This week in Battle Castle

From this week forward, we’ll be sharing highlights from our current production, Battle Castle, on our blog.

Hosted by historian and broadcaster Dan Snow, Battle Castle profiles the military architecture and engineering of some of the world’s greatest castles, as well as the medieval weapons technology they faced during the epic sieges that tested them.

This action documentary series is scheduled to air on History Television in Canada and Discovery UK early next year. It’s also slated for distribution by BBC Worldwide.

Battle Castle reveals the stories of:

-Dover – The Key to England

-Crac des Chevaliers – The Crown Jewel of Crusader Castles

-Malaga – Ferdinand and Isabella’s bloodiest siege

-Conwy – King Edward’s Iron Ring

-Chateau Gaillard – Richard the Lionheart’s stronghold

-Malbork – The Teutonic Knight’s red-brick glory

In addition to these broadcasts, Battle Castle also features an extensive online world that continues to grow every day.

This trans-medieval journey includes exclusive web content, behind-the-scenes material, and plenty of opportunities to #gomedieval.

Here’s what’s going on this week in the Battle Castle universe:

 On YouTube

Battle Castle: Gaillard – Dark Discovery

Camera and Director of Photography Sean F. White and Technical Assistant Rory Lambert explore an unexpected opening found at Chateau Gaillard. The French army, led by Philip Augustus of France, laid siege to English King Richard I’s stronghold in Normandy in 1203-1204. Battle Castle: Gaillard reveals how Richard the Lionheart’s castle builders constructed the fortifications, which included securing the castle, an island fort, and the town of Petit Andely, and details the medieval weapons used to attack it.


On Flickr

Battle Castle: Malbork – a medieval feast

Photos of an exhibit at Malbork Castle, meant to recreate what a meal served at the fortification during the Middle Ages may have consisted of, shot during the filming of Battle Castle: Malbork with host Dan Snow in Poland. The show profiles the siege of 1410 when Polish and Lithuanian forces attacked the brick stronghold. The offensive, which was led by King Jagiello and Grand Duke Vytautas, occurred after the Battle of Tannenberg. The castle, historically known as Marienburg, was built by the Teutonic Order, crusader knights who occupied this area of the Baltic in medieval times.


On Twitter

Medieval siege tip of the week:

Beware the elite’s desire to defend their own interests, as it can be the beating heart of any structural defence – M. Keen
3 ways to #gomedieval
Awesome medieval moments on the web, chosen by The Gatekeeper:
Siege engine homage: trebuchet salutes the Kansas City Wildcats

Dare to compare medieval cooking … stay for the Sweet Frumenty, avoid the Plague (no really, it’s a drink) via CookIt!

Writer Merry Farmer rolls out medieval-themed blogs every Monday. Bonus points for the alliteration

Want more Battle Castle action?

A world of castle engineering, bloody siegecraft, and epic clashes that transform mortals into legends awaits …

Join us.

3D TV exclusive: 3net’s Director of Programming and Acquisitions weighs in on the state of stereoscopic entertainment

Blowdown 3D makes its US debut on the 24-hour 3D channel 3net this Sunday, Aug. 28.

Here at Parallax Film Productions, we’re counting down the days until our American audience gets to experience explosive demolition in 3D for the first time.

To mark this event, we chatted with Mark Ringwald – Director of Programming and Acquisitions at 3net – about the premiere, the channel, and the state 3D TV in general.

Some of his thoughts appear in yesterday’s blog post, which details Blowdown 3D’s production and features a few clips from the show, put up in Dubois Anaglyph for the web.

Here are some other highlights from the interview:

On 3net’s programming

We have over 100 hours on the air at this moment and by the end of the year we’ll have 200 hours in our library. There will be a lot of new programming this fall. It’s going to be entertainment, it’s going to be kid’s programming, and it’s going to be concerts and movies and scripted programs. The content is going to be about 75 per cent commissions and co-productions and 25 per cent acquisition. So we’re doing a lot of original content.

