3D camera review: how the Panasonic AG-3DA1 stands up to 3D documentary filmmaking

Normally my team and I use rig-based camera systems to shoot our 3D documentary material.

So far these custom-designed units have gotten the job done.

But to stay in this crazy 3D game you’ve got to try it all … last week it was time to play with a new toy.

We took the shiny Panasonic AG-3DA1 for a test drive.

Here’s some footage of the indoor shoot:




Here’s some footage of the outdoor shoot:




What you need to know:

-There are distance limitations as with any side by side camera rig. For instance when we were shooting in a room approx. 3m x 3m the closest we could get is about 1.2 meters to the subject. When we zoomed in we had to move to about 2.5 to 3 meters – we were out the door before we got a clean and well converged shot of the subject.

-To get anaglyphic 3D press the “mix” button.

-Both the viewfinder and LCD screen use anaglyphic as convergence guide.

-The LCD screen is soft when in “mix” mode – so focus needs to be continually checked.

What you’ll like:

-It’s lightweight.

-It shoots decent EXT.

What you won’t:

-The small sensor means that the image shows noise in low light.

The call:

Jury’s out for now. I’ve sent the footage into post, and will make the call on if it’s worth it to add to our 3D arsenal when I see the goods.

More to come …

Ian Herring, President


3D documentaries in the news: how to settle the 3D TV debate? Less talking, more watching

I was interviewed for a story that appeared in the Globe and Mail over the holidays.

The topic? The future of 3D television, of course.

The article opens with the inception of my journey into the third dimension – a trip with the Parallax crew to see Avatar at the end of 2009 – then goes into an industry snapshot.

One of the most interesting parts of this piece: the comments – people weighing in, giving us a feel for how our audience is reacting to this new world of entertainment.

From “The future of 3D home television? Thud, flop, disappear” to “I have a lot of techie friends, yet I still only know one person who had spent the double cost to buy a 3d TV”, it’s clear that some doubt it will take off

My challenge to you: find a way to watch some 3D television in a non-retail setting.

This is the same stuff that wowed millions of people all over the world as they spent billions of dollars to watch Avatar – now in the comfort of your living room.

It’s how people are experiencing 3D programming in a meaningful way. “Watched 3D underwater scene at Wacky Wheatleys in Fredericton, NB on Sony TV , very impressive”, another Globe and Mail reader commented.

And don’t worry that there will be nothing to watch – the content is coming. Popular Science had a great roundup article earlier this week – Sony, Discovery, IMAX, ESPN, Vudu …. and of course, Penthouse.

These big players know their industry, and their audience – they‘re confident this unprecedented immersive experience will leave people smacked for more.

I’ve been in their boardrooms – they see 3D content and get inspired. And like me, they want to share.

Get in the game. We experience the world in 3D – it’s time to demand the same from our entertainment

Ian Herring, President


Shooting A 3D documentary: How to record 1080P to a Nano3D drive using Sony EX3s

We recently shot a show that will be delivered to broadcasters in 1080i.  Our 3D camera system choice for this shoot was a beam splitter with two Sony EX3s gen-locked, recording a 140mb to Nano3D drives.

Because of the large amount of VFX work and the convergence needs of 3D, we wanted to capture native 3D in 1080p – this makes it possible to work with a full frame of information.

When our DOP camera-tested native 3D he found that it was only possible to shoot 1080i as that’s what standard the Nano3D drives record to – even though the genlocked EX3 system was set to record 1080p. Annoying, but I decided we’d make it work.

So we got the footage in as 1080i – and loaded it into the off-line FCP and Cineform 3D edit system. That’s where we ran into a problem.

What was going on?  The native files were playing back fine in FCP – but when we brought it over to Cineform to do convergence and 3D adjustments we got visual tearing and had interlace issues.   When we did our adjustments the fields no longer matched.

We identified the source of the problem was within Cineform First Light, and it was the interlaced files that didn’t match – in interlaced footage the shot was broken up into two fields, top and bottom.  Our problem was with our adjustments  – the order was being mixed up so the shots looked terrible.

So went back to the source file – and figured out we had to add another step and de-interlace it and then re-input the 1080p frame back into Cineform and then it would work  – making it 1080p, the frame file we wanted to shoot it in the first place.

Bonus: as we problem-solved the above interlacing issue with Cineform we also found out that the Nano drives can record 1080p – if you tell them that the signal is in fact 1080psf.

PSF stands for Progressive Segmented Frames and it is how the camera delivers video down a single SDI cable.   1080p is so large it has to broken up into smaller pieces – called, packets.   It doesn’t change the video, just reformats the video during transmission down the cable.

One has to tell the Nano drives that the signal is coming as a 1080psf – and it will happily record 1080p.   So now we don’t have to de-interlace the file and can work in 1080p right off the drive.

After the 3D and VFX work is done and the final on-line completed we can re-interlace the files and deliver final output to the broadcaster.

So on future shoots we can shoot 1080p – we just have to tell the Nano drives that it’s coming IN as 1080psf – not 1080p.

