Perhaps the biggest indication of the re-emergence of 3D is the fact that low-budget production icon, The Asylum is producing several 3D films for the direct-to-video and television markets. Company partner in charge of production, David Latt explained that “our buyers wanted it, Blockbuster specifically. If they want it, we’re going to do it. They have been long-time partners.” More amazing is that The Asylum is producing each film for significantly less than a million dollars.
“Sexy becomes a whole different thing when it’s in 3D,” commented writer/director Eric Forsberg about his comedy, Sex Pot, a male adolescent romp about getting laid and scoring aphrodisiac ganja. “If you look at what’s going on right now, a lot of films are coming out in 3D. For most of my life 3D has been an absolute novelty that smacked of the 1950s, but now it’s coming back with a vengeance.”
A veteran at shooting low-budget films, Forsberg admits that shooting a 3D movie in eleven days was a huge challenge. “Even with the production schedule we had, it turned out to be a wonderful shoot. The Asylum came through once again, giving me the opportunity to do something very cool.”
One of the differences in directing 3D is the enormous size of the camera rig. “You can’t do a lot of fancy maneuvering, not only because it’s huge, but because there was a mirror inside which would rattle if you moved it too fast. With that particular rig, the cameras were tethered like crazy. We also had to lug along huge hard drives,” said Forsberg.
“We looked at two types of rigs during preproduction,” he said. “One had two cameras facing in the same direction that were on a measured rod where, the further you are from the image, the farther apart your cameras have to be. For every shot, your camera department has to calculate the distance from your focal point and how far apart the cameras have to be. We ended up going with a second type of rig where one camera aimed out and the other camera aimed down into a box with an angled mirror. Once we got it set-up, the camera rig was great.”
Line producer Anthony Fankhauser filled in the details, “Jeff Blauvelt of HD Cinema built a specialty beam splitter rig that would work within our budget range. It’s the more popular rig design, because it allows larger depth and range in 3D and the ability to converge the lenses. Everything had to be reset every time the camera was moved. It was a good 15 or 20 minutes just to reposition the camera. To set the convergence points, the camera team did a cool thing during production. They took a broomstick marked with alternating black and white stripes. Wherever that pole was set, they would align the cameras on that point. Anything in front would pop out.”
Working in 3D changed Forsberg’s normal workflow. “We had two monitors on the set—one 2D, the other 3D. I sat on the set with 3D glasses handy. Things that looked normal on the 2D monitor, like someone sitting in a chair with a cup of coffee on the table, looked amazing when you put the glasses on and viewed the 3D monitor. It all came to life,” Forsberg revealed. “I had to block the action glued to the monitor, because blocking is so different with 3D. I’d put someone in the foreground and create layers on the Z-axis to take advantage of that depth of field. With 2D I would have blocked the actors on set, and occasionally looked in the camera or monitor.”
Forsberg planned three different types of 3D shots. “First was a regular shot, which, if it looked 3D, all the better. Second was a shot that I blocked specifically with things in the foreground and background and different layers in the middle. The third had objects moving directly towards the camera, such as a beer exploding towards the lens. Generally, we had a lot of soft things coming towards camera, because we were on a very tight schedule and had to keep going. Throwing a hatchet at the camera, like in My Bloody Valentine, was impossible. I can imagine that must have taken half a day.”
“I was told to keep all clips at least two seconds long, so we definitely measured our shots. A few things ended up being a bit shorter, so we’ll have to see how they look in 3D,” said Forsberg.
Technically the editing was done like Forsberg’s other films. “Basically you shoot it in 3D and get two images, but you edit only ‘one eye’ in 2D. After the final 2D cut, the picture will be handed to Mark Quod, post supervisor at The Asylum who will conform the second video track and adjust everything for 3D. Then we review it,” he explained.
“I haven’t seen the 3D edit, but I remember what every single shot looks like in 3D,” Forsberg continued. “What’s really funny is that when I was done shooting the film, I went to the Huntington Gardens the next day to relax. I kept looking out over the Japanese garden with its rocks, statues and bridge and thinking, I’ve got this fantastic 3D shot. I kept forgetting that I didn’t have my glasses on.”