On why 3D production can be a challenge

It’s a brand new technology and everybody’s feeling their way through it. Shooting 3D is not like shooting 2D. If somebody says “oh we’ll fix it in post”, chances are you won’t be fixing it in post. 3D gives you every opportunity to come back with no footage whatsoever. Unlike 2D when you can go out and shoot a bunch and say “well, I can piece together something”, you really have to do a lot more planning, you really have to worry about composing each and every shot. You have to shoot it differently than 2D.

We’ve been fortunate here at 3net with Sony’s part: they have a 3D technology centre for DPs and directors. So on the commissioning side people that have been doing projects for us have been sent though that school, so they have a firmly established background.

On the future of 3D TVs

Everyone is getting a 3D set. Starting this year all the major manufacturers – Sony, LG, Panasonic – are all putting the 3D technology in their sets. If you buy a TV set that’s over 42 inches it’s either going to be a 3D set or it’s going to be 3D capable. So we have to stop thinking “is 3D going to work?” and say “well, everybody’s going to be getting a 3D set, are we going to have good content, is there going to be a reason for them to watch something in 3D?”

On the future of 3D content

3D is coming in our homes, so I think the challenge is how to use it to its best advantage. And that’s the real challenge for producers and content creators. People say “what are you looking for in the next 3D show?” and I say “I don’t know”. I think this technology opens a lot of doors to a lot of new concepts and I don’t think people are using the 3D space to its fullest creativity yet. So it’s the challenge of creating content that people will want to go and watch.

On why 3D is great

3D immerses you in the experience. If you’re underwater you’re swimming with the sharks, or if you’re in a country in the Himalayas or on Mount Everest or if you’re at the Indianapolis 500 you feel more immersed inside that content and more like you’re there.

The underwater stuff is great. In one show about dolphins and whales the whales kind of came out. They were out there far enough that you felt like you could touch them and that’s kind of a cool effect. I don’t scuba dive so seeing a whale or a dolphin coming out and almost poking you is pretty spectacular.

On the big picture

You watch television for a myriad of reasons. It’s an experiential form, you’re enjoying the story or the drama or the action or the sport or whatever it is that you’re watching. This is a different way of enjoying it. I don’t think everything’s going to be in 3D. But I think there’s going to be a lot of programming that once you watch something in 3D you’re going to want to watch it in 3D.

The last word

Our mission is to create compelling 3D content that will make people want to go out and get a 3D set and sign up for 3net. There’s no trick to it. It’s just making great television.

Production company captures explosive demolition in 3D


Production company captures explosive demolition in 3D

First implosion ever to be filmed in 3D for international broadcast to make U.S. debut on 3net

VANCOUVER, CANADA – It’s explosive demolition like you’ve never seen before.

For the first time ever a film company has shot, edited and delivered a documentary on structural implosions in 3D.

Parallax Film Productions Inc. used 20 custom-rigged cameras to stereoscopically capture the implosion of a 100,000-seater sports stadium in Salvador, Brazil from every conceivable angle.

This unprecedented visual experience, originally commissioned by History Television and National Geographic Channels International, has been acquired by the 24-hour 3D channel 3net and will make its U.S. debut this Sunday, Aug. 28.

“3net is trying to be the gold standard for 3D,” says Mark Ringwald, Director of Scheduling and Acquisitions for 3net, a joint venture between Discovery Communications, Sony and IMAX. “We work really hard to make sure everything is the best it can be in terms of 3D convergence.”  “Blowdown 3D is a great story about collapsing a stadium, and all the 3D is really good.”

Explosive demolition like you’ve never seen: Blowdown 3D to make US premiere on 3net Sunday, Aug. 28

Our Canadian friends got a two-dimensional view of Blowdown: World Cup Demolition when it premiered earlier this year on History Television Canada.

Our American fans will have the 3D premiere of this Blowdown episode, which hits the airwaves starting August 29th on 3net in the US.  There is a Program Schedule located here: but you should check your local listings.

Over the past three years, the series has been fun to produce and we even got good at the science and art of filming structural implosions. Nothing could have prepared us, however, for challenges of filming our final episode in Salvador, Brazil last August. For the Parallax Film team, the appeal of capturing the demolition of the one of the world’s largest football stadiums in preparation for the 2014 World Cup was a no-brainer. Executing though, was more problematic.

