Filed in: Camera, Commercials, Direction, Editing, Featured, Film, Postproduction, Television, Visual FX

James Cameron and Vince Pace Tackle the Myths about Shooting Stereoscopic 3D

September 10, 2011 07:47 | By

James Cameron (left) and Vince Pace discussed the myths surrounding stereo 3D production.

The excitement continued at IBC last night with a presentation by James Cameron and Vince Pace in the Big Screen Theatre. They sat relaxed on the stage, speaking in turns and made the pitch that shooting 3D was not essentially different from shooting 2D, while at the same time, pitching their new joint venture – the Cameron | Pace Group (CPG).

Much of the talk was focused on stereoscopic broadcasting and to illustrate, the duo shared some 3D clips from the U.S. Open Tennis Championships.

Cameron suggested that the “3D experts” have been sending out the wrong message about stereoscopic production – in effect, scaring off many filmmakers and broadcasters by suggesting it was very difficult and an entirely different beast than normal 2D production.

“The more you create fear, the more you feel something is alien, the less likely you are to adopt it and graft it onto your normal day-to-day business, and yet, who are you? You are makers of entertainment content day in, day out. You know your jobs. And who are these 3D upstarts to come along and tell you how to do it. What this has caused is a bifurcation in the community – there’s the little niche 3D production over here on the side and then there’s the normal 2D. We’re never going to get to the wide-scale adoption of 3D doing it that way.”

The thrust of their argument was that we don’t need to elevate dedicated stereographers into the positions of filmmakers and broadcasters, but rather, enable people already doing production to extend their repertoire into 3D.

Their message was summarized by Cameron, “Shoot it the way you want to shoot it. Put the cameras where you would normally put the cameras. We’ll figure out a way to make it good 3D.”

It’s a compelling offer, of course, and no doubt it will also generate a lot of new work for the Cameron | Pace Group, not that there’s anything wrong with that! “A lot of people feel that we as a company, CPG, want to do it all ourselves and that’s incorrect. We want to be the enablers.”

The Myths, According to Cameron and Pace

Myth 1 – 3D is a Fad

The presenters shared some statistics about the growth in 3D enabled screens over the past few years, citing this as evidence that 3D is here to stay. They may be right, but if audiences don’t want to pay for 3D, it won’t ever be more than a niche in the industry. I spoke with one person yesterday from a big software company, (which shall remain nameless), who told me that they projected stereo 3D to represent between 5% and 7% of all production work in coming years.

So who to believe?

Cameron feels that “we can make the widespread adoption of stereo 3D happen. It just takes the choice on our part. It’s not something that’s going to happen by itself, but it’s not going to go away.”

Myth 2 – 3D is Too Expensive

In summary, their answer to this “myth” is that by grafting 3D onto existing production pipelines, it does not have to cost more. Pace feels that it will be possible to have a 10-15% premium for 3D. The “Shadow technology” developed by the Pace team allows 3D cameras to be controlled by “2D operators,” so that existing production infrastructure can be used, (to some degree), with 3D broadcasts. The 2D signal feed, in these setups, is extracted from the 3D cameras, so that both broadcast formats are served with one integrated system.

According to Cameron, the issue is not an engineering problem, but a cultural one. Broadcasters need to feel confident about stereo technologies before they will make the leap. Cameron cited Avatar, which was shot in 3D with the 2D version derived from the 3D data. He pointed out that the 2D home video version went on to become the “highest selling Blu-ray disk in history. It was not compromised by this process in any way.”

Myth 3 – Shooting for the Small Screen is Different from Shooting for the Big Screen

Both Cameron and Pace feel this is a myth. The same version of Avatar plays as well on an iPad as on an IMAX screen.

Pace also spoke about what CPG will be offering to support integrated 2D/3D production, including “smart rigs” and “CPG certifications” which include workflow guidelines and technologies.

I have to say, the stereoscopic tennis and Cirque du Soleil footage looked pretty good, but, as with all of this, the question remains: is it that much better that we will all want to rush out and buy 3D TVs?

If James Cameron and Vince Pace have anything to say about it, the answer will be an emphatic “yes.”