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The 2011 NAB 3D Recap ... Or the Big Stuff
Plus What You Might Have Missed
There are always a couple of headliners when it comes to 3D at NAB (or 3D in general, come to think of it). One of them is usually James Cameron. The other rotates between ESPN, Sony, Panasonic, DirecTV and RED. We cover Cameron and the other headliners in this recap, but also some of the less-usual players who are making great strides in moving the medium forward.
(L to R) Director ALISTER GRIERSON, executive producer JAMES CAMERON and writer/producer ANDREW WIGHT on the set of the 3D action-thriller 'Sanctum'. The film follows a team of underwater cave divers on a treacherous expedition to the largest, most beautiful and least accessible cave system on Earth. Photo Credit: Jasin Boland / Universal Pictures Copyright: © 2011 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
NAB scored a coup
a couple of weeks before the show by booking James Cameron and 3D technology partner Vince Pace for the opening keynote, who used the occasion to relate some of their wisdom regarding 3D production, as well as to announce a new venture, the Cameron Pace Group (CPG). CPG's mission is to provide end-to-end solutions for 3D productions, using their trademarked "Slate2Screen" methodology, which includes providing as many resources for conceptualizing a 3D show as for actually shooting it. More details on the new venture can be found at cameronpace.com.
Sony added to its 3D arsenal by positioning its PMW-F3 camera as an alternative to the RED camera systems and the Panasonic 3D-A1. The camera already has some 3D cred, as it's based on Sony's F35 camera electronics. At a $16K recommended price, it may give competitors a bit of a run for their money. Sony also demonstrated several software upgrades for their MPE-200 stereo box that allows it to control 3D rigs from selected manufacturers, as well as to analyze up to 12 3D camera pairs at once, up from a previous maximum of three.
Sony's PMW-F3 Camera
Speaking of RED, the Epic made its real, live show debut (rather than as a prototype), mounted on handheld rigs from Element Technica and 3ality Digital. The Epic/handheld rig combo's are already being used on several major feature films, including Ridley Scott's Prometheus (ET Atom rig plus RED Epic); Peter Jackson's The Hobbit (3ality Digital TS-5 plus RED Epic) and Sony's The Amazing Spider-Man (3ality Digital/RED).
'The Hobbit' with Peter Jackson
RED at NAB
Panasonic ventured further into the heart of 3D broadcasting by adding 3D capabilities to its AV-HS450 16-input production switcher, which handles up to 9 3D camera systems. Panasonic also debuted a new solid-state 3D-capable recording deck, the AG-HPD24. Two of the units can be synchronized for master-quality, full-resolution isolated left/right channel 3D recording. The decks will retail for less than $6K apiece, making them an interesting alternative to tape for S3D productions.
Panasonic AV-HS450 with 3D Capabilities
Out on the bleeding edge, VFX wizard and director Doug Trumbull made news by presenting content shot with the Abel Cine Phantom 65 Z-3D, otherwise known as the "Russian 3D system." The Phantom 65-Z3D system is a single unit camera with Zepar Stereo 3D prime lenses, which can shoot at up to 300 frames per second. Trumbull, who has long been an advocate of higher frame rates for movies, seems to have reinvigorated this particular conversation, as James Cameron and Peter Jackson are now supporting high speed 3D productions. Trumbull has since announced that he will be directing a high-speed 3D feature film in the coming months. The Z3D may very well be the wave of the future, as filmmakers seek to eliminate the complexities created by two-camera 3D rig systems.
Panavision continues to move forward with its 3D initiatives, having put several feature films under its belt over the past year. The company is strengthening its partnership with 3D rig manufacturer Element Technica, striving to offer a robust selection of cameras to meet all their clients' needs. Panavision and ET spent some time demonstrating their joint solutions in the ET booth at the show, drawing ooh's and aah's from attendees.
Nvidia is leapfrogging the television market to extend 3D video distribution to the Web. The company announced that it is opening its plug-in for the Microsoft Media Platform Player to any web developer that would like to stream 3D video, along with a how-to guide. The plug-in supports active-glass displays. Here's hoping that Adobe will offer a Flash-based response to this development some time soon, or Nvidia just may run away with the market.
Dashwood Cinema Solutions showed off the V.3 upgrades to its Stereo 3D Toolbox suite of plug-ins for Adobe After Effects and Final Cut Pro. New alignment tools, 2D + Z conversion, faster rendering, the Ghost Toaster(TM) and virtual floating windows are all part of the feature set of this affordable tool for 3D post. Dashwood also offers an iPad- and iPhone-based tool to calculate parallax for the Panasonic 3DA1 - a nice gift for the prosumer 3D enthusiast.
Finally, the "it" company of the moment for 3D is active-sports camera maker GoPro, which debuted its 3D Hero system at NAB, backed by the company's acquisition of CineForm. The system, which pairs two of GoPro's tiny weather-proof HD video cameras for stereo shooting, comes with a free download of a version of the CineForm Studio Software suite for editing and sharing. Retail price is about $250 each for the cameras, $99 for the 3D Hero system. Given that GoPro just received funding from Disney's Steamboat Ventures, expect to see quite a bit more up-close 3D action sports coverage on ESPN 3D over the next few months ... or even on your own 3D TV set, as more enthusiasts dive into the marketplace with these cameras, at their highly-accessible price point.
GoPro 3D Hero System
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Before founding Digital Whisper, where she is also President, Angela served as Vice
President, Sales and Marketing for 3ality Digital, the leading developer of technologies
for live-action S3D production. She has launched and built companies in multiple
industries, including digital media, video games, e-commerce, and consumer products.
She has held executive positions with Revver, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts,
Food.com, Electronic Arts and Broderbund Software.