It’s been a few weeks since Underworld: Awakening was released, winning top spot at the box office with $25.4 million in sales. Now, the critics are weighing in – both on the story itself, and on the quality of its 3D cinematography.
Parallax Film Productions chatted with stereographer/DOP Kasimir Lehto a few months back about his work on high-profile stereoscopic projects including Underworld: Awakening, The Darkest Hour, and Apartment 1303 3D.
Here’s the exclusive interview from our archives:
On entering the third dimension
I got involved six years ago. I noticed all the marks in the air that this would be the next step in the history of cinema in terms of distribution and new kind of form. I foresaw that this is the new area where cinema is evolving. You have to take risk to accomplish something or go forward. I was keen to find new horizons in filmmaking – it was strong intuition so I just went for it.
It inspired me. It allowed me to forget everything I know about cinematography and filmmaking and try to and start to build again on top of a new principle – this new format that brings up creative possibilities and rethinking the cinematic language.
On funding stereoscopic films
We founded a company called Stereoscape to generate works for us in 3D. First we applied for money from different technology research centres, film funds for researching and test-driving 3D. We got quite a lot of money from Finland to research and develop this whole thing – we were government-financed.
On the road to 3D
When we started there wasn’t much knowledge and tricks and technology around so it took like a really long time to figure out. We did a lot of short films and a lot of demo content which we tried to figure out how to shoot 3D, how to place the cameras, how to edit, how to view which took enormous time for us because nobody was really doing it in the small budget level we were doing.
Figuring out everything was kind of a struggle but the was the fun of it, to kind of explore and learn new things, to figure it out and to have it working. Now everything has changed dramatically. Editing software is supporting 3D, there are a lot of different 3D cameras for different price ranges and budgets, there are production services, there is screening, there are 3D TVs.
On 3D’s universal appeal
3D gives the viewer more information. When the viewer receives more information that’s a richer experience and it engages you in a deeper level. My basic ideology is that drama is actually one of the best areas to work in 3D. You are observing the people and the action and the drama between them. When the 3D is added it gives the viewer a richer experience of the character, which makes it more real and more understandable.
I think that 3D is something between the cinema and the theatre. We all know that with the theatre the presentation of the characters is real so the whole context of the story or the subtext is stronger. In drama it’s about emotions and the story. 3D can deliver these characters and situation with a higher level of information like social signals, emotional signals – if all this can be delivered in a stronger level of information that’s always better.
The 2D/3D debate: it’s black and white
You know many times in the past people have asked me why 3D is better than 2D then I’ve asked them “what do you prefer, black and white or colour in films?” And 99 per cent of the time it’s like “colour” and then I ask why. They always the answer is it’s because it feels more realistic. 3D it delivers the content on a more realistic level so in that case the viewer is more encased and he feels what he sees at a stronger level. You feel that you’re being there, you’re part of the whole story or scene, you’re in the room. That’s why 3D is good and why stories can benefit from it.
On the creative process
[As a stereographer] the biggest challenge is to get everybody on board on making a 3D film and telling the story in three dimensions … to start feeding people and to start helping people understand the difference. The optimal ways to block a scene in 3D, how the cutting and editing pace is different, how to incorporate all these things for the method.
[As a DOP] The biggest challenge is to try to give the director as many tools and as many references and experience so that he or she could be able to tell the story in a way that it works great in 3D in a way that 3D wouldn’t disturb his or her method … it would be a fluent experience. So it’s optimizing the storytelling method to match the 3D.
The biggest reward happens every day you look 3D on a big screen. When you screen your dailies or test or whatever it’s always shocking of how amazing it is. And you get more rewards when things are working smoothly and you get great shots and as a cinematographer you can use the camera in a way that is kind of matching how the audience wants to see 3D. Once you get to the kind of method where you can shoot 3D in a 3D way, not within a 2D method, that’s when the 3D starts to flourish.
On stereoscopic success
Try to look at as much 3D as possible. Try to make test shoots and try to explore things and learn from it. You have to learn how the 3D is different from 2D and according to that information you should tune your method to match the features of 3D.
The biggest asset in the set is everybody’s mind. So everybody should, from the whole team, director and DOP, production designer and producer, all the key positions should have experience or knowledge about the 3D so everybody understands what it is and how is it different from the 2D method.
On indie filmmaking and the future of 3D innovation
Indie films are more capable of mobilizing or utilizing this form that’s because they are smaller so they can explore and be more innovative. And since they are small they have to be smart and kind of jump higher than they actually are. There’s more intention of really nailing it and exploring it in ways that it can be really impressive and tell the story. I’m sure the big films will follow but they are so huge it takes more time for them to kind of evolve and arrive.
The last word
I’m quite positive that 3D is here to stay. If we look at how far moving pictures have come in the last 100 years it would be naïve to think that the format would stay in the 2D format. It’s the rule of evolution. Things are going forward – I don’t think there’s any other option for visual media language than to go to the third dimension.