, so as to keep an eye on the space consistency. Thinking of that, I have the feeling that we did not think enough about the space. Maybe we should have thought of ways to link the spaces? For example in the dialogue scene, as James and Mary are in two different rooms. They are able to communicate thanks to the opened door. We thought of the stereoscopy as a tool to distort and deepen spaces. Maybe we should have thought of different camera angles and movements a lot more to support the stereoscopy?

EndlessNight_FinalZombie

I am really looking forward watching the editing.

Thanks to my PhD supervisor Giusy PISANO who teaches at the French National Film School Louis Lumière (La Plaine Saint-Denis, France), I got involved in the “Action 3Ds” research project.

CONTEXT

What is Action 3Ds research program?

Action 3Ds is a four years research program that aims to develop the Dynamic Stereoscopic Previz (DSP), a new pre-visualisation software designed for S3D films.

Who is involved?

Stereographers from Binocle 3D helped Rémi RONFARD and Laurent BOIRON, engineers from the French Institute for Computer Science and Automation (Institut National pour la Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique – INRIA), to design the software. Louis Lumière Film School provided the facilities to make a film for testing the software.

What is the film?

Jonathan BOCQUET, who graduated from Louis Lumière Film School in 2011 (his diploma thesis research focused on how stereoscopic cinema influences the filming), wrote a short horror film untitled Endless Night:

“James is hiding in an abandoned house with his girlfriend Mary, who is eight months pregnant. One night, James catches a message from his radio: the refugee camp they are trying to reach, has been attacked by zombies. James decides to go out while Mary is sleeping, to figure out what happened. A couple of hours later, a noise wakes Mary up… ”

What are the tests?

Working on Jonathan’s screenplay and shot list, INRIA engineers designed the previz of the shots, using the Dynamic Stereoscopic Previz. Then, a professional crew made the film.

We were free to film shots differently from the previz, as long as we also filmed the shots according to the previz, so as to validate the settings (such as focal length, distance and height, and S3D settings) implemented in the Dynamic Stereoscopic Previz.

Tests were also planned after the filming, so as to compare the stereography between the pre-visualised shots and the shots that were actually filmed.

MY JOB IN “ACTION 3Ds”

I worked as script supervisor on Jonathan’s film Endless Night.

Although I was hired about a month before the filming (earlier than for the shootings at Clermont-Ferrand), it was still late comparing to the production planning. Indeed, a first shooting had been made about a year ago, in 2014. Apparently, it has not been satisfying enough, so people decided that another shooting had to be made.

Jonathan did a shot list and a storyboard he sent to Rémi Ronfard and Laurent Boiron.

Pre-visualising the shot list

A two-days meeting happened three weeks before the shooting. I was working on a (2D) short film at that time, so I could only attend the meeting on the second day.

INRIA engineers had made a previz working on Jonathan’s storyboard. Many thanks to Rémi Ronfard and Laurent Boiron who allowed me to share the image below from the DSP:

Endless Night_Previz_Shot5

We discussed the shot list, proposing to film some of the shots differently. Laurent was applying our ideas in real-time on the DSP, according to our discussion. This previz has been a valuable tool for me. It helped me to visualise the set, which I had never seen. I was able to make propositions according to the space we were about to film. For example, moving a little the camera position so as to give the shot some perspective back and emphasise the stereoscopy. Watching the shots and the floor plan on the previz also caught my attention on some of the main props that were moving too much instead of staying at the same place. Everybody knows that cinema is the art of cheating, but there are some limits to keep the space consistent, especially when filming in S3D.

Designing the stereography

Just before the filming began, we discussed with Jeanne Guillot, the stereographer, about the stereography. We first thought of applying a sort of “stereoscopic theme” to each character. The idea was to apply a special stereoscopic treatment to James, making him “stereographically” a zombie from the beginning of the film. The scenic box would progressively increase when filming Mary, so as to get the same stereoscopic treatment for both the characters at the end of the film. That idea seemed nice, but as we planned to use lots of different focal length (from 28mm to 80mm), we thought that it would not work properly.

That is the reason why we decided to keep a “normal” spatial treatment in the first scene. Then, once Mary has woken up in the middle of the night because of a strange noise, the stereoscopy would help to deepen and distort the space in order to underline the strangeness and Mary’s discomfort.

In my next post I will share my experience during the filming.

