Dispatch from 3D World, NYC (part of CCW/Satcon/HD world)

This has been a hard post to write!  You know how little kids sometimes get so excited when describing something amazing that they stammer and ramble—unable to just spit it out?  That’s what I felt like after attending the excellent keynote session “Your World in 3D: Separating the Facts from the Hype” at 3D World in New York City last month.

There’s so much to say, so much to share, it’s hard to boil it down to a digestible blog post so I will summarize and probably be quoting this in the weeks and months to come.

The session kicked off with an introduction by Jim Chabit, CEO of the International 3D Society—an organization doing important work in bringing together a community around 3D.  (Full disclosure, I’m a card-carrying member). This group is putting together events, awards, and information to build some momentum for 3D.  Using facts and figures he asserted that 3D continues to do strong box office—especially internationally.  He also focused on some upcoming major releases in 3D—Scorsese’s Hugo Cabret (which got rave reviews for an unfinished cut screened at NY Film Festival a couple of days earlier), Spielberg’s Adventures of TinTin, and the James Cameron’s 3D conversion of Titanic.

Buzz Hays, Senior VP 3D Production at Sony is an incredibly knowledgeable and dynamic speaker.  He focused on some of the important technical issues and gave an overview of the stereoscopy training Sony has developed for film professionals.  These in-depth (forgive the pun) materials are aimed at fine-tuning 3D cinema skills. Sony has been offering this course to help raise the overall technical level in the industry.   He walked us through some of the key variables—tools that can be used for subtle (and no-so-subtle) effects.  We also saw examples of common pitfalls (misalignment, mismatchs, and distortions) that helped explain and quantify when/why 3D becomes more uncomfortable to watch.

This presentation clearly and eloquently articulates the flexibility of 3D as a tool.  When waved about recklessly it can be annoying and even uncomfortable.  When it’s wielded with finesse it adds depth on many levels to story telling.

John Cassy from Sky3D in the UK stressed the importance quality and variety in content. “If you think 3D can paper over the cracks, you will fail”.   He insists that quality 3D content relies on combining stories, people, and partnerships.  We saw gorgeous footage from upcoming releases: “Meerkats” (cute animals in awe-inspiring scenery) and “Kew Gardens” (luscious, HD/3D time-lapse shots from one of the world’s great botanical treasures).  He hailed Sir David Attenboroughfor being an early leader in 3D, the way he was an early pioneer of color TV 45 years ago.

Michael Duenas, DO, from the American Optometric Association (AOA) was the final speaker.  The AOA recently released a fascinating report on 3D in education and in that context Dr. Duenas gave a passionate and wide-ranging presentation on the role of 3D in vision health and the far-reaching repercussions of not having adequate screening at an early age.  It’s a bold assertion—that traditional eye examinations, in focusing on only one aspect of vision health, overlook the critical capability of stereoscopic vision.  The resulting misdiagnoses and lack of treatment impact student engagement, learning, and broader issues such as crime and recidivism.

The AOA is going beyond debunking fears about 3D and championing it. This is a fascinating area that I’m sure will be getting a lot more attention.

The session wrapped up with a clip of silent film legend Harold Lloyd, an early enthusiast of 3D, converted to 3D.  It looked pretty darned good.

 

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Trailer: Flying Monsters 3D

Sir David Attenborough’s new film Flying Monsters 3Dis a documentary utilizing live action (Sir David and other experts) as well as CGI to bring fossils dancing to life and recreate the astounding creatures known as pterosaurs. It is geeky fun, kids will love it and it will make you think.

 

 

Titanic and Pterosaurs in 3D at IBC 2011

Amsterdam, September 12, 2011: IBC Theatre.  James Cameron and Vincent Pace showed off 18 minutes of Titanic converted to 3D as well as clips from their upcoming Cirque du Soleil film, while noted documentary film maker Sir David Attenborough screened his Flying Monsters 3D.

Aimed at broadcasters, the evening started with Don Shaw from Christie Digital (the projector people) talking about the importance of higher frame rates for making 3D smoother—minimizing or eliminating “strobing” and other annoying effects. (More about frame rates another time). He showcased technology innovations—an end-to-end solution for broadcasting live alternative content in 3D to theatrical venues with greater ease (I’m very proud to say that the company where I work, International Datacasting, is part of the solution presented, as well as our partners at Sensio Technologies. My colleagues helped pull the demonstration off without a hitch, bravo!)

But the highlight of the event naturally was watching movies and looking to see if the technical and artistic bar has moved forward. James Cameron took the stage (amid a bunch of awards hoopla you can follow elsewhere) and preached the gospel of 3D: “Last year 21% all movie revenue came from 3D,” “I will shoot every movie going forward in 3D”, and my favorite: “Let me tell you about my new movie coming April 5, 2012, Titanic.”

Yes, Titanic is being converted to 3D with a release scheduled to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sailing (or as Cameron called it a “trifecta of good marketing.”)  Cameron emphasized that it is always preferable to shoot in 3D rather than convert a film but where it’s not possible “there’s conversion and there’s conversion” saying he wouldn’t have spent $18 million adding 3D if he didn’t think the results would be worth it.

James Cameron at IBC Big Screen, September 12, 2011 (photo: Diana Cantu's iPhone)

Hollywood is rushing to convert 2D films to 3D with varying degrees of success.  The Titanic footage looked smooth and watchable.  The Cirque du Soleil footage which was captured in 3D is gorgeous. The 3D is subtle and restrained, it adds aesthetically to the content. I’ve seen the Cirque shows the clips were taken from and the 3D actually improved on them.

Flying Monsters 3D is a documentary by Sir David Attenborough, examining fossils of early flying dinosaurs or pterosaurs, and their evolution up to extinction.  With clever mingling of CGI, live action and 3D the film makes a serious subject a bit more whimsical and accessible.  The 3D looked good and lends itself well to scenes with flying.

The event was designed to help win over broadcasters to the merits of 3D and reassure them that the technology is catching up with promises.  Cameron’s emphasis on new dual work flow capabilities (shooting 2D and 3D simultaneously) helps. Live alternative programming and 3D television are both getting better, fast.  That’s a message broadcasters are starting to consider.