One less step to take in our post work flow – and now we can work in 1080p.

Ian Herring , President

Watching a 3D documentary: buying the right passive technology monitor

It’s coming up to the year anniversary of Avatar’s release.  A film that changed the way I think about broadcast formats and revolutionized our production house.

Within 12 months we landed our first 3D television production for Blowdown, our ongoing television series on structural implosions.

In that year we built and tested two main 3D systems and several secondary systems.  Of equal challenge was the post work flow in 3D.  The production team worked closely with our edit team and managed to come up with a smooth edit to output work flow.

Early on we adopted the 3D TV passive technology, which means the TV does all the work and we can use inexpensive and readily available glasses – the same ones used at the cinema.

Our latest purchase and the smallest 3D TV is the Panasonic BT-3DL2550.  It’s a 25.5-inch TV – portable and can be used in the field to monitor 3D rushes or as an on-line monitor.  This is a piece of equipment I am really looking forward to using.

The consumer is going adopt 3D at home in the same way when passive shutter 3D TVs come available.  LG is releasing this – the LD920 47-inch TV – eliminating the expensive and awkward battery powered active shutter glasses.

This technology, priced right, will pave the way for consumer friendly 3D tv’s and encourage the adoption of the format.

Ian Herring, President

Welcome to Parallax 2.0

We’re jumping the gun and ringing in the new before the year-end countdown.  We’ve had an amazing 2010 here and are all still wrapping our heads around the fact that it isn’t June.

I started the year back East in February and battled the blizzards that dumped on Washington, DC.

In April, we managed to catch the last Air Canada flight of Paris before Eyjafjallajokull, the Icelandic volcano closed European airspace.

It was Brazil in August, escaping the heat in Vancouver for “winter” in Salvador.

We shot our first show ever in 3D, a fabulous addition to our Blowdown series.

In November, we began shooting our brand new series at Dover Castle with our host and co-production partner, Dan Snow.  No small triumph for a project more than three years in the making.

So, besides the 60,000 Aeroplan miles I’ve banked this year, what does it all mean?

It means that here at Parallax Film Productions we’re always on a journey.

We’re looking for a new adventure … and we’ve found it in this vast e-universe.

The launch of the new website is pushing us in new directions, opening doors to the possibility that our creativity can be interactive and we can reach out to our audiences in ways that doesn’t always include a broadcaster.

We are stepping out from behind the curtain and redefining the nature of our storytelling by sharing what excites us every day. Whether it’s a new 3D TV or a story from the back pages, it’s all the stuff we strive for:  being excited and engaged.

We hope that you’ll join us.

Connect with us and our community via Facebook or Twitter. Weigh in on YouTube or our website  – we want to hear what you think of our content. Sign up to receive our news. Share your updates. And reserve front row access to the new stuff comes down the pipe.

We’re not sure what this new world has in store for us. But one thing’s certain. It’s going to be quite the ride.

Ian Herring, President

Fonte Nova Stadium implosion captured in 3D

(Em Português: uma reportagem sobre o documentário em 3D) The implosion of the Fonte Nova Stadium – Em Português: uma reportagem sobre o documentário em 3D)

The implosion of the Fonte Nova Stadium – the climax of our first 3D documentary production – has happened!

Controlled Demolition Inc. pressed the button at 10:27 a.m. in Salvador, Brazil.

The event was captured by several spectators from outside the 250-metre safety perimeter – stills and some video footage have been posted on Correio*.

Some 700 kilograms of explosives were used to take the structure down.

Ian Herring and the rest of the Parallax Film Productions crew had almost 20 camera systems rolling to capture this explosive event in 3D for the series Blowdown. These units, many custom-made, were positioned outside – and inside – the arena.

It’s the first implosion ever to be shot in stereo for international broadcast.

The Fonte Nova Stadium stood for almost six decades. At a maximum capacity recorded at 110, 438, it was one of the largest stadiums in the world.

It closed its doors amidst tragedy in 2007 after seven people were killed and 40 injured when a section of the upper bowl collapsed.

A new 2014 World Cup facility, the Bahia Arena, is slated to replace it.

Construction is scheduled to begin after the site is cleared.

More to come …

Nicole Tomlinson

UPDATE: Fonte Nova Stadium implosion captured in 3D

(Em Português: uma reportagem sobre o documentário em 3D)

The Parallax Film Productions crew has uploaded footage from the climax of our first 3D documentary productionthe Fonte Nova Stadium implosion in Salvador, Brazil.

There were a few challenges leading up to the event – last-minute rigging as stereographer Sean White positioned some 20 camera systems, many custom made, to capture the explosive demolition in stereo for the series Blowdown:


Once the camera units were all in place, the crew moved out of the arena and took position on the other side of the safety perimeter.

And a siren meant to signal the five-minute warning for the implosion continued to go off as the stadium came down – you can hear it as Ian Herring films the demolition with his Lumix:


But the overall mission – to capture the first ever implosion in stereo for international broadcast – was an explosive success.

