Michael Watchulonis is the co-executive producer and director of a new 3D paranormal investigation series called Anomaly with investigative journalist Jack Kassewitz. In this interview, Michael candidly shares his experiences of doing the near-impossible: shooting a 3D series, in the dark, on a paranormal topic, as a skeptic.
1. Why produce a 3D series?
We’re pretty proud that Alligator Kingdom, MicroPlanet, and Fire Ants: The Invincible Army are among the most widely distributed independent 3D films on the market. We thought the time was right to expand into series production.
Dave Cole of Beampath brought the paranormal idea and the 3D night vision camera systems to us along with some test footage. We were very impressed. The visuals were very cool, had good stereography and the screen presence of the host (Jack Kassewitz) was strong. When we took a look at the history of these locations and the reports of paranormal phenomena, the stories grabbed us. We just had to dig in and explore them in 3D with Anomaly.
Anomaly is the world’s first 3D/2D paranormal investigation series. Each one-hour episode follows lead investigator Jack Kassewitz as he applies breakthrough research on interspecies communication to paranormal phenomena. If there is a spirit world connected to ours, Kassewitz believes that bridge can be documented, measured, and explained. Kassewitz isn’t a “ghost hunter”. He’s an expert in acoustics, a published scientist, and an accomplished investigative journalist taking viewers on a chilling adventure in historic locations. Each member of the Anomaly team brings experience in key areas: engineering, statistics, historical research. Our night vision cameras see what the human eye cannot. And what they capture in High Definition 3D is disturbing. Do not take our word for it. Watch the premiere episode and judge it for yourself.
3. What were the challenges of shooting the series in the dark?
Ok, we know that there are “firsts” claimed in 3D all the time. This one’s for real. Before Dave Cole built and custom-modified a whole slew of HD cameras to shoot this, it just couldn’t be done. Jack built a NASA-style mobile control room capable of monitoring the investigation in any location. Then we layered the investigation protocol and 3D cameras on top of that. A solid investigation is the core of every show. The 3D cameras are there to bring it into your living room. And it works.
Post production is pretty interesting too. To work in these locations, we have at least 5 camera formats on any given episode. Dave Cole’s workflow keeps us from losing sanity. Anyone who works in 3D knows how careful you must be to keep every pixel of resolution that you can, color correct and match the cameras, and fine tune the 3D.
We rely on Jack Kassewitz’s expertise with acoustics to capture great audio on location. In post, he filters out (or accounts for) any audio that came from the crew, gear, or investigators. He gives us the cleanest audio documentation of the “anomalies” captured in the investigation. The final product can be disturbing.
Now to the question on most minds, mine included: Did you see any ghosts?
In the very first episode, we captured several events that can’t be explained. Period. No way.
Watch the Castle Warden episode and tell me what forcefully shoved our investigator out of the corner. You can’t. Even the hardcore skeptics on the crew were a bit freaked out by what we captured in the attic. I’d also love to hear a good explanation for the clear voices coming from the ghost box, answering our investigators. Watch the Fire Station 3 episode and tell us what kept touching our investigator in the officer’s quarters, setting off the infrared and movement sensors, and the haunting voices in the main hall.
We’ve also debunked some things. We deployed “paranormal” sensors that others have used and discovered that a particular kind of radio interference sets them off. That footage went into the show and we demonstrate exactly how it causes a false alarm. Good science comes first. We’ve captured “orbs” that are creepy as heck in 2D because they looked like they were flying into people’s bodies. When we watched it back in 3D, it was clear where they were in the 3D space of the room and that they were dust particles getting hit by light just the right way. Some orbs may well be more than dust. When we capture that in 3D, trust me, you’ll hear about it.
I’m a skeptic. Our crew is mostly comprised of skeptics. And, if you want the absolute truth, I’ve hardly watched paranormal shows because of that skepticism. But this series appealed to me because it combines Jack’s scientific rigor with Dave’s 3D night vision systems. And now that I’m experiencing unexplained anomalies in person, I’m not so quick to dismiss them. I think Jack said it best: watch our investigation into Castle Warden—then we dare you to go spend the night alone in the Vortex room. I wouldn’t.
The 3D visual experience puts you on site, in the building, in the pitch-black room with our team. We’re doing the deep historical research on our next locations and can’t wait to fire up the night vision cams again.
4. Why don’t we see more series in 3D? Is the funding difficult? Anomaly works very well in 2D, too, is that maybe the solution?
There are few broadcasters investing in 3D series. Most 3D outlets only acquire content, so the ecosystem is mainly populated by one-offs. One of our main criteria for even producing the series was that it must be compelling in 2D and appeal to that market. Our existing distribution relationship with 3D Content Hub has been key to getting good deals for our films, very broad distribution, and publishing on Blu-ray. We are currently still seeking financial and additional distribution partners (both 2D and 3D) to make 10 more episodes, so that we have the season 1 completed with 13 one- hour shows.
Michael Watchulonis, is an Emmy-nominated director whose films include the internationally successful Alligator Kingdom, MicroPlanet, and Fire Ants: The Invincible Army. His team at 3DigitalVision has been producing 3D HD films since early 2009 and with 3D Content Hub as 3D distributor has licensed them in more than 50 countries and counting.