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 the ‘Technical Issues’ Category

Script Supervising in the S3D Film Era (Part III)

This is the result of my research for my diploma thesis, achieved in June 2013. It follows my previous post (February 9th, 2015).

Solving the Continuity Issues

As everything else, most of the previous issues can easily be solved by increasing and developing the script supervisor’s two most important skills: communication and anticipation.

Communication

During S3D film production, the script supervisor has a new colleague: the stereographer. It is important to meet him (or her) to know how the script supervisor can help him and what support he needs on set. This meeting will help identify the important information that must be transmitted in post-production, especially to the editor: camera rigs (side-by-side or beam splitter) and modes (high mode or low mode). This is crucial as it is related to the entire post-production workflow (dailies, data management, proxies, color grading). During the shooting, continuity notes dedicated to the editor (as well as the camera reports in France) are communication tools. They must not be neglected and we recommend to complete them carefully.

As the continuity person on set, meeting the director during pre-production is necessary in order to keep his or her S3D artistic intentions consistent when filming. A depth script is often made from the director and the stereographer meetings, to study and think how stereoscopy can best support the narrative and dramatic effects of the story [4]. It illustrates the director’s intentions. That is why the script supervisor should ask for it and keep it with the script during the shooting. It may be useful to remind the director’s original choices and to help keep them consistent during the principle photography.

Anticipation

You cannot solve a problem if you ignore it. This is the basic of the script supervisor’s anticipation ability.

It needs to be aware of everything that might impact the script supervisor’s work prior to the principle photography. It demands to attend any meeting during preparation time during which technical and artistic issues can be discussed. This includes script readings with other members of the crew or on location meetings during which the shot list may be discussed. It is an efficient way to be prepared before the shooting.

A good script supervisor is a techni-cian who always knows while shooting a single shot, how it matches with the others. It means she or he knows what was the previous shot and what will be the next shot, either they are already shot or not. This is all about anticipation ability. The script supervisor’s anticipation skills have now to be also focused on stereo. It is important for a script supervisor to anticipate the stereo related to the shot list

so that to be able to keep an eye on the stereo consistency. This is particularly important in case the director would change his mind at the very last minute (as every French film director are free to do so, though everyone thought it was decided with storyboarding!).

S3D Script Supervising

As a result, script supervising a S3D film means adapting the continuity notes. This is necessary to facilitate the data manage-ment once the shooting has finished. It helps ensuring an optimal post-production workflow.

The continuity notes, according to the stereographer’s information during prep time, must specify: the rig used, the rig mode, identify the cameras and the memory cards numbers in order not to mix left and right images on the editor’s timeline for example; interaxial distance and convergence. In France, as the script supervisor is in charge of the camera report as well, we would advise to combine the continuity notes with the camera infos so as to decrease the number of reports and keep being efficient on set.

Moreover, it is important to report any technical problem that might impacts the workflow: the synchronization of cameras, focus, and failure on motorized rig while filming; as well as any remark about the stereo from the stereographer.

As the stereographer communicates with the script supervisor, we advise the script supervisor to talk with the stereo-grapher as well. To remind the shot list at appropriate time helps creating a scenic box consistent to the director’s aims and the viewers’ eyes: out-of-the-screen space, the screen plane and the background space. The script supervisor must be ready, thanks to her collaboration with the stereographer and the director of photography, to suggest new shots according to the director’s new state of mind. This is true when the scene implies manipulations in post-production such as VFX, fades or dissolves.

Conclusion

The stereoscopic process influences the filmmaking in a way that impacts the continuity on both technical and artistic points of view. Shooting native S3D permits to be aware of these issues from the early beginning of the project. The script supervisor still has a place within the stereoscopic production: he or she can contribute to ensure the continuity considering stereo in relation with the film.

Now is the time to think about the aesthetic aspects of stereoscopy and how to consider stereoscopic cinema as a cinematic art form instead of stereography as a technical tool within the movie production.

Instead of being only a narrative issue the S3D continuity, due to the stereoscopy, has a strong influence on the film’s aesthetic. It is not only that of the story, it is now that of the image. Indeed, stereoscopy brings another dimension of depth in the image that increases multi-plan storytelling possibilities [5]. This suggests non-narrative continuity focusing on depth. It becomes an opportunity to create stereoscopic-correspondances [6] from one shot to the next or between two different scenes.

We now face the following issues: what’s the new aesthetic of continuity for S3D films? And what is the artistic script supervisor’s new rôle?