The team had been working in house for months developing and testing 3D camera systems that would meet our broadcasters HD quality standards but still be portable enough to navigate an industrial demolition site.  We then had to train up personnel to operate the equipment for a multi camera shoot, including a number of what we call kill cams, that ride the structures down after the explosives detonate.  Finally, Brazil is a long way from Vancouver (3 flights over 24 hours) and subject to a three-week wait for a visa, so if anything went wrong, the crew was on its own.

The Stadium went down as they always do, in the blink of an eye.

Here’s a 2D peek of the implosion, captured on President Ian Herring’s Lumix:


Controlled Demolition Incorporated and their Brazilian partners Arcoenge Ltda executed the plan, not a moment too soon for spectators who had been subjected to the blaring of a five minute siren.  The crew made the return trip home anxious to see if they’d pulled it off.  Were the calculations accurate?  Mirrors clean?  F-stops adjusted?  Would we have enough footage to cut the contracted 44 minute broadcast hour, and even if we had enough footage, would we be able to pull together a storyline that made sense?

In the end, the show got made and delivered.  It took a herculean effort from the team who put themselves out there every day.  Finding problems and working out solutions up until the day we shipped tapes and hard drives to our broadcasters.  A special thanks goes out to all them.

Maija Leivo, Executive Producer


Blowdown Season II Canadian premiere: a film company’s quest to capture the ultimate implosion

As History Television prepares to air Super Stadium, the first episode of Blowdown Season II, Tuesday night at 7 p.m, here in house we’ve been talking about the groundbreaking triumphs – and inevitable agonies – behind the incredible shots that make these shows so undeniably explosive.

A high-stakes mission

After shooting, editing, and delivering eight episodes of the series, which follows Controlled Demolition Inc. as they tackle the world’s toughest implosions, I can say with certainty that there’s nothing like the rush we get when the crew returns to the production office after an implosion.

They may be on the road for weeks filming the prep work leading up to the demo, but everything rides on the footage they get on the last day, and there is little room for error and no do-over.   It is the ultimate life lesson.

We call it demo porn and we pour over the shots as they come in.

The money shots

When we filmed Blowdown II: Spyship – the sinking of the Hoyt. S. Vandenberg off the coast of Key West, Florida – we mounted recoverable cameras and harddrives that filmed her as she sank. Listen to the sound as one goes down: it is utterly eerie.

Blowdown – Unsinkable: camera rides the Hoyt S. Vandenberg down from Parallax Film on Vimeo.

In our mission to capture a potentially record-breaking drop for Blowdown II: Monster Tower, we mounted cameras on the top floors of the doomed Ocean Tower condominium project on South Padre Island. And amazingly, they actually rode the building down during the implosion.

We weren’t able to recover the cameras but here is the system we designed that protected our harddrives.

File 182

With the help of Controlled Demolition Inc. President Mark Loizeaux’s expert advice, it landed right on top of the rubble pile as predicted. And a 30-something storey drop later, the footage was all there. And it’s incredible.

File 181

Our ultimate challenge was Blowdown II: World Cup Demolition. We filmed the whole episode in 3D.

Sometimes, after all this amazing footage hits Parallax Film HQ, we don’t even know what we’re looking right away at and only piece it together as we unravel the story … the wonder of these discoveries is really satisfying.

Getting the goods

One of the big questions for crew is whether to shoot big wide shots that allow you to watch the whole thing unfold, complete with the amazing microsecond timing.  Or do you zoom in and witness the devil in the detail like the failure of expansion joints or payoff of pre-slicing concrete rings?

Sometimes it depends on the camera technology.  We’ve experimented with high speed cameras at 300+ frames per second, and found that it worked best for those tight shots, rather than the wides which you just want to let run.

Time to explode

We’ve done some amazing stuff with cameras in this series – things that, to our knowledge, have never been done before.

And the very best of these unparalleled visual experiences will be rolled out over the next few weeks on History Television.

