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In Jurassic Park
, the 3D process brought to life some of the movie's most tense moments. "When the kids are trapped in the SUV and it's attacked by the T-Rex, you feel like you're in the vehicle with them and that proximity of danger from the massive multi-toothed dinosaurs," says Aaron Parry, Executive Vice President/Chief Creative Officer of Stereo D
. "That proximity ratchets up the intensity of the film tremendously. At the same time, there are amazing intimate moments Steven designed into the film that are augmented in a special unique way. Only stereo could be the final layer on that cake, to bring it fully to life."
With the iconic dinosaur blockbuster opening up in stereoscopic 3D, the consensus is that adding a third dimension ups the thrills exponentially. "Jurassic Park
really looks beautiful," says Stereo D president William Sherak. "We are so proud of our work on it."
Dr. Alan Grant (SAM NEILL) tries to distract a hungry T. Rex.
is not Stereo D's first legacy title conversion. "We've also been very fortunate -- we got to sharpen our teeth under Jim Cameron with 197,000 frames for Titanic
," he adds. "Jim just makes you better, by sheer virtue of getting through the material. By getting to work with great storytellers, it's about how can we use our tools to help the filmmaker tell his story better."
Stereo D is relatively new to the 3D game: the company was formed in 2009 and was acquired by Deluxe Entertainment Services Group Inc.
in 2011. But in that short time frame, Stereo D has worked on numerous films in addition to Titanic in 3D
, including The Avengers
(selected shots), Captain America
and Jackass 3D
. The company also provides end-to-end 3D production services on feature films, television productions and commercials. The company employs its patented proprietary VDX software and another proprietary software to streamline the workflow through Deluxe's 10-GB pipeline.
Transforming the 127-minute Jurassic Park
from 2D to 3D took between nine and ten months, says Parry, who points out that the decision to convert both movies was director driven. "The biggest concern creatively is to fulfill a director like Cameron or Spielberg's goals for the picture," he says. "Those goals generally have been to not negatively impact the film in any way but add another textural layer to what is already an amazing film."
Both Cameron and Spielberg directed the conversion, as they and their teams interacted with Stereo D on a weekly basis. "For Titanic
, the concept behind the process was to set the gold standard for digitally creating 3D," he says. "Jurassic Park
was the evolution of that, being able to capitalize on everything we learned with Jim on Titanic
and take it into a different genre and movie, and one with so many technical [VFX] achievements."
A scene from Titanic
Every movie is its own challenge and has its own schedule, says Sherak who says they like to have 16 weeks for a day-and-date theatrical release, depending on the run time of the movie. "Legacy movies take longer for a handful of reasons," he adds. "You have the time and you don't have VFX elements while you're working; you're converting it flat and the restoration process of the original 35mm negative which takes time."
The 2D-to-3D conversion process starts with spotting the film with the director. "We sit and go through the entire movie," says Parry. "With legacy films, we have the wonderful advantage that the film was completed and was successful. There isn't a lot of creative change that's going to happen with regard to the picture. We can really talk about the director's own personal goals in going to 3D."
is an amazing action film that feels like a ride," he continues. "Our main characters in many ways are the dinosaurs. The goal really is that opportunity for the audience to visit Jurassic Park and experience it as closely as possible of what it would have been like to actually go there."
Lex Murphy (ARIANA RICHARDS), Dr. Alan Grant (SAM NEILL) and Tim Murphy (JOSEPH MAZZELLO) run for their lives.
Because Stereo D is part of Deluxe, Jurassic Park
was able to benefit from the company's many divisions. Deluxe Media Studios
did a 4K scan of the original negative and restored the picture to bring the movie back to its ideal pristine condition. Once that was done, Stereo D could begin the real work of conversion. "We need to interpret Steven's goals for each shot and create what we call a "workbook," which is something we borrowed from an animation heritage," says Parry. "We built Stereo D to focus on making entire films, not shots in films. A lot of what we do is make sure there's a plan throughout the entire film, so we evaluate each shot and create an individual blueprint for that shot, whereas the stereo script and workbook are on a shot-by-shot basis."
Next is rotoscoping...lots and lots of rotoscoping, both in Burbank and India (Stereo D has a facility in Pune, India). But rotoscoping for a 2D-to-3D conversion is quite different from what rotoscoping means in a visual effects context. "The VFX roto might be tracing the outside of something," says Parry. "But we have to build all the physical structures inside
each object, so it ends up looking much more like a CG model than an outlined or traced object."
