Today an exclusive interview that many of you “3D nerds” will enjoy 🙂 A while ago the folks at Stereobank introduced me to Swiss-based Kamerawerk and we will soon announce our first joint project with this production company. Here is a glimpse of their work.
When did you get started with 3D whats your background?
We are three partners at Kamerawerk with some 10 years of TV experience each. The company was founded about 3 years ago with 3D as our main area of expertise. Personally I was involved in an R&D programme for 3D at TPC (inhouse production company for Swiss national TV) before that. At that time I reactivated my directing and producing skills which were my majors at film school in Canada. Seeing and playing with the potential of 3D it was a quick decision to team up with like-minded Stereographer / DoP Christian Witschi and S3D post production specialist Claudio Sulser.
Tell us about your company and the past 3D projects?
Kamerawerk was the first production company in Switzerland to seriously deal with high end S3D and is capable of delivering all aspects of stereoscopic production including 3D concept development. We strive to master technological challenges of 3D production early on so that we can concentrate on the creative use and advantages of 3D. As soon as we see a new technique to produce 3D, be it with highspeed cameras, timelapse in 3D, HDR imaging or any other new camera and post processing developments, we are all about getting it into our arsenal of tricks real fast and use it creatively for our client’s and our own projects. We just don’t want to be held up by technology and this approach has served us well.
Since we shot an entire short film in highspeed 3D at up to 2000fps over a year ago it has become a specialty of our’s with numerous projects that followed. Most prominently was a cinema commercial for BMW Motorcycles where we were commissioned to handle the stereoscopic aspects of the production. The spot should come out of post soon.
Another highspeed 3D project we just wrapped was done for the University of Hamburg. The Institute of German Sign Language approached us to shoot sequences in highspeed 3D with a scientific / analytical goal. The production of these elements went really fast because we employ a very slick workflow for highspeed 3D. This allowed us to additionally produce a very elegant promotional clip for the institute’s ongoing efforts in their field.
We also just started shooting 3D stock footage (mainly timelapse at this time) for Stereobank. We believe there will be a strong demand in that sector soon, so we obviously want to play our part there.
What were the challenges with shooting highspeed 3D?
There are some minor technological issues like proper syncing and the amount (of flicker-free) light you need to get a decent depth of field for 3D. But all of it can be handled. On our last production we started ingesting the instant playback from the cameras (we use Weisscam HS-2) straight to a mobile edit suite as a multiplexed full HD stereo file. While the next shot was set up our editor started adding the latest rush to his rough cut.
The challenges are much more on the creative side especially when you are new to this technique. The full HD 3D previews tend to blow people away when they see it on set with the result that they get lost in the stunning imagery. You just want to see it over and over again and you want to try this and that. You really need to know what you want, realize when you got it and move on.
Were the production costs significantly higher than in 2D?
Highspeed cameras tend to have a higher daily rate as regular cams and you need two of them as well as some extra lighting power. So yes there are some additional costs involved. Then again our workflow allows for almost a 2D shooting pace and you get the most stunning footage available today. For an advertising production it will hardly make a dent in the budget, considering all the other costs involved in a production like that. Additionally, in our way of thinking at least, a DoP is also a stereographer because 3D is an extension of the visual repertoire and the director knows how 3D works and also acts as a stereo supervisor of sorts (like a director enforces his vision on all other aspects of a project as well). Working like that things get speedy and efficient, so you can afford some additional gear.
Could you have achieved the same results with conversion from 2D footage? whats your opinion on the native versus converted discussion in the industry
Absolutely no. There are some promising things happening in conversion land, especially what Disney Research Zürich is doing in that respect. It’s great to have possibilities available to integrate archival footage into a 3D production or salvage messed up shots (although I can’t really grasp how you can mess up a stereo shot as much to need that type of salvaging when you have the budget to afford it’s salvation through high end conversion).
However, there is one killer argument against conversion on a large scale: 3D is a tool for storytelling and it needs to be incorporated as such from the concept/writing phase. This carries on to storyboarding where different types of shots (as opposed to 2D) will be sketched out to allow for a sensible use of 3D. The creative team on set will compose shots differently for 3D and will have to make choices based on the results they see. Shooting in 2D doesn’t allow that. Nobody would suggest that on set monitoring or dailies are no longer an option, but it would amount to about the same thing as shooting a 3D project without ever seeing 3D. The same goes for post production where edit decisions are also made based on the depth perception of a shot and how it interacts with the entire scene. It’s not like anybody will do a high quality conversion of the entire raw material to allow for storytelling through 3D during the editing process. The result will be a cut that works in 2D but at the very least will be too fast paced for comfortable 3D perception, while not allowing 3D to help tell the story.
Looking at it that way, producing 2D and converting after the fact invariably results in random use of 3D at best, strongly limiting it’s potential and ultimately denying audiences the extra value they paid for. It will be interesting to see how Titanic 3D turns out. I would assume the 3D will be used very mildly to cover the fact that the movie was not produced as a 3D project in the first place.
Feature: “Hugo” because you can tell that the team really thought about what they were doing in 3D. Shots were composed to make the best use of 3D and edits were evidently planned with 3D in mind, always giving your eyes a continuous point of depth carrying you from shot to shot.
Documentary: “Pina” was nicely executed and the subject matter was well suited for 3D. There were some amazing sequences in there, although I felt the use of 3D could have been a bit more decisive.
Music: “Die Fantastischen Vier 3D”. I was present during the recording as a guest. The show was well planned and executed plus the performers were precisely briefed to interact with the 3D cameras which actually made it immersive. With so many other concert productions, 3D is just there and you wonder why?
Whats next with you guys and 3D. Any new plans you want to share?
We are in the final stages of designing a production workflow for cost effective recording of live events in 3D while maintaining a decent stereo quality (mainly geared towards stage performances). We feel there are so many interesting events well suited for 3D which could fill a gap in the still thin 3D content market. But this can’t always be a big budget show with some 10 rigs on the scene. So we are using cost effective equipment (mostly not explicitly intended for 3D) and put it to use for this specialized purpose. We are still tweaking some details in the workflow before unleashing the package.
Other than that we just launched an education programme for 3D in Switzerland. It is our belief that the realm of 3D production needs to be democratized so more content (incl. well executed low budget) can feed the hungry 3D market. And this is not about the availability low cost twin-lens cameras but about knowledge of how 3D works and what you can do with it. We are offering workshops for 1 or 2 days as well as a 5 day Masterclass.
Lastly we are in the (very) early stages of a 3D documentary I can’t share too much about at this time. But it is safe to say that the subject matter is more than suited for 3D!