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!

Archive for January, 2015

Script Supervising in the S3D Film Era (Part I)

This is the result of my research for my diploma thesis, achieved in June 2013.

Introduction

When James Cameron’s Avatar was released (2009) five years ago, the stereoscopic 3D (S3D) film production rose again. During the principle photography of the French feature length film Astérix & Obélix: on her Majesty’s Service (2012), the French stereographer Alain Derobe pointed at the paradox to film a character over-the-shoulder or a prop in the foreground that are cut by the frame with S3D effect. For instance, Denis Rouden, the director of photography had to adapt the filming: lenses, camera movements, frame, so as to avoid contradictions with the usual 2D filming [1].

Chronology

The Power of Love, the first feature length stereoscopic 3D film has been released in 1922 [2]. Unfortunately, it appears that the original material was lost. But we can easily imagine how much difficult shooting was in the 1920’s. At that time stereography had to deal with technical issues: heavy cameras, fixed interaxial distance, calculating the stereo without computer,… In other words shooting without getting any idea of what the result would be. Eighty years later released Robert Rodriguez’s Spy Kids 3D: Game Over, in 2003. This was the first narrative S3D film shot with digital cameras. Director Robert Rodriguez kept saying that the digital technology made the film easier to shoot and increased its aesthetic quality for the viewer. Moreover, the digital technology brought flexibility to the film workflow. The Visual Effects (VFX) production and stereoscopic adjustments were easier. However, most theaters were not equipped with digital projector at that time and Robert Rodriguez’s movie did not make the third 3D boom happen. Digital filming kept increasing and the theaters finally got digital projectors. This opened James Cameron’s Avatar a path to make stereoscopic 3D a valuable economic model and a viable technique. Digital workflow and post-production obviously helped creating the virtual environment of the imaginary planet Pandora.

In France, at least one stereoscopic feature film has been released since Avatar released by the end of 2009 and numerous S3D short films have been made. It may be the sign that France is ready to produce S3D films.

Paper organization

As the person who is responsible of the film continuity, the script supervisor is directly concerned with the stereoscopic techniques and filmmaking.

That is the reason why it appeared important to investigate what is the new way of script supervising according to the new stereoscopic 3D wave.

We will first discuss why people sometimes choose digital S3D conversion in post rather than shooting native S3D in order to identify the S3D continuity issues according to S3D filming. We will then analyze the script supervisor’s abilities that make her or him able to bring answers to these problems and finally, think about the artistic role and perspectives for the script supervisor’s job in the new S3D film era.

Motivation

In our digital era, some directors still prefer film, mostly for aesthetic reasons. But stereo 3D is fashion and lots of producers consider the economical bonus from S3D (especially for Hollywood Majors’ productions) as a must. Although digital makes the stereoscopy easier on set (real time previsualizations, computer controlled settings), it also facilitates the 3D conversion in post-production. The question is: why not shooting every film with a single film camera and then convert the 2D original footage into 3D in post? Part of the answer is, again, economical. S3D post conversion is still expensive. It is economically valuable only for big budgets (around several dozens of millions dollars) [3]. As a result, it is still cheaper to film native S3D, instead of converting 2D material into S3D in post, for an independent production with a modest budget.

The other part of the answer is technical and directly related to the first part. As most of S3D films exhibited in our French movie theaters are Hollywood blockbusters, it is all about the VFX production. When mixing live action and computer generated imagery (CGI), converting 2D material in post allows a complete control for both the VFX and the stereoscopy. Moreover, there is no challenge anymore for the VFX teams to deal with clean plates and all the material they need from the on-set shooting to fuse virtuality with reality. It becomes easier to make real environ-ments matching with the virtual ones.

Now why would director Peter Jackson choose to shoot The Hobbit trilogy in native S3D whereas the movie’s budget amounted to hundreds of millions dollars, was full of VFX and shot with digital cameras? Speaking generally, why is it better to shoot native S3D?

To be continued…

[1] Denis Rouden, Alain Derobe and Éric Martin, video Le confort visuel sur le tournage d’Astérix 4 (35 minutes), http://www.dig-it.fr (Dig-it Workshop of January 25th, 2012). (in French)

[2] Ray Zone, 3D Revolution – the History of Modern Stereoscopic Cinema (University Press of Kentucky, 2012).

[3] Matt Bristowe & Barry Sandrew, “Post Conversion Evolves”, 3D Creative Summit, London – UK, March 27th, 2013.

Angus Cameron, “The Evolution of Post Conversion”, 3D Stereo Media, Liège – Belgium, December 11th, 2014.

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