An Update to:

The following statement is an update by Phil Brown (3D Phil) to his previous article that was intended as a comment to the article: “Hollywood fears the 3D bubble has already burst” by Nick Allen published in The Sunday Telegraph on July 25th 2010.

Are We Killing 3D Before it Has a Chance to Get Started - Part 2 by Phil Brown

Has been involved in stereoscopic photography and imagery since 1985. Originally making films for Theme parks and now for the Motion picture industry.

He has made 3D films featuring Norman Wisdom, a short 3D film for the rock group Queen, and produced the animation «Cosmic Cookery 3D» for Durham University.

This was a about how Galaxy’s are formed and was shown at the 2005 Royal Science Exhibition in London, winning 1st prize at the VizNet visulisation awards.

He has recently finished «Elderado 3D» starring Daryl Hanna and Micheal Masdon. «Back2Hell» a horror film, «Talion» a 3D promo trailer and «Spiders 3D» a giant spider movie, directed by Tibor Takács, which is now in post production.

 Most people who go to the cinema have no idea that they are not in fact watching a true 3D presentation, but a conversion, so sadly in the case of all these conversions  like “Clash of the Titans” these films generally can look like card board cut-outs instead of the rounded forms of a true 3D image.

This is bound to be a disappointing experience for the viewer, and so of course they will feel they no longer like 3D movies. Or even worse that they may feel that the initial wonder they felt when they first saw a 3D film, is not having quite the same effect, they may feel that they have now lost that immersive feeling that proper 3D can give them. Sadly they don’t understand why perhaps this is happening.

 Since “The Polar Express” there have been 94 productions made in proper 3D and unfortunately there have been 31 as of April 2011 conversions done by computer manipulation. So it seems that since my original article of Oct 2010 only an additional 4 conversions have been produced.

I am a stereographer and stereoscopic supervisor who is involved in making 3D films for the feature film industry. I am not surprised to read that the figures for visitors choosing to watch a film in 3D are getting less and less, I feel this is partly due to some people trying to jump on the 3D bandwagon by so called converting a 2D film to 3D, In my opinion this was always going to jeopardize the future of 3D film production. How can you initially show good quality real 3D films that audiences get excited about like “The Polar Express”, “Beowulf” and “Avatar”; these films have a justifiable extra charge for these screenings, but to then charge the same extra cost for low quality 2D to what I call 2.5D conversion, these are nowhere near the immersive quality of a properly produced 3D film.

Morally this is wrong and unethical, as the paying customer has What is real and what is fake? There is a site on the internet that recognizes the problems faced by cinema goers and the buyers of new Blu-ray 3D releases, this is « realorfake3d.com».

People need to have the confidence when spending there hard earned cash that the film there watching at the cinema or buying on a Blu-ray disk is in fact a true 3D film.

So why is a film thats properly photographed in 3D better than a conversion? Well, we see with 2 eyes that provide 3D vision throughout our lives, the 2 lenses of a stereoscopic camera rig recreates this depth perception when projected onto the flat 2D surface of the cinema screen, a 3D image if filmed properly by a good stereographer can be a thing of great beauty and become a pleasant and immersive experience without headaches or Nausea. On the other hand a conversion is trying to falsely recreate from the 2D image a second viewpoint to obtain it’s so called 3D, this currently can not be done anywhere near the quality of a proper 3D image created by a 2 lens 3D camera and a professional 3D crew. These converted films have lots of optical errors and these can indeed give the viewer a headache and nausea. (although conversions are starting to improve, read on)

Damage is being done to the 3D industry due to a lot of inexperienced people making wrong decisions, and uninformed comment by film critics. For too long 3D has been seen as a gimmick or a fad, It’s about time we start treating 3D as the art form that it deserves, don’t forget that in Victorian times 3D stereoscopic viewers were the television of the day for more that 30 years, and Victorians certainly did not consider it a gimmick.

So when is it acceptable to convert ? As of April 2011 there have been some progress in the quality of 2D to 3D conversion especially by Disney and Passmorelabs. This I feel can be good news in certain circumstances. For instance James Cameron is currently converting Titanic to 3D, George Lucas is converting the Star Wars saga and Disney are bringing out there classic animation Beauty and the Beast in 3D.

