This week we interviewed Doug Betzold, nominated 3D Photographer of the Year by Sony & the World Photography Organization, who speaks about his work and the joys of pushing the boundaries of what can be done in dimensional photomedia and 3D Photography, in general.
Tell us about your background in 3D Photography?
Well, I started my career in photography around 1999 as a nature landscape and wildlife photographer shooting images of sunrises wildflowers and wild animals, mostly for calendars and gift cards. I spent most of my 20’s and early 30’s traveling dirt roads and two lane highways around the Western USA. Much of my work was for Real Estate clients and when the recession hit I found my work being replaced by stock photography. It was at this time I decided to go back and get a bachelors degree in commercial photography through the new BA program at Art Institute Seattle. I knew this was a big chance as the whole photography market had become overly saturated with new shooters due to the influence (and ease) of digital cameras in the marketplace.
The biggest challenge really was deciding which genre of commercial photography to specialize in. My mentors and I still believed in the mantra of specialization, to be the very best “shoe” photographer. Of course even the shoe guys had a lot of competition and the idea of one genre sounded bleak & restrictive; compounded by the slim chance of success in such competitive and saturated markets.
Well one day, not long after seeing the Rolling Stones 3D Imax and Avatar, I was at my PC store to repair to my desktop and I noticed a pair of Nvidia’s 3D glasses hooked up to a demo machine. I looked at the sample images of collector cars in 3D and I immediately realized the potential of 3D in my work. I asked the store owner to bring in my camera to make an image the next day and after downloading Stereo Photo Maker to a CF card I did my first “cha-cha” image of the store. It worked and I bought the glasses and monitor on the spot and started to work out the ways to create 3D stills.
Doug, we first met at the 3D Film Festival (@3DFF), what was a 3D Photographer doing there?
Still photography is a part of film making as well, though not always in the final product. I see potential value for 3D film makers in 3D casting shots, location scouting images as well as promotional and production stills for 3D films. If I were producing a $110 million 3D feature film I imagine it would be in my best interest to have 3d casting shots and location shots for the most amount of reference material in production. I sponsored at the 3DFF to have my work on screen for filmmakers to see and to let them know that there is now someone who can meet those needs.
Tell us a little about your equipment and how you go about preparing a shoot.
I generally shoot with 2 cameras for a left and right eye view and it’s not much different than the setup for video as far as positioning. Every shot is different and we shoot side by side horizontal and vertical or get out the beam splitter, all depending on the image being created and its needs. The other part is the firing of the cameras synced. I am really simply doing ‘bullet time’ similar to the effects crated by John Gaeta for the original Matrix movie. The tricky part is syncing two cameras to a flash duration of 1/5000th a second. That took a while to figure out.
In theory, you can get 4k and higher resolution is that correct?
Well yes, the RED ONE (the original 4K released in 2007) records at 4096 × 2304 (or 9.4 mega pixels) and the senor of my 5D MarkII’s create a file size of 21.1 mega pixel (5,616 × 3,744 pixels), and my Mark III’s shoot at 22.3-mega pixels. These file sizes are greater than 4K and can be very effective in film for using with a ‘Burns’ effect by panning and zooming in or out of the image.
I also have one other advantage for clarity and that is frame rate, or the lack of. We have all heard about the new push to higher frame rates for 3D in films like the Hobbit by Peter Jackson as well as James Cameron’s new projects, but with NO frame rate it’s possible to create much sharper still images than video. Images without the artifacts left from motion blur and strobing that comes from camera and subject movement when it isn’t frozen with strobe lighting.
Do you think that 3D Photography will become mainstream anytime soon, or will your industry remain a specialized niche for the time being?
That’s a good question, there is no doubt that it is a bit of both right now. Most of the 3D photography currently created is by amateurs and hobbyists with point and shoot 3D cameras like the fuji or pentax. I am one of a handful of people that of that create a system from two cameras for completely professional results and control. Until we get these tools from the manufactures I doubt many pros will jump right into 3D. Just one of my cameras outfitted with lenses is a $10k or more piece of equipment. It took around 9 months for me to figure out the syncing and I am still learning more about 3D everyday. And that is precisely why I love doing this though! It’s mastery of something that is completely different, although hardly new. The first 3D photographs and images were made shortly after the invention of the camera in 1837, actually Sir Charles Wheatstone invented the idea of stereo in 1838 just one year after.
So no cheap consumer 3D cameras at Best Buy or Amazon?
There are and I have used them a bit. The Fuji W3 has a huge following and some great adapters, my favorite is the hot shoe slave for hooking up external flash. Look for more of these cameras but not on a professional level yet.
What can filmmakers learn from 3D Photographers and their technique?
Hmm… I don’t know if I can really answer that other than I want filmmakers to see the value that 3D stills could have in their own productions. I guess it’s their job to find the inspiration from my work. Has anyone tried bullet time in 3D yet? That would be fun.
Who are your favorite 3D Photographers and what are your favorite 3D Movies?
3D photographer of the Year-Nick Saglimbeni has done great work and I was honored to be nominated with him at last year’s World Photography Gala along with Matjaz Tanzic. Another 3D photographer I enjoy is Conan Whitehouse.
As for the 3D movies I would have to say that I enjoyed Avatar very much as well as many others. The 2 that really stand out though are Hugo and possibly my favorite Cain Toads 3D. If you haven’t seen this one I highly recommend it. It’s a very funny look at a strange problem with toads in Australia that were introduced to the environment and have spread out of control. The best part is that the 3D is so effective at bringing the viewer into a documentary movie so much so that you actually empathize with the people affected because it almost removes the “talking heads” syndrome. It’s brilliant.
To find out more about Doug and his work visit his website at dougbetzold.photoshelter.com.