3D Filmmaking: Learn from a Master Storyteller.

I was hooked from the very beginning, by the keynote address at the recent Cinema India Conference, held at the picturesque Renaissance Convention Center, Mumbai.

Mr. Ramesh Sippy, a veteran film maker known perhaps best for his blockbuster film of the 70’s; “Sholay”, struck home with his wisdom on Stereoscopic storytelling.

While he did not speak directly about the art of stereo 3D film-making; knowingly or not, he drew so many parallels, that it is worth recounting some of them here. I have no doubt that the new generation of Film-maker can learn more than a thing or two from this master storyteller.

He mentioned how he dived right into the then pioneering format of the time; 70mm film. The challenges it posed for camera movement (no fast pans, as the audience would be overwhelmed). Stereophonic sound, a big thing back then, and how he had to time and pace the on-screen action to account for sync of off-screen directional sound (his example of horses riding in from off-stage to on-stage was a good example)…

Contrast that to for example, a made-in-3d-thought-in-2D film, such as Transformers and you see why the new gen of film-makers need a refresher course from such master storytellers. He did take a dig at Clash of the Titans, and that scored 10 more points in my book!

His talk brought back to mind, things I’ve been writing about as we venture into defining the language of 3D storytelling: Dwell time, Establishing Geography of a scene, and most of all…planning.

How come the old masters “get 3D” the way that most of today’s film-makers don’t?

To me, Mr. Sippy is in the league of film-makers such as Scorsese and Ridley Scott, at least as far as Thinking in 3D goes. I’d eagerly await a 3D epic from him.

James Cameron on High Frame Rate (FHR) 3D:

JC paid a virtual visit in full S3D, courtesy Christie, in a well done projection theatre at the venue.

The audience wore RealD glasses. They were treated to words of wisdom by JC himself, urging that the industry move forward into next generation immersive cinema — 48 and 60 frames per second (fps) Stereoscopic 3D. I’ve come to admire him more since the days of Avatar. He is truly a welcome influence in galvanizing an otherwise boring and outdated film making community.

The audience was shown in multiple takes, what Drama, Action and Slo-motion footage looks like in HFR of 48fps and 60fps. Those frame rates were played back flawlessly by the Christie projection system, after the scene was first shown, and in my opinion… an artifact of current filmmaking; 24 fps. No one in the audience argued that in 3D, especially in 3D — 48fps did not shine out, compared to 24fps.

The action in 48 and 60fps was eye-strain free 3D, with no strobing that the same scenes when shown at 24fps, exhibited. The rich detail that was present really put a viewer into the movie. The only observation that I made a mental note of, is that bad acting and choreography of action scenes will get caught out when viewed in such high detail. This will of course only be a good thing in the long run.

Planning… will be a byproduct of HFR 3D, and that in turn will give us better movies, with everyone involved putting in their best effort; Actor, Art Direction, VFX, Director and DoP.

Yes, costs will be higher for CGI and VFX work at these frame rates, but Moore’s Law should take care of that. What is to become of 2D to 3D conversion? Will there be yet another shortcut of “upgrading” 24fps to 48 or will every other frame be converted and double printed?

On a side note: Bernard Mendiburu, author of that famous book, and a friend of mine, was the first to notice JC was in inverted stereo at the start of the presentation. The error was quickly corrected by the projection people. I believe it is good practice to start each 3D presentation with a few seconds of left/right eye check imagery.

Summary of the event:

I presented a talk to a small audience of Creative people present at the event. The majority of visitors and delegates were Cinema Owners, and those in the business of Cinema. 3D Technology providers such as Volfoni, Depth Q, ExpanD and Christie were prominent.

3Ality had on display a TS5 rig, with an interesting twist! They had a Scarlet married to an Epic on the rig. I did not take an in-depth look, but from casually looking at the output on large screen 3Dmonitor, it looked like a pristine 3D image being produced.

Canon and Panasonic were present though I did not see any Stereo3D offerings from them.

The CEO of Harkness Screens did a very good presentation on demystifying high gain screens, silver screens and gave a rule of thumb on screen curvature for maximizing returns on high gain screens. The rule of thumb is a 1:20 ratio. For example a 20 meter screen would have a 1 meter curvature, or a 20 foot screen, a 1 foot curvature at the edges…somewhat similar to the rule of thumb for 3D (camera interaxial of 1:30 or 1:50 for safe and good 3D). Overall, the Cinema India Conference was worth attending, and is a step in the right direction for a huge market and film making industry such as Bollywood and India.

After all, if Hollywood has caught onto the formula (throw in an Indian actor or location in a 3D film and double your audience)… it’s time that indigenous innovation and thinking in 3D come from that market itself.