Managing 3D made easy

25th March, 2010

While it may at first appear hugely complex, 3D need not be less straightforward, or vastly more expensive than conventional production. Adrian Pennington of Broadcast Magazine highlights speaks with Andy Shelley and gives some top tips

1) 3D or 2D?

Does the project really benefit from being 3D? Just because the technology is available, it doesn’t mean it is applicable to all ideas.


2) Understand the basics

“A production manager needs to understand the basics of 3D and therefore the parameters that will work,” says Andy Shelley, head of development at On Sight. “Before deciding on kit, they need to consider what technology will allow them to do that they couldn’t do before, and what key shots they have used in the past that won’t work so well.” Thorough pre-planning is essential. Involve 3D specialists up front and keep them central to the production throughout its lifecycle.


3) Check the costs

Some broadcasters would have you believe that you can bring in 3D for 5-30% more than HD. Figures up to 50% are currently more common, while natural history 3D can run to many times the rate of 2D HD. Cutting corners by hiring lower quality kit could end up costing much more to fix in post-production. Rig rental costs begin at £500 a day, rising to £2000 at the higher end. Remember to factor in dual cameras, 3D monitors and recording kit.


4) Find 3D specialists

From camera operator to post house, find people who can substantiate their claims to 3D experience. “Inexperience of particular technology can slow you down on set,” says Shelley. Because there are so few around, trained stereographers can command £600-£1000 a day. Directors of photography are ideally placed to learn stereography and in future a separate DP and stereographer may not be necessary. Ensure you have a clear understanding of what you are asking the 3D specialist to deliver. If the brief is confused, a lot of time will be wasted in planning, while the prices quoted will vary wildly.


5) Depth budget

Core to the brief is the depth script, which represents a detailed storyboard of what effects the director, in tandem with the stereographer, wants to achieve with the extra dimension.


6) Active vs passive

Acquisition equipment can be configured in a variety of ways. Do you want side-by-side or beam-splitter? Active or passive rigs? For live action, or any dynamic shots moving from wide angle to close-up, active rigs are a must. They allow corrective adjustments to the lenses to be made accurately and on the fly. Passive rigs enable a different type of shooting but the convergence will have to be manipulated in post.


7) Don’t fix it in post

Corrections made in post on a 2D shoot are multiplied in 3D and some may even be impossible, requiring a reshoot. Nailing 3D accurately at the point of acquisition will make the single biggest impact on whether your production remains on budget.


8) 2D to 3D conversion

There are several ways to achieve 2D to 3D conversion. Rotoscoping frame by frame delivers the best quality but can cost up to £100,000 a minute. Software processing tools just emerging on the market can automate the job – but the results can be disappointing. The key question is: what do you expect and what is your budget?


9) Shooting 3D and 2D

Most commissions will be for a 3D version of a 2D HD shoot. Posting 3D can often mean that the 2D version is free – unless a separate editorial cut is needed. An international market for 3D content is opening up and Blu-ray 3D means DVDs are another possible sales route.


10) Less is more

Slower, wider, longer shots will give more desirable results. One plus for live events is that fewer camera positions are required. In-your-face shots need careful consideration to avoid eye strain.


This article taken from the Broadcast Supplement '3DTV - What you need to know about Television’s Technology Revolution' March 2010