With higher ticket prices and box office boffo, stereoscopic 3D (S3D) has succeeded in feature films. If it's a film aimed at children and families, an animated story or action-packed, S3D is now standard for the Hollywood tentpole.
But S3D production has sputtered elsewhere, particularly when it comes to live concerts and sports both of which are cited as potential blockbuster content for audiences. One big stumbling block is the increased complexity of the S3D shoot, and the resulting costs. On the S3D production, a rig technician calibrates lenses, each camera has an additional crew member and a truckful of people overseeing convergence. One broadcast executive whose network did a 3D broadcast of a live sports match said it cost three times that of a normal 2D production.
U23D, courtesy of Revolver Entertainment. Note 3ality rig in center of frame. To view a larger image, please click above
Now, 3ality Digital, the Burbank-based company that was founded in 2000 by founder/CEO Steve Schklair, is attempting to change all that with the introduction of new software technologies: IntelleCal and IntelleCam, which are part of the 3space suite of products to be launched at NAB 2011. "One of the biggest challenges for S3D has been the amount of technical equipment and expertise required to make it work and ensure it does not induce headaches and detract from the story," says Schklair."
Steve Schklair, 3ality Digital CEO
"Each additional crew member adds $10,000 to the bottom line," says 3ality Digital director of business development Lucas Wilson. "These new products enable 3D productions to function like 2D productions."
Lucas Wilson, 3ality Digital Director of Business Development
By automating some of S3D's more labor-intensive tasks, the new 3ality Digital software enables productions to shoot more quickly and with smaller crews. Rather than rely on the services of a highly skilled rig technician, IntelleCal automatically aligns the two cameras on an S3D rig. A push of a button and the cameras quickly and precisely set up by profiling and matching lenses and performing alignment on five axes through the entire zoom range. According to Schklair, the traditional alignment process takes up to an hour to set. IntelleCal speeds up the alignment process to five minutes... and does it automatically.
Convergence is another very labor-intensive task on the S3D shoot, up until now requiring a convergence puller at each camera rig. For a shoot with four, five or six cameras, the costs of additional crew piles up quickly. That cost disappears with IntelleCam, which automatically controls the convergence and the interaxial spacing of the cameras. "Since we started in this business IntelleCam is the one tool that every broadcaster has asked us to develop," said Schklair.
Both integrated software solutions are used with 3ality Digital's processing units and 3flex S3D camera rigs. IntelleCal uses the SIP and an additional processing unit, which is yet to be named.
3ality rig with a pair of Ikegami HDL-51 cameras. Photo by Steven Bradford, from Creative COW Magazine's Blue Ribbon Awards issue, "Stereoscopic Storm."
"With the introduction of the 3space products, 3ality Digital has vastly reduced the amount of crew and the cost involved in creating compelling S3D," says Schklair. "These new products represent a quantum leap in how broadcasters and filmmakers are going to be able to capture S3D."
That's good news especially for television producers. 3ality Digital's rigs are currently in use on The Hobbit and The Amazing Spider-Man, but have been used in the past for TV programming--and live sports--including the first live college football S3D BCS Championship -- January 8th, 2009, the first live S3D NHL broadcast - Islanders vs. Rangers, March 24, 2010, and the first live NFL S3D broadcast to homes - FiOS, Patriots vs. Giants, Sept. 2nd, 2010. Other S3D broadcasts include the first live S3D broadcast of an NFL game (Raiders vs. Chargers, December 4th, 2008, broadcasted to a select audience); the first live S3D sports broadcast available to consumers, including the 2009 BCS Championship Game, BSkyB's landmark Manchester United vs. Arsenal soccer broadcast (January 31st, 2010), the first network hockey telecast ever produced in S3D (New York Rangers vs. Islanders, March 24th 2010 on MSG); the first S3D commercial broadcast during a Super Bowl (Sobe "Lizard Lake"); the first full episode of a scripted television series shot in live-action S3D (Chuck vs. The Third Dimension, aired on NBC on February 2nd, 2009).
Dec 4 2008 NFL Thursday Night Football game between the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders
Now, that handful of S3D productions for TV can grow in number and scope. "All the tests of the last few years have proven that there are no technical barriers to live 3D television," says Schklair. "The issue is now much more of a business case, and these two new technologies will dramatically reduce and revolutionize the economics of 3D broadcasting."
“I am thrilled to be joining the COW team,” said Debra Kaufman, newly named Associate Editor of Creative COW Magazine. “In an era in which so much coverage has shrunk to 300-word sound bites, I'm delighted to be able to cover the dramatic changes in our industry in depth. Additionally, I look forward to reaching a huge number of engaged readers working in production and post, in the U.S. and internationally. Publisher Ronald Lindeboom and Editor-in-Chief Tim Wilson early on understood the importance of a web presence, and have created an astonishingly large audience both online and in print.”
Look forward to more great stories from Debra in Creative COW Magazine, and online here at CreativeCOW.net.