“It’s time consuming. It involves special lenses and a stereographer. And you have to time it twice,” explained director Joe Dante on shooting a stereoscopic 3D picture.
Dante’s $12-million family horror picture, The Hole, (currently in postproduction), was shot using a proprietary rig from Paradise 3D made especially for use with the RED camera. The company had previously done My Bloody Valentine, and the yet-to-be-released horror film, Dark Country. On The Hole, the underwater 3D camera had not even been tested until the shoot day.
“Is it going to leak or not? As it turned out, it didn’t,” commented Dante. “Water shots are really good for 3D, because there is no horizon line. You can take something floating in the water and stick it way out in the eighth row and it looks real, but if it’s standing on a sidewalk, you can’t put it out in the eighth row, because the sidewalk is there.”
When questioned about the set-up time for calibrating the camera on each shot, Dante said, “The process was not as onerous as one might think. A stereographer is there all the time. Every shot is available to look at in 3D on a special monitor. You shoot it more or less like any film. In any movie that you shoot, you want to have foreground, background and depth. You just have to be more conscious when doing this as to how it’s going to cut together, because you don’t want a sudden cut where something is jutting out into the audience’s eye, because it makes them flinch.”
“An issue that was problematic on this particular film is that because it was not an expensive film, we did not have a lot of cameras. One rig had a set of wide-angle lenses, the other had telephoto-ish lenses,” said Dante. “Ordinarily, if you want to cover a scene with two cameras, you want a wide lens and a closer lens particularly when you have to cover children, because you have to shoot them and get them home. The telephoto lenses are not very good for 3D. They give a flat, Viewmaster kind of look, like looking through binoculars. You still have 3D and planes, but everything is flat. When you cut that into a shot from the wide lens camera where everything is rounded, it can be disconcerting. We had to put up with that, because there was no way that we could make this movie, on this budget and schedule, with a kid who could only work X hours a day, if we didn’t do that.” Another thing to take into account when editing a 3D film is the length of the cuts. The 3D effect doesn’t work particularly well if the shot isn’t held for a while. “Sometimes you sacrifice the 3D effect for the pace of the movie,” said Dante.
Although the director saw the footage in 3D and generally knew the convergence points, editor Marshall Harvey is cutting the project on Apple’s FCP in 2D. He did not adjust his editing style for working in 3D.
“You want to get a pace that is going to work in 2D, because it’s going to screen in 2D as well, but there are certain shots, you know are going to look really cool in 3D,” explained Harvey.
“The effects house is also sending anaglyph versions of some of the 3D shots so that we can see how far out they are going to be,” said Dante, “But you pretty much have to do it on faith unless you have a lot of money.”
Although the team is not adjusting convergence in the editing room, Dante revealed, “We did it a lot on set, because our guy, Max Penner, would run through things with me and say, ‘I can stick this out here or I can go with this.’ He would give me advice on what not to do. There is a lot of that. A lot of mistakes have been made in the past and you can learn from them.”
The director does have a tweaking period later in the schedule to go though the 3D and shift convergences to make it easier on the eye.
“You have to worry about objects going out of the frame when shooting in 3D,” Dante explained, “You have to realize that if you are doing a 3D effect, you need to keep it within the frame, because if you cut off parts of objects it kills the whole effect.”
Dante is also aware that audiences expect some “gimmick shots” where objects come out of the screen right at the audience, but his movie is not a typical 3D film. There are not a lot of roller coaster rides or action scenes, but rather, it’s a character picture.
“The 3D is more immersive. It’s used to make you feel like you are going through the events of the story with the characters,” Dante explained. “With that in mind, you put the camera in places where the planes of the set are accentuated—where pieces of the wall are close to the lens so that you can see how far things go. You try to take advantage of the spatial relationships. The most atypical 3D movie is Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder, which came out at the very end of the 3D cycle in the ’50s. It’s not one of those movies where a lot of stuff comes out at you. It’s all about where people are positioned in the frame. That was always in the back of my mind. You have to direct the movie a bit differently, knowing that depth is going to be involved. If used well, it can be another good tool, like shooting in widescreen.”