Articles >

Embracing 3D Technology

Todd Wamrychuk @ A.M.P.A.S.


“Everyone sees 3D different,” said Rob Engle, Senior Stereographer & Digital Effects Supervisor at Sony Pictures Imageworks.


Engle was the program host for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences  “Getting Perspective III – Exploring the Craft of 3D Technology.”  Broken into three evening sessions: Virtual 3D (Animation, Motion Capture and Conversion), Photographed 3D (Live-Action and Stop-Motion), and a special screening of National Geographic’s “U2 3D”, the goal of the program was to fully explore the re-emerging art form of 3D filmmaking from pre- to post-production. 


Phil McNally, Global Stereoscopic Supervisor, DreamWorks Animation, Matthew DeJohn, VP and VFX Producer, In-Three, Robert Newman, Stereoscopic Supervisor, Walt Disney Animation Studios and veteran VFX supervisor and director to last year’s 3D animation/live action hybrid “G-Force,” Hoyt Yeatman, Jr., joined Engle on the Virtual 3D panel. 


McNally, known in the production worlds as “Captain 3D,” used clips from “Monsters vs. Aliens” to illustrate the way changes made with the foreground and background greatly affect the quality of the 3D usage.  Choices such as background color, placement of characters, and the curvature clearly affected the intended 3D effect. 


“To make 3D work effectively, you need to make the image flatter to improve the depth,” said McNally.  “This allows for matching in editing.”


DeJohn provided the projectionists training chart used in “G-Force” to illustrate how improper projection can affect the 3D experience for the audience.  In addition to lighting, improper cropping can destroy the film’s intended 3D effect. 


“I like the idea of relating 3D filmmaking by thinking of going from black and white to color,” said Yeatman.  “Adjustments had to be made to fully utilize the changes color brought to the audience accustomed to black and white films to make it an enjoyable experience.  When you are working on a 3D movie, you have to be thinking in 3D, and focused on creating the best movie you can employing that device.”


Prior to the commencement of the Photographed 3D presentation, 3ality provided a live camera demonstration.  Engle walked the audience through rack focusing in 3D, placement of talent on the set, and the problems that occur if the stereoscopic lenses are malfunctioning on camera through multiple focus and iris settings. 


“You can see how prolonged viewing can lead to eye strain and headaches,” said Engle.


At the conclusion of the demo, Engle was joined by Eric Brevig, director, “Journey to the Center of the Earth,”  Rob Hummel, CEO, Prime Focus Post Production, North America, Pete Kozachik, DP, "Coraline,"  Jon Landau, producer, “Avatar,” and Pierre Routhier, director, "X-Games 3D."



Kozachik provided an in-depth description of the camera and rigging needs for the stop-motion used in “Coraline.”  Having prepped his camera packages for a standard 2D film, Kozachik explained how Lenny Lipton provided valuable advice in helping adjust shots so the one camera set up per set could supply both eyes required by 3D.  Kozachik also used slides illustrating the ways the crew modified the sets in addition to the rigs to modify the stereoscopic effect, sometimes providing larger set pieces or developing rigs that entered through the bottom of sets and tunnels.


Rigging was also discussed by Brevig, who shot “Journey to the Center of the Earth” three years ago when many 3D rigs were still 70 pounds and hard to maneuver.  Because the rigs were so cumbersome, the crew on “Journey to the Center of the Earth” often found innovative ways to create the effects they needed.


“We used a slip and slide on our set,” said Brevig.  “We would be dragging the actors along that thing to get the effect of them falling down water drops.”


Routhier discussed the challenge of placing 3D rigs in a setting where lights, crew, and the 2D live camera crews took precedence over his production of the X-Games events.  


“We used a lot of experimental material on set because there was so much unpredictability with this live event between the lighting, the athletes, the characteristics of the weather,” said Routhier.  “Snow does not translate well in 3D, and our snowboard production was subjected to a blizzard.”


His crew worked with smaller cameras and lightweight fiberglass jibs that could easily and quickly be pulled in and out of the arenas where the various X-games took place.


Landau described the difficulty of working with subtitles in the 3D space of “Avatar.” 


“We went in and positioned every title,” said Landau.  “We brought them in on the pixel nearest to the object that was the focal point of where the audience was looking.” 


Engle indicated the choice of ending the series with “U2 3D” was to provide the audience with a chance to see one of the best 3D movies made to date.  After a brief discussion with director Catherine Owens, editor Olivier Wicki and DP Peter Anderson that focused on the preparation necessary to capture the footage and working with the band to integrate their show into a 3D realm, the film was shown in its entirety.


For more information about this series and other programs offered by the Academy, please visit: