But the Iconix aren’t like normal video cameras – no tapes, hard drives or flash cards. They “see” the footage and then spit it out.
So where are we going to store it?
If this were a scripted production, shot in a studio or on a controlled set, a tape or digital recording deck with a large array would be the way to capture the footage at the 100 MB/S or more, the minimum bitrate we need to satisfy broadcast requirements.
But because the Fonte Nova demolition is event-based and will take place in an industrial worksite, we need a recording system that’s cordless, portable (not too heavy, cumbersome), and hearty.
I think the nano3D will satisfy these criteria for us – it’s a just-minted twin drive designed to record stereoscopically and keep everything in sync between the two cameras.
We plan to mount two Canon 7D DSLRs on the Indie Rig, a mid-sized model that’s currently being shipped to our production house.
Our stereographer, Sean White, chose the middle-of-the-road rig because he was worried that a small one wouldn’t allow for enough coverage when using a wide-angled lens, that the cameras would “see” the inside of the beam splitter box.
And a large rig was out of the question for the event-based, run-and-gun industrial-worksite shooting that’s required Blowdown, the explosive demolition series we’re going to shoot. Our stomping ground will be a huge, condemned sports stadium in Brazil!
But there’s a huge potential downside to our mid-sized, non-refundable rig – if the Canons don’t work, logistically or qualitatively, we won’t be able to mount larger, higher-calibre video cameras because the rig’s not big enough.
But it’s a gamble we have to take – as far as we can tell, there aren’t any other systems like this … no documentary has been filmed this way, using a hand-held self-contained unit.
Here’s the problem: beam splitter rigs are extremely sensitive – anyone who works with them has undoubtedly discovered that you have to have perfect alignment of the two cameras to each other, and to the mirror.
To make sure they’re aligned, we need to use a 3D monitor – so we can see both cameras on the same grid.
The model we’ve purchased (and as far as I can tell the only one that fits our field requirements, tech demands and budget) – the Transvideo Cineform 3D Monitor – takes an HDSDI signal from both cameras and combines them.
The Canon 7Ds aren’t built to send this signal … so there’s no way to see them on the monitor.
Even if we could somehow convert the signal they do send to HDSDI, the monitor also needs these two signals to be genlocked – impossible with these models.
Two is better than one, right? We’re getting a clearer idea of what it will take to shoot our inaugural 3D documentary: To effectively capture Blowdown in the third dimension we’ll need two different kinds of rigs.
For our A cams – we need a handheld, side-by-side rig, with all of these components:
I’m running up against the same issues as I had with finding a camera that may work … only amplified.
There are even fewer beam splitter rigs that would work to film Blowdown – an event-based production in an industrial work environment – than there are cameras.
Here’s why: At this point in time the 3D supply companies are geared only to feature and giant screen projects.
This means the few beam splitter rigs that might fit the bill require at least 25 kilograms of equipment – and rent for roughly $6,000 per week.
One company gave us a quote to buy, coming in around $60,000 – plus camera, monitors and record decks – plus a Steadicam operator to schlep this around.
This just won’t work for us because of the:
– Cost: above our budget – which is on the high end for documentary;
– Crew power: the Steadicam operator would be an extra body to travel, house and feed; and
– Logistics: the weight and the sheer volume are above our single operator criteria – which is maximum 20 kilos: The camera, the rig, the steadicam, battery and monitor would weigh in almost five kilos too heavy, especially when you’re running around an industrial work site, trying to capture moments where you DON’T get another take.
Even if we could get past all these obstacles, if we could find a way to use these rigs, it turns out there’s only a few exist in the world … and they’re hopelessly tied up.
The results are in, and the good news is, in fact, also the bad news – the list is even shorter than I anticipated.
I didn’t expect to find much – now the team’s confirmed my fears that there is absolutely nothing out there for the size we need that meets current broadcast specs.
Even the Panasonic and Sony’s mechanic guts are using older technology – and the compression will not meet the strident broadcast requirements – so that means even if they arrive on shelves today, we can’t use them. (There are options to bring up the bit-rate, but that presents its own suite of problems – more on that later.)
So this coming week we’re looking at the only games in town (well, actually out of town … all hail priority shipping) – Iconix and SI-2Ks – for a side-by-side configuration.
The list of accessories is extensive to make these work – we’re gathering what we think we need, and I’m sure we’ll require more – I’ll post the final manifest once we figure it out.
I’ll also continue to share all the other tech/spec/how-to trials of our mission: impossible as we slog through them – next step, the Iconix SI-2K showdown.
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.