Making the Movie

29Jun/090

The Future of 3D Filmmaking

Special report from film journalist extraordinaire Germain Lussier. Enjoy. - JO

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Still frame from the movie Titanic with reference lines that show it in the process of 3D conversion3D filmmaking might be giving the phrase “Here’s looking at you, kid,” a whole new dimension.

This past Saturday, footage from films such as “Titanic,” “The Matrix,” “Star Wars Episode 3,” “Transformers” and yes, even “Casablanca” were shown in full 3D as created by a company called In-Three.

No, those films aren’t going to have 3D releases anytime soon. They were played as examples of where the 3D medium is going and the type of work In-Three is currently doing. They held a conference on the latest medium to rock Hollywood and MakingtheMovie was there.

In-Three, a ten year old company based in Westlake Village is the inventor of a new 3D process called Dimensionalization. What that means is they can take any movie, put it in their patented software (called IN3D) and break the image down into layers. The layers can then be toyed with, moved back and forth, left and right, etc., until there’s a 3D image.

This is the process that, back in 2005, sold George Lucas on re-releasing all the “Star Wars” films in 3D. Since then, In-Three has garnered endorsements from other filmmakers too, including Peter Jackson and James Cameron who each have upcoming films that will be released in 3D.

Dimensionalization is only the latest way to make a 3D image though, explained David Seigle, the CEO of In-Three. There are also two other was for a filmmaker to “create stereo,” which means create images for the left and right eye, placed on a screen a few inches apart. The 3D effect can be achieved by shooting with two cameras at the same time or through computer graphics, which would just duplicate the image and move it over slightly.

Each process has its own positives and negatives. What In-Three employees explained, though, was that their process was so fluid and customizable, it could take into consideration the most important thing: The audience.

The whole point of this conference, besides tooting their own horn a bit, was to educate on the differences between good 3D and bad 3D. And that’s all in the eye of the beholder.

Without getting too technical, everyone sees 3D differently because we have different eyes. Making good 3D is all about manipulating the image in every frame so that things that should pop pop, while everything else is not distracting or uncomfortable. After all, according to Seigle, 3D is the only type of movie going that’s physically affecting the audience, even if it’s inside our brains. So the image should make us comfortable. And that’s something In-Three is very aware of. They like to think of 3D as more of an artistry than a learned skill.

It’s also something, apparently, Hollywood is becoming aware of. Before stepping into the In-Three screening room, we saw employees putting the finishing touches on the final shot to be locked for Disney’s upcoming “G-Force.” It was a simple tilt up on a hamster cage. Out of all the others, this shot was last because the 3D animators were having trouble making the cage doors look correct. So it went through the Dimensionalization process one more time. Each layer was extracted – deep background, background, deep foreground, foreground and more – and played with. A little tweak here, a little tweak there, for both the left and right eye and when the images were layered on each other, the final shot of “G-Force” was done.

“This is almost like the beginning of movie making all over again,” said In-Three Senior Account Manager, Damian Wader. He explained that not only had virtually every major filmmaker been through their doors to witness their technology, but rival studio heads, makeup artists and many more – all interested in seeing how this is going to make an impact on the movie industry. And for the most part everyone is, incredibly, working together.

Of course there are people who are against it too. But the biggest problem isn’t the detractors. It’s the reason why audiences haven’t seen “Star Wars 3D” yet – the number of theaters available. According to a spokesman for the National Association of Theater Owners, who was also on hand, there are roughly 2,500 digital 3D capable theaters currently in the US. The number everyone is waiting for is double that, 5,000, which is when Lucas said he would invest in the transformation. Everyone feels that’s the number that would make the extra money (which, according to Seigle, is “as expensive as the cheapest possible CG effects”) worthwhile. The quality is there; the math just doesn’t match yet.

So until that happens, the 3D industry will still grow slowly. More and more movies are being released in 3D each year and 2010 will be no exception. People are working, too, on quality 3D for the home theater. Seigle explained, however, that the screen size would have to be huge to truly have the impact the medium is capable of, so home theater 3D is not really a worry. Piracy is also not a worry with 3D because it’s virtually impossible to do so.

In-Three wouldn’t reveal what their next new project would be (Seigle got a twinkle in his eye when I mentioned “Tintin” but that’s purely speculative). So in the meantime, they will continue educating the masses on this new medium and getting people excited by 3D by showing them their favorite movies like they’ve never seen them before.

Oh and how do those movies look? Well imagine a Jedi Starfighter flying over you and Coruscant at the same time. People falling off the Titanic and into your lap. Neo dodging bullets that are being shot at you too. Optimus Prime destroying a bus you can touch. And Bogey and Bergman’s skin looking so real, it’s as if she’s leaving not just him, but you as well.

In short, buy into 3D and In-Three. It’s awesome.

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Germain Lussier is a freelance entertainment journalist. He can be found at germainlussier on Twitter.

MORE:
In-Three's list of the 3D film resources
Dimensionalizing



About Special Contributor

Contributions to Making the Movie are always welcome, especially from filmmakers themselves. To inquire about becoming a contributing writer, email makingthemovie AT-SIGN gmail DOT com with the subject header "Writer Application".
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