We managed to fit it into an edit suite and set it up. Brian, Jakub and I check out some VFX footage on our newest 3D toy:
When it comes time to cut this Blowdown, Brian will use the monitor to see what he’s editing in Final Cut Pro (which, as I’ve mentioned, can’t edit in 3D without third party program help – we’re trying Cineform Neo3D out).
This view is key – cutting 3D shots means there’s a lot more to consider – parallax, convergence, wide and close, how much positive depth/negative depth exists in each shot.
If you cut shots with huge discrepancies in depth it’s really uncomfortable to watch, so you can’t just chop shots together – even with a flashy transition.
The only rub with the monitor is that it doesn’t do dual stream, which means the footage is technically at half-resolution (ie. don’t get both eyes full res).
So even though we’re editing in dual stream (to deliver the highest quality possible), we can’t view it that way on the JVC screen.
We looked into dual stream monitors – Panasonic’s due to release a 25-inch unit in the fall – but it’s prohibitively expensive (approximately $10,000).
And, more importantly, it’s too small for us to view our footage in a size that’s representative of our final product (how many 25-inch televisions have you seen lately?) – a shortfall that could lead to convergence that isn’t optimal for our audience.
Oh, and the JVC came with two free pairs of polarized glasses.
Looks like we’ll do just fine:
Editor Brian Mann works with the JVC HD 3D LCD monitor
Not only will this be the first show that my crew shoots tapeless, they’ll also have to contend with twice the amount of footage.
And if they lose any of it, it could be a huge disaster (think: Blowdown without the implosion. Yikes).
So we’re looking into a system that will allow us to move footage from camera/nano3D compact flash cards to a storage unit during the day, the transfer it into a mega conduit each evening.
Our data journey would start with ShotPut Pro. This copy utility application automatically copies and verifies all transfers off of flash cards. It can also copy multiple cards to multiple hard disks at the same time.
We’d use ShotPut Pro to transfer our footage to a G RAID mini. Using its RAID 1 setting, the crew would put two copies of everything onto the mini’s two SATA drives. This redundancy means that if for some reason we lose one drive, we won’t lose the farm.
Each G RAID mini stores up to 1 TB of data, so we should be able to carry our footage (up to 500 GB, copied twice) on it until the end of the day (if the crew’s shooting more than that amount, they’re shooting too much!).
Each evening, we’d then transfer the footage from the G RAID mini to a G SAFE. Each of these storage units takes up to 2 TB of data, and only stores RAID 1 (mirrored), which means two copies stored no matter what.
The data journey would end when both 7200 RPM SATA II drives are removed and shipped back to the production house separately, in case one gets lost in transit.
Approximate cost: $100 for ShotPut Pro, $300 for the G RAID mini, $700 for the G SAFE with two drives (ie. the first 2 TB of storage).
After that, we’ll be buying drives just like we bought tapes – I’m interested to see how costs compare out the other end.
And another first – to keep track of audio tracks, locations and dates (in lieu of the tape, sticker and marker technique) we’ll be using an electronic slate, courtesy of the iPad.
We’ve been gearing to get CS5 running since we moved from Leopard to Snow Leopard to take advantage of the 64-bit architecture and improve workflow.
But our VFX artist, Jakub Kuczynski, was concerned stereo 3D scripts he found online that have given him a much more efficient pipeline for stereoscopic workflow in After Effects wouldn’t transfer over smoothly to CS5.
He contacted the scripts’ developer, Christoph Keller, to ask if they’d be compatible, but he didn’t know.
Now we do. And it’s very good news – work that would take Jakub a day to do manually takes him about an hour, thanks to the scripts.
As for the CS5/Leopard upgrades, we haven’t noticed a marked increase in speed, but even a little more juice over the long run means more efficient post production overall.
The reason we’re trying this program is that it allows for dual steam, which means each eye is at full res and in real time, so we can do convergence, colour correction and other editing in real time rather than having to render whenever we make an adjustment.
Cineform also works with Final Cut Pro, the editing software we normally use to cut 2D HD there’s no way to edit 3D in FC without a 3rd party programs, as far as we know.
Great for picture, but there’s a problem with audio.
The 3D files that Cineform creates will only have two audio tracks.
To capture ambient noise as well as a conversation between two subjects, we have to capture at least three channels (a boom mic and two lavs), sometimes four (camera mic).
And since Blowdown – the explosive demolition series we’ll be filming – is event-based, there’s no opportunity for ADR, and you can’t recreate most of the ambient sound in post.