Enjoy the ride, Canada.

We sure did.

Maija Leivo, Executive Producer


Delivering a 3D documentary: what it takes to make the cut

Charting the course of a creative company means selecting projects that fulfill a collective passion for experimentation with cameras, visuals and story.

In the realm of innovation 3D fits nicely with these criteria …  so naturally we had to try it.

But to pick up a camera and start shooting was out of the question because there was nothing – absolutely nothing within our price range that we could carry around like an HD camera and meet broadcast specs.

We foraged ahead with Blowdown 3D and after six months of R&D, several camera systems, a month of production in Brazil and nine months of post we have finally delivered a truly groundbreaking 3D documentary.  

We met our creative criteria of keeping the 2D and 3D cuts identical and having an engaging, watchable show in both formats.   As well we gained stereography expertise and a full 3D production and post facility.

To succeed we needed to 4 key players in place.  A business partner who made sure capital was available; a broadcast partner who helped off-set some of the costs and commission a 3D version; a DOP to build and operate a 3D system and an editor who took on the head and heart ache of posting in 3D and edit a show, simultaneously.

Each partner went in blind, worked hard and remained unwaveringly committed – always moving forward despite the many, many set-backs.   I cannot overstate the massive technical obstacles that stood in our way – especially in post.   For a year it was one step forward, two back – not a terribly long time in the scheme of things for R&D and execution but the money was burning and we had to deliver.

On a larger scale the 3D film industry is hot … but there’s still a lot to learn. At NAB 2011 nearly every booth had a 3D camera system or monitor on display.   Unfortunately the consensus from my team that attended is that most of the stereo projects being generated are not visually interesting or executed in optimal 3D.

As far as 3D programming goes, the broadcasters are starting safe with lots of natural history. Over the next few years television is going to steadily move towards 3D penetration.  The consumer interest is too great for them too pass up the business opportunity.   But for now, I look forward to just seeing how Blowdown 3D is received around the world.

Ian Herring, President


So You Want To Learn 3D? How to bring the stereoscopic dream to life

It’s been a long journey into the realm of 3D documentary filmmaking for myself and the rest of the Parallax team.

A rugged path marked with a few big wins – triumphs earned via epic missions through a series of formidable stereoscopic obstacles.

The good news: we’ve trampled a rough trail … a trail that will hopefully help other enthusiasts avoid getting too thoroughly lost in the enchanted forest that is 3D production.

Our stereographer, Sean White, details some quick and dirty ways to follow us into the third dimension.

Immerse yourself

Learning 3D is a full-time job. A solid foundation of stereo principles is needed if you want to succeed

Research. Take an introductory course. Enlist the help of an experienced stereographer.

Or for true 3D keeners, deconstruct a ready-made system into its basic components. Best way to master the beast. Hands down.

Start small

Our first foray into 3D filmmaking was a modest one involving two $20 cameras purchased on EBay and mounted on a side-by-side rig.

Starting small makes getting bigger the only option.


Always think of ways to make your 3D system better. Tinker, take risks, and invent.

Capitalize fully on your mistakes by knowing exactly where you went wrong. Leave no error unturned.

Share your failures and successes with other experimenters. Best way to avoid epic catastrophes.

Keep your eye on the prize

Driving your whole 3D pursuit is the desire for results – not only should you want something properly stereographed but something beautifully stereographed.

Keeping this in mind, never forget to reverse calculate . . . knowing what you want in the end means taking purposeful, well-thought steps to get there.

Alright, that about does it … now it’s time for the good stuff:

Get out there, get dirty, and above all, have fun.

Ian Herring, President


File 177

Stereographer Sean White films Battle Castle: Dover.

Click here for more photos of the Beamer EX and Parallax crew in action.

3D Technology: Parallax Film’s Beamer EX – a stereoscopic rig like none other.

After many blog posts chronicling its inception, the time has finally come to detail la mini beam splitter rig de resistance.

Meet Beamer EX Stereoscopic Rig, a Parallax Film Productions exclusive, designed and assembled by our stereographer Sean White.

