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:
In an exclusive article published online by our friends at 3D Focus, Torsten Hoffmann, a recognized leader in 3D content as the distributor of one of the largest stereoscopic 3D portfolios in the world, warned producers against unrealistic expectations for the commercial value of 3D content and outlined the business models of making money with 3D content.
Here are the highlights:
Almost two years after 3D TVs started to fly off the production lines, people are growing tired of the talk about the latest and greatest technology – they want to see the content.
But there are still a lot of obstacles standing between consumers and their first 3D experience.
Here are five things the industry needs to do to get more eyes on the prize:
1. Tell them what’s best: If you are the average consumer you do not know that the surest bet is to buy a 3D TV with passive glasses and at a reasonable price.
2. Know your product: We went into every one we came across over the past 6 months. None – and I mean not one of the guys we met and discussed 3D with knew what they were talking about.
3. Stock up on simple: Manufacturers want to unload their “old” – as in months old – technology. By and large these TVs remain too complicated for the average consumer to operate or maintain. Just try purchasing a replacement battery for those active shutter glasses.
4. Improve distribution: Just a couple of major companies – such as Universal Studios – control 80 per cent of DVD sales in the world. In addition there’s several middle companies that control access to these majors. Each one takes a hefty commission along the way. But if you don’t deal with these guys – your 3D DVD is not going to get wide release. Ultimately a very small share of the retail sales flows down to the producer – so it’s not worth the hassle and the consumer stays hostage to the major companies.
5. Fess up: The broadcaster and the television manufacturers’ PR machines perpetuate the “coming of age” story – failing to properly acknowledge the above obstacles.
Until producers, manufacturers, distributers and broadcasters work to eliminate these challenges for the consumer, the 3D “hype” will remain unfulfilled.
–Ian Herring, President
While Maija Leivo and I were in Europe for this year’s MIPCOM conference we went to dinner with a friend from Discovery Channel and got talking about overcoming fear of doing things that make us – in our minds – look foolish.
For some this can be triggered when walking through a crowded restaurant looking for a seat for one, for others it may be sharing cuts of your film for the first time. It’s about putting ourselves out there – and therefore the potential for looking dumb looms large – and that mucky feeling of emotional distress follows.
This brings us to the 3D debate that rages amongst those who are invested in having stereo monitors and content in every house and on every channel. They ask – what’s holding 3D back? I have heard it blamed on everything from the complex and expensive monitors to issues with accessing content to less-than-satisfactory 3D crippling consumer desire.
But there may be another facet to the debate worth considering. Simply put, people don’t want to look stupid. It’s that human condition where one doesn’t want to stand out.
For decades we have gone into stores and tried things on – shoes, headphones, sunglasses. It’s been made easy with familiarity and so-called expertise – but there is always that niggle of mindfulness that the potential of some person snickering and saying “boy, those look dumb”.
3D technology is in its retail infancy phase. That means it lacks the comfort associated with testing other, more established products. In order to check out a 3D TV for potential purchase we have to put 3D glasses on in public – and it’s not yet something we are used to.
The same goes for convincing all your buddies that your house is the best place to watch the super bowl with your new 3D TV – just have to put on these 3D glasses that make you look like Aristotle Onassis. This “new” experience seems to amplify self-consciousness – so it can be a tough sell.
While walking the floor at MIPCOM looking at other 3D vendors’ setups, I noticed that few potential viewers stopped to look at the visual spectacle that was on offer – mostly sports and a couple of soft-core porn vendors – but no one was lining up. If someone did stop and picked up the glasses, I could see they were actively overcoming their self-consciousness. Most just moved on because it looked like a hassle.
The lesson here is if we stick with what’s familiar, we often miss out. When people opt for their comfort zone instead of 3D glasses, they’re robbing themselves of a new experience. So next time you go into the 3D television section of the electronics store, try those glasses on. Snicker to yourself. And then enter the third dimension.
–Ian Herring, President
Here’s his take on the viewing experience:
I bought Vizio’s 3D TV for approx. $650.00 US at Costco in Bellingham, WA. 42 inch TVs seem to be a sweet spot right now – you can get really big deals. The Vizio was the best deal – even compared to non-3D capable TVs that were the same size.
Native versus converted
I’ve watched Blu-ray native 3D DVDs, including Tron and (Robert Zemeckis’) A Christmas Carol. I’ve also watched a 3D conversion – Green Hornet. You can tell the difference on this TV, but it doesn’t ruin the experience. With converted 3D you don’t get that “pop up book” look, but it still does feel like you have layers rather than the full depth.