Stereo D has developed a specific style for doing this but, even so, says Parry, to capture the necessary level of detail takes "an amazing amount of isolation." In fact, rotoscoping Jurassic Park
took four months of roto (the 197-minute Titanic
took six months). The most important step to creating depth information is a QC process to make sure consistency is maintained. "In animation, continuity from shot to shot is important so we also have to maintain continuity in roto," says Parry.
Left to right: William Sherak, President of Stereo D; Chief Technology Officer Kuniaki Izumi; and Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer Aaron Parry
Next is the depth-animation process, which relies on Stereo D's proprietary VDX software created by CTO Kuniaki Izumi
in combination with some 3rd party software, including The Foundry's Nuke. "We also utilize Nuke to stay conformed with most VFX houses because we do trade information back and forth on a day and date film," says Parry. "It's fairly common place to receive element layers, CG models, and so on. For a legacy film, we end up creating elements." Specific to Jurassic Park
updated three of the shots, and Stereo D traded elements with the Northern California VFX facility. "Stereo can enhance things you didn't see before, so Steven wanted fairly minor changes to deal with the 3D," explains Parry.
Stereo D also added some of its own environmental effects. "On Jurassic Park
, there were many scenes where we could extrapolate a great deal of information from the frame, but to bring some of those effects out into the audience, we'd add additional layers of rain or fog or smoke in stereo so it truly created a fully immersive experience," says Parry. "That would happen between depth and our last department, finalling."
Finalling is a combination of compositing and paint techniques, which takes the material rendered out of VDX and then, on a frame-by-frame basis fills in the missing information which is revealed when an object transforms from 2D to 3D. "Once an object is in 3D, you can see around it, so there will be holes in relationship to what was behind the object," says Parry. "That all has to be filled in. Our rendering takes care of a simple straightforward shot. But if the shot has rain or moving jungle foliage, the background has dynamically changed and it is an incredibly difficult artistic process to reassemble all that missing information." That work is done mostly in Burbank, with some assist from the team of India, and using a combination of proprietary tools plus Nuke and Adobe After Effects
all running on HP Z820 workstations
All this painstaking rotoscoping and frame-by-frame fixes may use proprietary technology but it's still very artist-centric...and labor-intensive. Stereo D's Burbank facility has between 400 and 450 people, and the Pune studio houses 800 people. All those 3D images also require a boatload of storage: Stereo D has 2.7 petabytes and Jurassic Park
took up around 300 terabytes (Titanic
took up half a petabyte).
Tim Murphy (JOSEPH MAZZELLO) hides from a vicious Velociraptor.
"We see 4K and HFR coming up, so we have to get our footprint down per film so we'll be prepared for the exponential growth," says Parry. In addition to working with lower-res proxy files when possible (but always at full res when with the filmmakers), Stereo D has also partnered with Quantel
and has multiple Pablos in-house as well as Quantel's new Pablo RIO, which has been at Stereo D for nine months. "We have a great R&D relationships with Quantel," he says. "We did use a little bit of the Rio for Jurassic. The Rio is an amazing piece of equipment and a welcomed advance, and we're gearing up for a process we'll talk about later this year."
One of the things they've been able to do as a result of the Quantel partnership is conform every movie twice a day. "We are EDL-based as a studio," he says. "It's a virtual studio approach and that wouldn't have been possible without the partnership with Quantel.
THE FUTURE OF 3D CONVERSIONS
Following the success of Titanic in 3D
and, now Jurassic Park 3D
, Stereo D's Sherak looks at the market up ahead for legacy titles. "Not every movie can stand a global theatrical re-release," he says, reporting that his company has converted between 15 and 20 film titles already and has 13 or 14 conversion titles on the books for 2013. "But there are a good number in the archives of Hollywood. The market will find a balance. I want to see a good movie. When it first hit the domestic marketplace, it was about seeing a 3D movie -- and there were movies that weren't good. Audiences are getting sophisticated quickly; they want to know if the movie is good. A good movie will do better in 3D."