File 174

With two successful 3D shoots in the can, our Beamer has proven a force to be reckoned with in the field – portable, rugged, and a damn good shooter.

And pretty easy on the eyes, don’t you think?

Here’s the Beamer breakdown:

– Custom built aluminum beam splitter chassis integrated with 15mm rods and components

– Designed for two Sony EX3 cameras for perfect genlock and time code sync

– HDSDI signals from both cameras recorded to Convergent Designs nanoFlash 3D at up to 280 mbps

– Precise monitoring and alignment with 6″ Transvideo CineMonitorHD 3D View

– Easy to setup and transport

– Switches from tripod to handheld shooting and back in seconds

– Adjustable interaxial distance from 0-100mm

– Calibrated camera heights from base mounts

– Floating 4-point micro adjustment screws for perfect mirror alignment

– Single Anton Bauer Dionic battery on Goldmount powers the monitor and both nanoFlashes

Ian Herring, President


Shooting a 3D Documentary: Sony EX3s on Custom Designed Rig Get The Job Done

Production of Battle Castle is fast underway. It’s a documentary series that brings the world’s greatest medieval strongholds to life and we’ve kicked it off shooting 3D in Kent England, on the grounds of the magnificent Dover Castle.

Packing wisdom gathered from taking Blowdown 3D from production through post, we’ve optimized our beam-splitter rig for this new terrain to avoid the issues (and limitations) we had to work with during our first journey into the third dimension.

The result: one self-contained system that can capture almost everything we need.

Here’s the breakdown:

We’ve chosen to mount 2 Sony EX3s over the Canon 7Ds to avoid genlock issues we were experiencing with the Canons.

The EX3s are great, gold standard cameras and can output a clean signal straight to our Nano3D drives.

We’ve also reconfigured the sliders for more interaxial play and attached customized attachments so we can vertically hang cameras without ripping out the hot shoe mount.

We used red-rock micro components along with some custom parts to fine-tune the hand-held splitter.

Altogether it weighs 45 lbs meaning a strong DoP can hold it for 4-5 minutes before taking a break.

Well worth the effort when it means you have freedom.

Limitation worth noting – the EX3s can’t capture vista shots where the subject is faraway. We fill this gap by using a pair of Canon 5Ds on a side-by-side rig to capture these types of shots.

So what it comes down to is we now have a system with perfect sync, beautiful capture, flexibility, and portability.

What more could you ask for?

Ian Herring, President


Shooting a 3D Documentary: Arming our B-cam system for Blowdown

In the previous post I described the evolution of our mini beam splitter rig, engineered by the Parallax crew for portability and 3D close-ups.

Before the filming of our first documentary, Blowdown, we went back-and-forth on what cameras to mount on this custom-designed rig to complete our B cam system. It was an epic battle that ended with Canon 7Ds as victor … for this round at least.

Here’s why:

When we shot the demolition of the Fonte Nova Stadium, our Iconix A cam system rigged side-by-side, also with our very own hand-held design, took some beautiful shots.

For our B cam system, it down to Sony EX3s or Canon 7D’s. The big problem is the Sony EX3s proved too heavy and cumbersome for our purposes. This is an event-based documentary in a demolition zone – last thing we need is to haul excess weight around.

So the 7Ds were the cameras that we went with – but we knew this decision came with a couple drawbacks:

1. The 7Ds have genlock issues making it difficult to synchronize the captures between the two cameras. Meaning we’re going to have a long gop compression issue.

Translation: fast motion close to the camera will produce retinal rivalry.

2. We can’t use video feeds coming out of the cameras with our Transvideo 3D monitor.

Which means we won’t be able to overlap images and check alignment during the shoot.

3. There’s no uncompressed signal coming out that we can tap into and record to the nano3D drives – a problem in 2D as well.

Despite these limitations, we still captured great stereo images with properly set interaxials.

In the end, our confidence in our Canon 7D mini beam splitter system paid off and we have a visually-unprecedented documentary to show for it.

But as we move further into the third dimension, we’re upping our game …

Ian Herring, President