From 2D to 3D – converting stock VFX

It’s funny how whenever one feels like they are going in circles – one probably is.

As we prepare for our first 3D shoot, we’re feeling stereoscopic frustration because we keep hearing – “you can’t get there from here.”

I decided it was time to break the loop … by tapping our library of documentary material and our ambitious compositor.

We don’t have any footage shot in 3D, but we do have an extensive collection of 2D VFX shots from previous shows.

So as the rest of the team hunted for equipment, Jakub Kuczynski forged ahead and tried to add a third dimension to this material using After Effects.

His visual stock: cinematic shots from Blowdown and Ancient Megastructures -not CGIs but VFX constructed with plate shots – with live action or green screen elements.

The outcome – our first taste of 3D success … Parallax in stereoscopy.

Here’s a screen grab from Jakub’s demo –  converted VFX material from the, a stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana that Controlled Demolition Inc. imploded and we delivered in 2D:

But as I absorb our visual milestone I’m reminded that our VFX are only window dressing for the actual meat of the story.

If we can’t get the story down, the window dressing will only serve to draw attention to the painfully empty house it hangs in.

Can we conjure the equipment we need to capture interesting and compelling 3D doc footage in the chaos of a run-and-gun industrial environment?

Blowdown in 3D

Over the next eight months we are going to shoot, edit and deliver our first 3D episode of Blowdown.

We do films in dangerous and remote locations around the world. The environments are usually extreme – invariably hard on people and even more so on electronics. But we love science and engineering projects like Blowdown where we get to document the process of imploding a structure. We get a thrill from mounting dozens of cameras to capture every aspect of the building coming down.

Now adapt that to 3D. Impossible. But no amount of nay-saying or eye rolling could pull me off the rather single-minded desire to begin shooting our series in 3D.

So why do it? For me it’s easy. It’s the natural way we see things. I am a right-brain processor who takes in the world through images. Give me solid, engaging stories with great images and I am all yours. Take Avatar. It’s standard fare. Use a solid narrative arc and stock characters to deliver a middle of the road, satisfying story. It’s a classic hero’s quest. What sets it apart is its delivery of images. That was thrilling because I suddenly saw a new door to kick down, engaging me and offering a new way to tell stories to our audience.

The 3D project that popped was the Fonte Nova stadium demolition in Salvador, Brazil. We were invited by Controlled Demolition Inc. to film the challenge of prepping and imploding one of the largest soccer stadiums in the world to make way for a brand new facility for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Wouldn’t you watch that? So, like fools we rushed in. But we have some angels looking out for us.