Passive versus active
A lot of people are being snooty about the passive 3D experience. With a huge TV you might feel the difference or see jaggy edges. But with this 42 inch, the quality loss is not huge when you’re sitting 5 or 6 feet away. It’s great quality for the price. You can also use the same kind of glasses you use in the theatre (RealD technology) – which makes everything brighter and clearer – and avoid those big, bulky expensive active shutters.
The last word
Finding a 3D TV at this price means it’s no longer a luxury feature. It’s now making its way into mid-range TVs. It also means you’re not paying a premium for 3D capability … you’re just getting it with your TV. With this Vizio, you get a great 2D picture for the price, and the 3D’s an added bonus.
Parallax Film Productions President Ian Herring was in Cannes, France last week for MIPCOM, armed with a 3D monitor and ready to showcase our first 3D documentary to the world’s entertainment content market.
Here’s what he found.
My criteria was it had to be an easy and hassle-free viewing experience. NO ACTIVE SHUTTER glasses. I needed the technology to work seamlessly so I could be free to discuss more important things. My post-production team came up with a brilliant solution – take my own passive 3D monitor to the conference.
When we chose LG’s D2342P 23IN 3D LED Backlit LCD Monitor I was taking a chance on alienating my audience and turning them off 3D – counter to everything I have been doing for the past year and a half. Would I be able to get the quality I needed to show our flagship 3D documentary to clients and colleagues at MIPCOM?
I brought it over from Vancouver, Canada as carry on. From what I could see I was the only one who carried a computer monitor on board an international and then a European domestic flight.
The LG monitor was the only one of its kind at a TV conference that hosts 10, 000 buyers and sellers. I walked the floor of the market and saw lots of large 3D TVs, but not many people viewing them. I wondered if this was because the content wasn’t compelling or because people just don’t want to look stupid with glasses on.
Many of the people we showed a clip of BD 3D had not seen much 3D TV. It worked. The discussion came down to not WHY we were doing 3D but our next project. Here’s one of our clients screening on our LG. Easy and discrete.
When it comes to 3D, seeing is believing – you have a have a good reason to don glasses and it had better be an amazing the viewing experience or we as content creators are going to have a tough time convincing folks its worth the effort to finance and exhibit.
The last word
Sadly, at the market a major journal profiled 3D and its evolution, technology and got it SO wrong. A bad joke at a TV market.
–Ian Herring, President
The Parallax post-production team’s latest mission has been to find a portable 3D display so I can easily show our stereoscopic footage to colleagues and broadcasters anywhere in the world.
Here’s what they found:
-It plays back our flagship stereoscopic documentary, Blowdown 3D, decently from both computer and Blu-ray Disc;
-The viewing angle is key – as with most monitors, the eye-line should be hitting around the top 1/3 of the screen. For boardroom presentations, the monitor’s height has to be adjusted to hit this sweet spot;
-It has limited range side to side, so only a couple people at a time can watch it comfortably;
-Menu is navigable, but not intuitive. If you’re using it for presentations, you’ll want to become familiar with the settings first; and
-This monitor has no built-in speakers. This means if you want to take it into a boardroom situation, you’ll likely need a set of portable speakers.
Overall, the LG D2342P is a good offering for what we’d like to do with it. The price tag for the monitor itself (can be found for sub-$300) and the passive glasses (rarely more than $20), also make this system an appealing option.
For consumers who are able to wait a bit longer and willing pay a bit more to eek out higher quality in every pixel on the screen, it may be better to hold out for LG’s forth coming LG W2363D, which is said to be a superior passive 3D LED monitor (street date currently unknown).
Shooting, editing, and delivering the first ever 3D documentary on explosive demolition for international broadcast has connected us with others who are forging paths into the third dimension.
These brilliant, passionate, innovative filmmakers are redefining entertainment … one project at a time.
One of the people we’ve spoken to is Kasimir Lehto.
In that time, he’s worked as a stereographer/DOP on several 3D productions, including Underworld: Awakening and The Darkest Hour. His latest project, Apartment 1303, is slated for production this fall in Montreal, Canada.
Born in Finland to filmmaker parents, Lehto has been immersed in cinematography his whole life. Here’s what he had to say about the exciting world of 3D:
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.
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.