Speedshape Launches 3D Stereo Film Division With Spy Kids: All The Time In The World
Speedshape’s 3D feature film services debuted only a few weeks ago, but co-founders Tom Stone and Oivind Magnussen have seen the potential of 3D cinema since 2008. Over the last three years they have been expanding and re-structuring their company’s Detroit and Los Angeles-based studio complexes, fine-tuning the technology, optimizing their pipeline and creating a filmmaker-friendly 2D-to-3D conversion process with its own unique signature.
The launch of Speedshape’s 3D division was prompted by a call from Frank Rainone, a senior vice president at the Weinstein Company, who was hoping to find several 2D-to-3D conversion firms capable of sharing the workload for the film.
“We still hadn’t officially opened the doors of the division when Frank asked us to submit a test for Spy Kids,” said Stone. “But we jumped at the opportunity to test our skills on a movie for Robert Rodriguez, a director at the forefront of the new age of 3D filmmaking.”
“We had already asked some high-profile companies to create 3D test sequences for the film, when we learned that Speedshape had been developing a unique approach to conversion, so we added them to the list,” explained Rainone. “Once we saw their work we knew we had found a unique creative resource. Their test was phenomenal. Speedshape’s level of organization, efficiency and professional approach to doing business surpassed our expectations.”
Rodriguez, Rainone and the film’s executive producers, Bob and Harvey Weinstein concurred that the quality of Speedshape’s test footage was exceptional, and entrusted the company with the conversion of the entire film.
“When we wanted to release the film in 4D, but still needed to quickly convert what we had already shot to 3D, I knew a conversion would need to have the 3D quality I would expect from shooting with stereo cameras,” said Rodriguez. “ I try to find companies that work at the ‘speed of thought’ and, after learning more about Speedshape, I knew they were the best team for the project.”
“The quality of Speedshape’s 3D conversion was remarkable, even blending seamlessly with footage that was shot stereo. They were able to turn over first-rate work quickly and they were amazing to work with,” added the award-winning director. “The end result was a fun family movie with high-quality 3D effects that introduced another element of interaction to the audience.”
Rainone was so impressed with Speedshape that he abandoned plans to create an in-house 3D facility at The Weinstein Company and joined the company to head up the development of a full-service 3D division.
While Speedshape traditionally begins working on a film during the pre-production phase and their collaboration follows through with on-set supervision, Rodriguez’s experience in 3D production made him uniquely qualified to map out the logistics of the production phase. The director shot the film with co-cinematographer Jimmy Lindsey using ARRI ALEXA cameras and then called upon Speedshape’s expertise during the post process.
“It’s uncommon for a single company to take on the conversion of a full-length feature film,” said Mike Albert, head of production at Speedshape. “Studios usually divide a movie among multiple houses. We were dealing with over 2,000 shots and every single frame had to be converted to 3D. Once we got rolling, we were sending Robert over 200 shots a week to review. And, since the final cut was still not locked, a number of shots didn’t make it into the final film. But the flexibility it gave the editor made it well worth the extra effort.”
“Speedshape’s first task was dimensionalizing the footage to varying degrees – bracketing shots, giving some more or less depth, stretching the positive space. After we established the depth budget, Robert made only a few subtle adjustments,” said Albert. “We also prepared the VFX assets while waiting for the plates so we could finalize the shots and render them out. Very few shots came back to us for correction, and when they did it was more a subjective question rather than anything technical.”
At Speedshape’s Detroit studio complex a key producer oversaw the massive process; the team included stereographers and artists who handled the roto-intensive conversion. The company’s software department developed an asset management system that could deal with the volume of data, and created custom software to interface with The Foundry’s Nuke, which formed the core of Speedshape’s conversion process.
Bob Weinstein noted, ”We’re very pleased with the quality of 3D work Speedshape produced. We believe that they are at the forefront of the 3D field and look forward to working with them in the future.”
Shortly after work was completed on Spy Kids, the Weinstein Company entrusted Speedshape with creating the final 3D output, as well as all of the VFX for their upcoming film, Piranha 3DD – a sequel to last summer’s blockbuster, which is currently in production and slated for released next summer.