It’s logistical …the cameras are just too big and cumbersome for this particular beam splitter rig.
We’ve modified the rig so they fit better, but getting them aligned vertically is rough – the mics protrude and we’re still seeing the edge of the box and/or the bottom of the mirror when we use our Sony EX 5.8 mm lens (which has a 56-degree horizontal angle of view).
The alternative is enlarging the image in post to eliminate the part(s) of the shot that contain the rig, but that will degrade the quality, so I want to try and avoid this (especially since we’ll be blowing the footage up it to a certain degree already to facilitate convergence).
So, now we’re working with Canon Canada directly to get loaners of the XF305, which has just been released.
And how to turn them on without knocking one (or both) out of alignment.
The cameras need to sit at a 74 mm interaxial distance, right next to each other, for us to capture the footage we need.
This means they’ll be positioned too close together for use to easily access the viewfinder on the right camera, where the camera controls are.
Since each camera comes with a remote, we tried to use them to adjust the settings on each one (holding two, trying to point each one at the infrared sensor on its respective camera), but it’s cumbersome and awkward.
It’s a problem: we need four elements to be in sync between before we start recording for these shots to work: the two cameras have to have the same zoom, the same white balance, the same exposure, and the same focus.
The risk of losing one or more implosion shots – our big bang footage that climaxes the show – because the crew’s running around like mad, trying to calibrate and turn these 18 cameras on properly while preserving their alignment, is a risk I’m not willing to take.
So our stereographer Sean White discovered a work-around – a home-made infrared transmission system that allows us to control both cameras at the same time.
With sourced components off the Internet, a box has been built that will receive any infrared signal and transmit it through a split cable to two infrared sensors.
Stereographer Sean White mans the 3D beam splitter rig
We need these shots to create several of out our in-house visual effects, a style we prefer to classic documentary CGI because it allows us to explain extremely technical concepts in a photo-real atmosphere.
This means our transitions in and out of our footage are much more seamless … viewers can stay more immersed in the environment and focused on the story.
As you can imagine, these cameras will take serious a beating – riding the building down, sitting in the centre of the field as the stadium crashes to the earth, etc.
For these POVs, we’re going with six (three pairs) of Canon Vixia HF 10s – the V cam systems.
These little cameras have survived the ultimate Parallax Film Productions 2D challenge – riding the Hoyt S. Vandenberg, now the second-largest artificial reef in the world, some 30 metres from the surface to the ocean floor when the vessel was sunk off the coast of Florida in May 2009.
I’ve thrown in a few screen grabs of the ride – watch the full episode trailer here.
Six Vixia 10s in our custom-built underwater housings went down – six solid-state, high-capacity SDHD cards survived, and we recovered all of the footage.
Because this system is flash-based, its memory is relatively robust.
For our intents and purposes, this means they have a better chance of surviving massive vibrations and debris that come with the massive implosions we cover. No tape heads to fall off, no moving mechanical parts to malfunction.
These three pairs will be mounted on small rails with a 74 mm interaxial distance.
Our M cam systems will also be placed at strategic places throughout the implosion perimeter to capture key demolition engineering story points (and, of course, rocking, gratuitous destruction).
1) Be designed for a 1/3-inch sensor (specifically, the Iconix models we’ve purchased – lenses designed for a 2/3-inch sensor leave us with a cropped image);
2) Have HD resolution AND high-quality sharpness (the latter was what the Fujinon 2.8 mm and 4 mm lenses, generally used for security/surveillance systems, ultimately lacked);
3) Be a wide-angle lens that allows us to film 1 ½ to 2 metres away from our subject without having the background diverge – a cornerstone rule of 3D production.
Amazingly, it appears that there isn’t a lens on the market anywhere in the world that satisfies these criteria.
Well, why not just switch to a 2/3-inch sensor system, then?
Here’s the issue: we chose the 1/3-inch system because the 2/3-inch camera systems have a beefier head, which means the lenses would have to be mounted further apart.
This would increase our interaxial distance to a little further than we ideally want for these relatively close-up shots, a must for the explosive demolition series, Blowdown, that we’re going to film.
I’ve ordered the closest thing we can find – two Schneider Cinegon 5.3 mm lenses – from New York.
They’re designed specifically for a 1/3-inch sensor, and they apparently shoot better quality than the Fujinons – but they don’t shoot in HD.
We’ll have to test them and see if the footage makes the cut.
And while they’re in transit, our search for the ultimate A cam lenses carries on.