Acknowledgements

I wish to thank the following people for their time answering all my questions: Laurence Couturier (Script supervisor), Joséphine Derobe (Stereographer), Randi Feldman (Script supervisor), Jeanne Guillot (Stereographer), Perry Hoberman (USC), Phil “Captain 3D” MacNally (Stereographer), Denise Quesnel (Emily Carr University), Ana Maria Quintana (Script supervisor), Denis Rouden (Director of Photography), Mary Anne Seward (Script supervisor), Anne Wermelinger (Script supervisor) and all of Binocle 3D team for taking care of me.

Full References

[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.

[4] On the use of Depth Budget and Depth Script, see Clyde Dsouza,’Sanctioning a Depth Budget for 3D Movies’ , 105–108 in Think in 3D: Food for Thoughts for Directors, Cinematographers and Stereographers (Amazon Distribution, 2012). http://realvision.ae/blog/

[5] Freddie Gaffney, “3D Narratology: Multi-plan Storytelling”, 3D Creative Summit, London – UK, March 28th, 2013.

[6] Charles Beaudelaire, ‘Correspondances‘, in Les Fleurs du Mal, (Poésies Gallimard,1996), 40.

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Script Supervising in the S3D Film Era (Part II)

This is the result of my research for my diploma thesis, achieved in June 2013. It follows my previous post (January 22nd, 2015).

Continuity Issues From Artistic Choices

As the director discusses the movie’s aesthetic during pre-production, he or she would have to make decisions considering the stereoscopic 3D effects on the film. We have identified that stereoscopy influences the filmmaking. This new filmmaking impacts the traditional 2D continuity and the script supervisor’s work.

Stereoscopic Space

Due to the stereoscopy, we would say that the audience now see distances and spaces. 2D filming made us used to cheat spaces, for example to make the frame look better. It is now hard to cheat the same way in stereo. As the continuity person, the script supervisor is one of the technicians whose work is to ensure the space consistency of the film.

Stereoscopic 3D is a powerful effect. Mistakes in the stereoscopic settings can cause headaches and eye strain. That is why watching a S3D movie always needs some time for the audience’s brain and eyes to adapt to the effect. Consequently, it is advised to reduce the difference of the S3D sensation of depth between two shots so that it is more comfortable and it gives the audience the sensation that S3D seems consistent during the entire film. This S3D filming continuity has to be anticipated during the preparation of the shooting and then during the filming itself when most of the stereoscopic settings are done.

Set Design, Costumes, Hair Dressing

The interaxial distance between the two cameras creates parallax between the two images on screen. This is necessary for the stereoscopy. It means that depth is part of the image, as well as volume. Consequently, stereo 3D increases every detail in the frame. That is why any difference from one shot to the next we were used not to worry about on the set, may become obvious because of stereo: textures, creases, colors, forms, angles. The audience may notice it and be disturbed from the film.

Shot List

As watching stereoscopic images needs physical efforts to the audience, fast cuts are not to be used too much in an hour and a half or two hours long feature film.

Although they are rarely edited, the actors often enter and exit the frame at the beginning or the ending of a shot during the shooting. It is a common way to ensure cuts to the editor. This 2D habit can create a contradiction with the stereo because a character may enter the frame from the theater space. However, it depends on how the stereo window (where left and right images converge, considered as the screen plane) is settled.

Stereoscopy implies another rhythm, another way of thinking the cuts in cinema.

Image

High contrasts zones in the frame can create ghost images; visually, ghosts images feel like superimposed images hindering the audience’s experience.

High angle shots where cameras are close to the ground may change the cameras’ configuration (from ‘high mode’ to ‘low mode’). On one hand, it implies to change the camera settings so as to keep the left and right images order. On the other hand, the camera and stereographic crews have to make sure that left and right images’ digital clips do not get mixed together on the cameras’ memory cards. But they can rarely take the time to do so. Data managers and assistants to the editor would become confused, when left and right images put together reveal wrong stereoscopic settings.

During the shooting, it is common to change the lenses. It permits to keep the audience focusing on the subject. Never-theless, both short focal lengths and long focal lengths change the space representation within the frame: perspectives and distances. That is to say everything that build the sensation of depth is different from one lens to the other. The challenge is to ensure the continuity of the three dimensional box (also called the ‘scenic box’) where the mise en scène takes place.

The question now is: how to keep flexibility for the editing and ensure the aesthetic consistency considering all these technical and artistic aspects during the shooting?

To be continued…

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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