Sunday, April 24, 2011

Some philosophizing on 3D

I sent this message out to our 3D video and animation email list at IU and thought that I'd post it here as well (somewhat truncated).  It lays out my current philosophy on stereoscopic 3D which, of course, is subject to change as I learn more and make more movies.  Here ya go.

Fact: color movies were (and still are) more costly to shoot than black & white. {same with 2D vs 3D}

Fact: extra training is needed to shoot with color film than with black & white (lighting needs and slower film speed mostly). {same with 2D vs 3D}

Fact: early color efforts really looked terrible, the process was still developing (please pardon the pun). {same with 2D vs 3D}

Fact: later color processes (e.g. Technicolor) improved the fidelity significantly and people started to want to pay more.  You want to see and all black & white Wizard of Oz (which has a lot of tech parallels with Coraline if you consider color == 3D for story purposes)

Now, on to some real quotes from the early era:
“The process of Color motion picture photography [has] never been would tire and distract the eye, take attention from faces and acting and facial expression, blur and confuse the action....” Douglas Fairbanks, 1930
‘Whether color can make black and white pictures as obsolete as sound made silent pictures, is, as suggested, quite another question. The silent picture was slain overnight by the jawbone of Al Jolson, whose Jazz Singer threw a hitherto sceptical industry bodily into speaking likenesses. But color is not so pronounced a revolution as sound’  Fortune Magazine, 1934
I don't think: sound == color == stereoscopic 3D

I do think, however, that these progressions are stepping stones to increasing the fidelity of the tools to make movies.  If writers, directors, stereographers, cinematographers choose to use these tools to convey story, great.  If they're there for emotional impact, great.  If they're there for eye candy, great.  If you got a reason to use (sound, color, 3D), great, use 'em!

People still make silent movies (albeit with a score usually) today in the 21st century.  People still make black & white movies (albeit with a slight bit of chroma from time to time {e.g. Schindler's List, girl with the red coat} but not always) today in the 21st century.  People still make flat movies today (albeit with 3D graphics and effects rendered monoscopically) in the 21st century.

Content creators are going to use the tools that they choose to use and the language of those tools will continue to evolve. There are established norms and expectations for the use of sound (atmospherics, score {Jaws, any monster movie}, effects on voices {guard programs in TRON: Legacy}).  There are established norms and expectations for the use of color (woman in the red dress, cowboy in the black hat, bon vivant in the colorful suit, etc.).  These technological tools have had decades of fairly common use to figure these things out.  The first 3D movie screened for tickets was back in 1922 (The Power of Love), then not again until 1952 (Bwana Devil), both of which had mediocre reception. 1953 saw the much more successful release of House of Wax, made for $1 million and has a lifetime gross of $23.7 million (I wish I had invested in that production!).  I can't find a breakdown of 2D vs 3D ticket sales, but that type of movie lends itself to 3D.

Would Bleak House be improved in 3D?  Perhaps, but I'm not confident that the knowledge of 3D and polish of the tools available to create in today 3D are at the level needed to make ANY movie as good or better in 3D.  Some movies will just benefit right out of the gate, some may NEVER benefit.  How would Casablanca look in color?  Or as a silent?
"Of all the gin joints in all the world, she has to talk into mine."
That just sucks as a title card compared to Bogie acting it for a talkie.

Some movies just aren't going to be better in 3D and if they aren't better you'll have a much harder time justifying the added cost.  On the flip side, if a movie would have been killer in 3D, but was shot flat due to budget, that's just a crying shame.  Gone with the Wind as a black & white?  Yes, it still would have been a classic movie, but would it have had the same staying power and punch that it has enjoyed all this time?

Friday, April 22, 2011

How to Export for packing into a DCP

Please note, I will be updating this post (writing a new post, actually) with a lot more streamlined process in the near future.

This post is really for the 3D production class at IU, but other folks may like to read it as well, enjoy.  These examples are based on Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 and footage from our Sony XDCAM EX3 cameras.  I'll go over the setup and export settings for making intermediate files suitable for packing into a 3D DCP (digital cinema package) that we'll screen at the IU Cinema on May 1st.

First, a general overview.  To pack a DCP we need to get the picture and sound essences of your movie.  In the case of a 3D movie with stereo sound, there are four essences: Left Eye frame sequence, Right Eye frame sequence, Left audio, Right audio.  The frame sequences are high quality image files, usually in the DPX image format, that will fit the 2K image container and run at a rate of 24 true frames per second.  The audio files are monaural WAV files with a sample rate of 48 kHz, and a bit rate of 24.

First, you need to create two exact copies of your picture locked final edit.  Append an L at the end of one copy's name and an R at the end of the other copy's name.

  1. Go into the copied sequences and select all of your stereo container sequences
  2. Enable multi-camera on these sequences
  3. Use multi-camera 1 for the Left master edit copy (MC1)
  4. Use multi-camera 2 for the Right master edit copy (MC2)

Next, let's prepare a proper 2K container sequence for each eye in our project with our chosen cinema aspect ratio of 1.85:1 or 2.39:1 (a.k.a. Flat or Scope).  The example here is designed for Scope.  Keep the frame rate at 23.976 and set the pixel dimensions at 2048x858 (this is for Scope, if you're editing for Flat use 1998x1080) by enabling Desktop as the Editing Mode at the top of the new sequence dialogue.  You'll use this as a container sequence for framing in Scope and exporting a properly sized DPX sequence.

Nest your Left eye edit (MC1) into your Left 2K container sequence and view it to check for head room and proper vertical alignment (not 3D VIT disparity in this case).  This is pretty easy if you shot your project with a Common Top framing.  You'll also need to scale up your movie from an HD size to fit into the 2K size container.  For Scope we'll scale up 107%, for Flat you'll scale up about 104%.

Once you have your left and right 2K container sequences setup, you'll be ready to export your DPX sequence.

Hit Command + M to open up the export dialogue and select DPX as your format.  You'll need to make sure that the "Export as Sequence" checkbox is selected.  Verify that the pixel dimensions are 2048x858 and that the frame rate is 24 (not 23.976, but true 24).  Check the "use frame blending" option since you're asking Adobe Media Encoder to perform an inverse-telecine operation.  Make sure to create a destination folder for your Left Eye image sequence and another folder for the Right Eye image sequence.

Next you'll be ready to setup your audio export.  This is a little convoluted since the DCP packing software requires that each audio file be a monaural file for each channel at 48 kHz and 24 bit.  It simplifies things if you create two more container sequences for this part, label one of them as Left Audio and the other as Right Audio.  Drag your original picture locked edit into each of these container sequences.  You'll now use a stereo audio effect called channel volume on each of these sequences.  For the left sequence you need to mute the right audio channel.  Do the opposite for the right sequence.

Now you're ready to export your two audio files; one for the left and one for the right.  Hit Command + M again and this time select Waveform Audio File as your format.  Make sure to choose the sample rate as 48000 Hz, mono channel, and the sample type as 24 bit.

Once you have all of these files ready to go, we can pack a digital cinema package.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday, April 8, 2011

Preparing for NAB 2011

So I've been busy with teaching the 3D class here at IU as well as the day job with the Advanced Visualization Lab.  Add in preparing for NAB 2011 and I've been busy.  Not to mention my pre-production work on Project Z-6463 (which is going well so far).

I'll be concentrating on ultra high resolution technologies like 4K cameras and displays as well as stereoscopic products.  4K stereoscopic items will be of special interest. :)