Marvel's The Avengers
The number of 3D titles is up in 2013, says Sherak, and a lot more were converted from 2D. Like Parry, Sherak believes that, although native 3D shooting can be great, "it's no longer that native is better." "It's a choice for a filmmaker and a studio," he says. "When filmmakers see how much more control they have in post, conversion fits in better. We often end up doing multiple projects with each studio we're working with." He points to Marvel
. "All their 3D movies have come through us," he says. "They're an amazing partner and it's been a great collaboration." Even some of the early bad conversions have played a role in making the 3D market more robust, says Sherak. "I think what it did is make audiences very sophisticated very quickly," he says.
Sherak is mainly bullish on the 2D-to-3D conversion market because of the dramatic growth in international markets, China in particular. "The marketplace is no longer just a domestic market but it's global," he says. "I just got back from China and they're building theatres like crazy. They're doing big budget movies in China and 3D is insanely popular. I don't know the exact number but almost every theatre is 3D capable there and all the viewers want it."
As the Chinese film industry grows, more studios open and more films are made. "The more movies they make, the better they get and the more they want to make higher quality content," says Sherak, who says that Stereo D is looking at how to enter the Chinese market. "They look for joint ventures with high quality service providers." China isn't the only international market for 3D. "Russia and India are also big growing film markets everywhere throughout Europe is expanding -- all for 3D," he says.
Stereoscopic 3D TV still has a way to go, he believes, until there's enough content. "The technology will continue to be in the home, but it's not adopting as fast as we'd like," he says. "Consumers need high-quality content and there just isn't enough of it. Let's say you have 200 movies out there. That's not enough to penetrate the home market, conversion or otherwise. I don't know what the tipping point is. I think you just need to know that if you turn on the TV, you'll find good quality 3D. This isn't something that will happen overnight."
Although plenty of people still say that 3D -- especially 3D TV -- is a fad, Sherak counters with a recent analogy. "I remember the talks that HD was dead," he says. "When was the last time you watched SD? If we can figure out a financial model to get more and more content in the home, that's what it'll take. We're still building that model. What we do isn't inexpensive -- we have 1,000 artists and a lot of proprietary tools -- but we don't have a cheap solution. You can't put a TV program in a black box and 3D comes out the other end."
What's clear is that the 2D-to-3D conversion -- when done properly -- can be hugely successful. Titanic in 3D
was not the juggernaut anomaly but the first salvo in a series of well-done conversions which now includes Jurassic Park 3D
The growing international popularity of 3D ensures a continued stream of 3D movies -- both natively shot and converted. Let's hope that Sherak and Parry's call for quality is heeded. Great 3D matched with great storytelling can only help to cement stereoscopy as a legitimate filmmaker tool. This year promises to give us all much more evidence of 3D filmmaking's progression and, perhaps, a few steps towards the possibility of a robust 3D TV experience.
Dr. Alan Grant (SAM NEILL) tries to distract a hungry T. rex in Steven Spielberg's groundbreaking masterpiece Jurassic Park in 3D. With his remastering of the epic into a state-of-the-art 3D format, Spielberg introduces the three-time Academy Award®-winning blockbuster to a new generation of moviegoers and allows longtime fans to experience the world he envisioned in a way that was unimaginable during the film's original release.
Running with the dinosaurs: Lex Murphy (ARIANA RICHARDS), Dr. Alan Grant (SAM NEILL) and Tim Murphy (JOSEPH MAZZELLO) run for their lives in Steven Spielberg's groundbreaking masterpiece "Jurassic Park in 3D". With his remastering of the epic into a state-of-the-art 3D format, Spielberg introduces the three-time Academy Award®-winning blockbuster to a new generation of moviegoers and allows longtime fans to experience the world he envisioned in a way that was unimaginable during the film's original release.
In the kitchen: Tim Murphy (JOSEPH MAZZELLO) hides from a vicious Velociraptor in Steven Spielberg's groundbreaking masterpiece "Jurassic Park in 3D". With his remastering of the epic into a state-of-the-art 3D format, Spielberg introduces the three-time Academy Award®-winning blockbuster to a new generation of moviegoers and allows longtime fans to experience the world he envisioned in a way that was unimaginable during the film's original release.
Jurassic Park 3D Photo Credits: Universal City Studios, Inc. & Amblin Entertainment, Inc. ©Universal City Studios, Inc. & Amblin Entertainment, Inc.
Image from Titanic: A scene from the movie "Titanic" which was nominated for a record-tying 14 Academy Awards 10 February 1998. "Titanic" was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. (Photo credit: MERIE WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)