DOCUMENTS

Jonathan Bocquet, L’intégration du procédé relief dans le découpage cinématographique (in French), diploma thesis, Cinema Department, École Nationale Supérieure Louis Lumière, 2011. Available at: http://www.ens-louis-lumiere.fr/formation/recherche/memoires-de-fin-detudes/cinema/2011.html

Sergi Pujades, Laurent Boiron, Remi Ronfard, Frédéric Devernay. “Dynamic Stereoscopic Previz”. International Conference on 3D Imaging, Dec 2014, Liege, Belgium. Available at: https://hal.inria.fr/hal-01083848

Laurent Boiron, Rémi Ronfard. “Stereoscopic Previz in the Blender Game Engine”. Blender Conference, Oct 2014, Amsterdam, Netherlands. 2014. Available at: https://hal.inria.fr/hal-01086760

Here are information I found on auto-stereoscopic cinema.

Auto-stereoscopic cinema

Ray Zone mentions French Woman Suzanne Carre’s system: « a reciprocating grid made of wires or rods placed in front of a conventional motion picture screen and moving rapidly back and forth » [1] in sync with the projector. He doesn’t give more detail about Suzanne Carre’s invention and it is the only time I read about Suzanne Carre.

French man François Savoye is the famous one who took an interest in auto-stereoscopic projection and was successful.

Around 1942, he invented a system that was built on a grid in the form of a truncated cone revolving around the projection screen. He named his system the Cyclostéréoscope. He continued his research to make the system working on a larger screen and to make it lighter. François Savoye’s Cyclostéréoscope was shown to an audience at Luna Park in Paris just after World War II, in 1945-1946. The system had two wheels at the top to make the grid rotate. One was made of smelting works matter, that is the reason why at that time, the system was still quite heavy: the grid and rotating system weighed about 500kg. A single projector was needed to project stereoscopic 3D films thanks to a single-strip stereo system. Right and left images, 11 by 15mm, turned 90 degrees, were printed on 35mm film. A prism permitted to put the images back in the right position.

In 1953, François Savoye managed to install his Cyclo-stéréoscope at Clichy Palace film theatre in Paris. The hole system was 11m (about 30ft) high and didn’t weigh more than 1500kg. The diameter of the grid in the form of a truncated cone was 11m, revolving around a 7m×4,60m silver screen. The screen dimensions was François Savoye’s success: Russian man Semyon Ivanov also tried to build a similar system, but the largest screen he managed to build was only 3m (10ft) large.

François Savoye’s Cyclostéréoscope allowed the audience to see the S3D film without glasses in an optimal viewing zone limited to an angle of forty degrees. According to François Savoye, his system didn’t need the audience to stay still [2]. I have not found anything about how long the Cyclostéréoscope ran at the Clichy Palace, nor what kind of films were projected. However, we can easily imagine that the constricted viewing zone (that is still the main issue for auto-stereoscopic displays) didn’t make François Savoye’s invention financially viable for every film theatre.

[1] ZONE Ray (2007), Stereoscopic Cinema and the Origins of 3-D Film, Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, p. 167.

[2] BLOCH MORHANGE Jacques (1963), TV Show: Page Spéciale « Les Sciences », Interview of François SAVOYE and Fred ORAIN, duration: 8mn46s, March 20th, 1963. available: www.ina.fr/video/CAF97060248. (in French)

References

FUNK Walter (2012), « History of Autostereoscopic Cinema », Proc. SPIE 8288, Stereoscopic Displays and Applications XXIII, 82880R (February 9, 2012). available: http://www.hologlyphics.com/publications.htm.

SAVOYE François (1952), « Le ‘Cyclostéréoscope’, procédé de cinéma en relief à vision collective directe sans lunettes », Atti e Rassegna Tecnica della Società degli Ingegneri e degli Architetti in Torino, vol.6, December 12th, 1952, pp. 421-424. available: http://digit.biblio.polito.it/682/1/1952_090.pdf (in French) or download here: Savoye_Cyclostereoscope_Torino

TIMBY Kim (2001), ‘Images en relief et images changeantes – La photographie à réseau lignés’, Études photographiques, (9), pp.124-143. available: http://etudesphotographiques.revues.org/246. (in French)

« Une grande salle de Paris va lancer le cinéma en relief sans lunettes » in: Paris Match (French weekly magazine), (298), May 15th to 22nd, 1954. available: http://ww2.cnam.fr/reliefBonnet/54art.htm. (in French)

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