Sunday, August 14, 2011

Assessing 3D via "Final Destination 5"

I recently saw Final Destination 5 in 3D with a great group of friends, some of whom are also stereographers and filmmakers. Right off the bat I have to say that this movie was pretty engaging if this is your cup of tea. I've not seen any of the previous Final Destination movies, so I can't speak to the series.

I'd like to clarify the following thoughts with this statement: The quality of the 3D in this movie was outstanding. It was about as good as it can get with today's technology and understanding of the art and science of stereoscopy. I'm not saying that it was flawless, but the "problems" that I saw were in no way serious and did not adversely impact the production. In fact, this reminds me that the critical eye that I turn on my own work is fairly well calibrated since I pick on the same issues that the Hollywood professionals are also wrestling with.

The things to improve (in my opinion): Get over the shallow depth of field. Let us explore the volume you're recording. Essentially, that's the only gripe I have for FD5 regarding artistic choices.

I noticed in a few scenes that there was some vertical disparity in background elements, most noticeable in the gymnastics scene with the balance beam and uneven bars. The hospital scene right after also had some vertical disparity. The take home here is absolute camera rig alignment is not yet possible and even with a PACE/Cameron Fusion Platform you can get some unwanted disparity. The stereographer did a great job with VIT (vertical image translation) and roll corrections at the plane of interest (usually the actors), so the vertical disparity was really very subtle and hard to notice.

Some other scenes revealed that the iris settings between the cameras were not 100% matched. This is visible in the bokeh of background point sources of light being slightly different in diameter between the left and right views. I'm sure this was done to equalize the overall exposure of the scene between the cameras since the exposures looked spot on between each eye. The side effect of a slightly different depth of field between the cameras does cause some concern (at least in theory), but actually seeing the effect was a non-issue so perhaps different depth of field effects may actually prove to be trivial if the disparity is minimal.

There was also some evidence of specularity disparity that wasn't corrected, or was corrected for but not 100%. This is most noticeable in the office scenes with computer monitors and other reflective surfaces. They may have wrapped principle photography before the concept of adding a film pattern retarder (FPR) to the front of the mirror box to knock out specularity before hitting the beam splitter glass. The downside to shooting with an FPR in place is even more loss of light in addition to what is lost with the beam splitter glass.

Now, the good things of the stereography. EVERYTHING! The quality of stereo was very high and viewing in our theater was very comfortable. It seems that they were conservative with their interaxial settings and that's ok, better to go with a shorter interaxial in general.

Our theater was equipped with a Sony 4K projector and binocular lens assembly (Real-D) so we saw the left and right frames simultaneously. This really helps with quick action scenes and movies like FD5. Other theaters that use a frame sequential system with a single projector and a Z-Screen or color filter wheel (Real-D or Dolby Infitec) might have had some temporal phase issues with the quick action scenes.

Yes, there was plenty of in your face gimmicks, but for this type of movie, that's par for the course and not a problem.

Overall the movie was fun (if very gory) and the stereo was outstanding and very well done.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Thoughts on picture lock

Picture Lock.  This is when the editor and director of a movie have decided (or the executive producer decides for them) that the movie is visually done.  No more editing.  Once picture lock is declared, you're supposed to hand off the production to the finishing folks for various things like: musical score, VFX, color timing, and other loose-ends business.

Declaring picture lock too soon means one or more of the following:

  • you live with a stinker
  • you shake your fist at the studio and cobble together a director's cut
  • you revoke picture lock and fix things

I just went with the last option for my current project in post production: Project Z-6463.  It was not a lightly taken decision since I have a composer working on the score, but it had to happen.  There's no excuses for this movie to be a stinker and I have no studio to answer to.  This left only the last option.

I screened the movie for two test audiences and notices two things:

  • they laughed at the places I expected (this is good)
  • they yawned at the places I expected (this is bad)

Revoking picture lock means that I can go in and try to remove the places where people yawned and leave intact the places where they laughed (or were scared, this is a thriller after all).  So, the moral of this posting: revoking picture lock is not a cardinal sin.  Your crew will adjust and everyone is going to appreciate the better edit after all is said and done.

Now to actually finish this project and get it listed on IMDb.

A new filmmaker's network, Stage 32

I've received an invite to join a networking site for filmmakers called Stage 32 (here's my profile).  If this looks like something you might be interested in, please let me know and I'll send out an invite.