Films that were shot in 2D before the current resurgence I feel should be able to be converted, providing this is done carefully and with great consideration to each shot and with stereoscopic accuracy, after all there was no stable digital 3D when these films were produced so I feel we have to support these projects and hope they can be done succesfully.

So my message is, if it can be shot in 3D then shoot it in 3D. The Disney animations are a differant matter altogether as most of these hand drawn 2D films were done with multiplane artwork, meaning they were done with several layers of artwork to create movement in the shot and so can be stereoscopicly rendered to great effect. This should add a real sense of depth and create a pleasing 3d result for the viewer.

A lot has been said about the extra time and costs that are associated with a 3D film production. Although 3D is more expensive to produce we need to realize that any department on a film set needs time and freedom to do there job in the most creative way they can. Producers would never think of replacing the wonderful lighting and camera shots that are created by the Director of Photography but they are quite willing to short circuit the 3D production process by using these terrible conversions.

Most of the delays in 3D production are caused by having to use the latest 3D camera rigs and the problem of crews that are not properly trained in setting up this equipment. I always recommend a minimum 3D crew of a 3D rig technician and a Stereographer for feature films.

3D filming is more than just putting 2 camera lenses side by side and shooting. The stereographer has to consider factors like the distance from lens to the nearest object, then nearest object to the background, the best perspective camera angle to maximize the 3D effect, focusing, camera movement and set design.

All have there place in creating that special 3D shot. When I am working on a set, the 3D department is rarely holding up the shoot. Rather, with new technology and smaller 3D rigs we are mostly waiting for other departments to be ready. So 3D does not have to be slowing down the production.

On Nu Image’s 3D feature «Spiders 3D» The Director Tibor Takács request was to have movement in every shot. This was my 1st chance to be able to move the 3D camera like I’ve never been able to before. Using the PS Techniks Freestyler Mirror rig with the Silicon Imaging 2K cameras enabled the Director of Photography and my team to do lots of great steadicam shots as well as putting the rig onto a Techno Crane for some incredible city street sequences. We were able to get upto 36 setups per day.

Part of the problem currently faced by producers is that there are not enough 3D crews available, this I am sure has a bearing on the decision process of whether to shoot real 3D or convert.

Sadly with the advent of the 3D ready TVs the same sort of confusion and ignorance is going to plague the purchasers of Blu-ray 3D discs. At the moment the purchaser who visits sites like Amazon are presented with lots of 3D content on Blu-ray, but has little or no idea what are the old anaglyph films which use old school Red/Blue glasses or what are the latest 3D disks that will work on there brand new shiny 3D Ready TV with shutter or Polarized glasses, Sellers need to separate the listings for both types of 3D disks so that customers know what they are buying, and not have to search through each individual title in order to find this vital information. All of this confusion could jeopardize the take up of 3D in the home.

Studios and manufacturers of 3D TVs and Blu-Ray 3D players are also having a bad influence on the future of 3D in the home.

5 TV manufacturers have released fantastic TVs with the latest 3D technology that really works, so what do the film studios do? They release titles that are tied in with certain brands of 3D TV, So for instance “Ice Age 3″ and “Coraline”, 2 great 3D films, are only available if you purchase a Panasonic 3D TV and 3D Bluray player.

I brought a Samsung 3D TV, so I was able to buy the “Monsters vs. Aliens” disc I am amazed that with all this new 3D equipment available on the shelves that these industry decision makers are making it very hard for early adopters of this new format to get there hands on 3D content.

3D in the home can only be driven by readily available content and so it’s madness to restrict it. The most successful 3D film so far is “Avatar” currently only available in 2D until a possible 3D release in 2012. This film alone would drive the sale of 3D adoption in the home. But it seems they want to either wait and see what the sales of 3D ready TVs are, or are they thinking about the sales initially of the 2D version with a possible second sale when the 3D version is made available? All of these new Bluray 3D disks will play in 2D on a any normal Blu-ray player if you don’t have a 3D ready system. So there is no need for a double 2D/3D release.

With all the above confusion and bad practices in the 3D industry, we need to get everything on a more fair and equitable ground so that we don’t kill 3D before it has a chance to get established.

Here’s to common sense.

Content Copyright (c) 2011 3dPhil