*WARNING: this is for SUPER 3D GEEKS ONLY and FIMMAKERS who want to learn how to make a 3D documentary. Everyone else should avoid reading – as it could hurt your brain. For the rest of us… ENGAGE!
We now continue our conversation with Jon Schnitzer of The Brain Factory and Robert C Morton the Stereoscopic Supervisor of “Storm Surfers 3D”.
JS: As the Stereoscopic Supervisor please explain how you worked with the Directors to achieve their 3D vision.
RCM: We would discuss what we were shooting for a particular scene and look at where the potential 3D problem areas were and shift things slightly to accommodate. Thinking in 3D is a skill for all memebers of the production team. Understanding the basic principles of volume and depth, and how they apply to distances and composition.
JS: How much of Stormsurfers was converted?
RCM: We converted 2 shots from Hawaii during our pre-test period. The helicopter shots are 2D, but placed back so that the vergence is the same for the 3D shots.
JS: Very cool. 3D action sports documentaries often have too much conversion and not enough 3D shot natively.
RCM: That was a big talking point for the production – “keep it native”.
JS: Even with the interviews? Action is amazing in 3D, but interviews become more intimate in-depth.
RCM: Absolutely. I found that interviews with greater depth meant the audience stayed on the key subject and what they’re saying, rather than eyes wandering around the static frame.
JS: Are there any 2D shots in the movie?
RCM: There were a couple of shots in the film we needed to turn to 2D as they were important for the story, yet did not work from a 3D perspective. We used 3D-2D-3D transitions at certain points – particularly when one of the surfers gets wiped out and there are bubbles appearing everywhere that are impossible to fuse – it allowed for the shot to continue with any visual obstructions.
JS: So much of making a Documentary is trying to capture moments as they happen. How did you communicate with the Director of Photography about camera and stereoscopic adjustments without missing the moments?
RCM: We needed to function in a way that would allow the characters to not become hindered by stopping and starting all the time. The DOP and myself worked out a shorthand for if something was problematic – such as an edge violation or too close to a particular element. The frame could be adjusted and we could continue filming. There was a detailed methodology going into the project, particularly as it was a documentary and we didn’t know what shots were going to end up where.
JS: That makes it hard to have a depth script (3D storyboards). How did you keep the depth consistent?
RCM: We broke up 3D elements into 3 parts:
(1) Surfing – This was to really heighten visceral impact without making it painful.
(2) Observational Documentary (completely unplanned documentary sequences capturing things as they happened) – was broken up into interior and exterior – shots on the boat ramp, and shots indoors at SS headquarters. The TV show has more interior locations. Many times these scenes would be prior to a surf sequence therefore a more rounder look transitioned better into the surf sequences as a mild rest period (on the eyes).
(3) Interview – Roundness relative to the interview frame which was a loose MCU (medium close up). This gave a balance overall to a more natural volume of the character (much how they look in real life).
RCM: We designed (3D) camera systems for particular angles with specific parameters. A beasmplitter to follow documentary coverage and adjust camera separation (depending on the framing) – all whilst small enough to be handlheld and have the freedom to move around. A long lens shot from a boat needed to be a side-by-side with reasonable telephoto lens.
JS: When using longer lenses how did you avoid loss of depth or the miniaturization effect (wider interaxials can actually shrink objects or people and make them appear to be miniaturized)?
RCM: Unlike most physical environments where we have a solid ‘concept’ of how depth and volume appear, the ocean is constantly changing in size, shape and texture. Without a reference point it is somewhat difficult to determine scale or depth – so the flattening effect is rarely apparent.
RCM: With our main side by side camera, The Sony EX3 SbS – we were comfortably able to change focal lengths without much concern for loss of depth of miniaturization. The SbS depth is slightly exaggerated, and my favorite angle looks straight into the barrell of the wave with depth cues extending away from the camera.
JS: If this was a 2D surf shoot you’d have at least 2 main cameras zooming in and out to get coverage. How many cameras did you need to cover surfing in 3D?
RCM: For “Storm Surfers 3D”, the locations dictated how we shot a particular seqeunce, varying from open ocean swells moving large distances to waves that broke only a few meters away from a rock shelf. At any one time – we would have between 4-6 cameras rolling.
JS: What camera was used to get those awesome POV surfing shots?
RM: We used the Go-Pro 1 with 3D housing and sync cable. We got the first release cameras in the world and put them into action immediately. They filled a gap in our artillary of cameras and they produced amazing visual results.
JS: What other 3D gear did you use?
RM: Main Beamsplitter – Silicon Imaging/Cinedeck – Element Technica Dark country rig that was heavily modified to create a 3D digitbeta equivalent.
Convergent Design 3D Nanoflash on a customised side-by-side mount, housed with a PVS covering with Spintecs on each lens.
Panasonic 3DA1P w/ Nanoflash 3D. This was used for quick cutways or medium wide shots or used in a housing on a back of a jet ski.
Sony TD10 – This was used for tighter coverage on the water than what the 3DA1P was able to achieve.
Canon 600D stills for timelapse.
Sony TD-300 for pickup shots.