All camera systems were rolling when the arena came down, including several kill cams positioned inside the stadium to capture unprecedented 3D footage ultra close.

Then the crew hustled to get post-Blowdown interviews and dig kill cam footage out of the massive debris pile – success!

Next they took a bit of time to relax before tackling one epic gear pack-up.

They’ll make their way back to Vancouver, Canada tomorrow.

Now we’re adrift in the quasi calm before another stereo storm …

Once the footage arrives back, our post production journey into the third dimension begins.

What a ride.

Nicole Tomlinson

Shooting a 3D documentary: positioning implosion cams around the Fonte Nova Stadium

The explosive climax of our first 3D documentary productionthe implosion of the Fonte Nova Stadium in Salvador, Brazil – is just days away.

Close to 20 camera systems will capture this high-profile event in stereo for the explosive demolition series Blowdown when Controlled Demolition Inc. pushes the button on August 29.

The production crew’s challenge: scope out the best places to put these cameras.

Ian Herring and the rest of the team have already nailed down locations for most of the kill cams. These systems will be placed inside the stadium, destined to be annihilated by the implosion as they capture the event ultra close.

Next, they have to decide where to position our perimeter cams.

So they hit the neighbourhood to scout out the best spots.

Stereographer Sean White explores a piece of Salvador …

… and checks out a tentative camera position

The crew also snapped some VFX plate shots of the stadium while they were offsite.

Our compositor, Jakub Kuczynski, will use these stills to create a 3D model of the structure.

This stereoscopic photo-real stadium will stand long after the real venue falls: we’ll use it in the show to orient the audience, share implosion scenarios, reveal explosive demolition details, etc.

T-3 days.

Nicole Tomlinson

Shooting a 3D documentary: mounting kill cams in the Fonte Nova Stadium

Ian Herring and the rest of the Parallax Film Productions crew are busy shooting our first 3D documentary at the Fonte Nova Stadium in Salvador, Brazil.

They’ve spent the last few days conducting interviews and covering prep for the stadium’s implosion, slated to take place on August 29.

They’re also figuring out where to position some 20 camera systems that will capture the event for the explosive demolition series Blowdown. As far as we know, this will be the first implosion ever filmed in 3D.

Some cameras will be placed outside the structure – some will be placed inside.

Called kill cams, the latter units are custom-designed to capture the implosion from POVs no human being could ever witness safely and store the data so it survives even as the cameras are annihilated by tons of concrete, rebar and debris.

After the implosion, the crew will dig the footage out of the rubble.

Parallax Film Productions has strategically placed cameras inside condemned structures before – such as the Hoyt. S Vandenberg, scuttled off the coast of Florida, the RCA Dome, imploded in Indiana, and Ocean Tower condominium complex, taken down on South Padre Island.

But this kill cam operation has never been attempted in 3D. This time, two cameras on a custom-designed side by side rig will be mounted at each location.

Ian scouts prime spots for these unprecedented systems


Crew salvages material from the stadium to mount the kill cams


Kill cam footage from the Ocean Tower condominium complex



Now imagine POVs like these … in stereo.

Seriously. It’s going to rock.

Nicole Tomlinson

Shooting a 3D documentary: the Fonte Nova Stadium

Ian Herring and the Parallax Film Productions crew are down in Salvador, Brazil shooting our first 3D documentary. And as they trek around stereoscopic gear in tow, filming the explosive demolition series Blowdown, they’re getting to know the beast that is the Fonte Nova Stadium.

The megastructure’s being taken down to make way for a new 2014 World Cup facility– but it’s not going to go easy.

And with a catastrophic structural failure marking the stadium’s deadly past, the demolition must be approached with the utmost caution.

From a filmmaking perspective, Ian says the condemned structure really lends itself to 3D because:

1. Of the high columns and circular configuration.

2. No angle is the same from any one point within and outside of the structure.

3. It’s laid out in front of the crew – it’s very telegenic.

He also prefers the wide layout of the stadium to a high tower or skyscraper from a logistical standpoint – though the crew has to schlep far distances between setups, there are certainly less stairs to climb.

Demolition prep work means no power – on these sites elevators are never an option.

Five facts about this condemned giant

-This stadium, slated for implosion on August 29, is one of the largest in the world. A mind-boggling 110,438 people crammed into it on February 12, 1989.

-This demolition is part of Brazil’s $1 billion 2014 World Cup stadium overhaul – Salvador and three other locations are getting brand new arenas, other sites are being revamped.

-The Fonte Nova stadium closed its doors after tragedy struck in 2007 when a section of the high terraces collapsed, killing seven people and injuring 40 others.

-The Bahia Arena, with a tentative capacity of about 44,100 will be built in the Fonte Nova’s place. Construction is slated to commence shortly after the demolition.

-The stadium’s located in Salvador, Bahia, which boasts a population of some 2.7 million and was the original capital of Brazil.

Nicole Tomlinson