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Tchaikovsky in stereo 3D

16 July 2009

Highlighting the rapid growth in stereo 3D, Brighton TV and Electric Sky have co-produced a 3D version of ‘Swan Lake’ for Opus Arte, writes Adrian Pennington.

Opus Arte is the production and DVD distribution arm of the Royal Opera House (ROH), and the 2hr 15 min piece is intended for future theatrical release. Working with 3D consultancy Vision3, Brighton TV hired P+S Technik (mirrored) and Calcutta (side by side) stereo rigs from Axis Films and shot the performance in front of a full house at the ROH in March.

The rigs were fitted to the ROH’s in-house Sony HDC950 and hired-in 1500 split block cameras in three positions over two separate performances. Stereo footage was shot simultaneously with a standard HD six camera shoot.

“We explored using the higher image quality of Red, but because we were shooting in a live environment we wanted equipment with which the live TV operators are familiar and so could integrate seamlessly in to a normal HD OB set-up,” explained Brighton TV Technical Director, Jon Lee.

Footage was recorded to HDCAM SR 5800s which have dual-stream record capacity and the facility is currently using SGO Mistika to edit and grade the footage. “The intention was to film the ballet from the best seat in the house,” Lee explained. “The screen plane became the front of stage with all the depth information behind the screen. The idea was not to be gimmicky – there are no ballet dancers thrust into the crowd – but to provide an immersive dimension to the show.”

Brighton TV, whose first 3D project this is, has formed a development partnership with Spain’s SGO to further advance Mistika’s 3D toolset. Mistika was originally developed from compositing and grading platform Jaleo. “Mistika is arguably the most powerful machine on the market in terms of its grading, compositing and dual stream throughput for stereoscopic post,” said Lee.

The facility has also installed a full 3D grading suite with Barco DP 1200 2k cinema projector fitted with the XpanD 3D viewing system, a 1.8 x 3.3m screen and 5.1 sound. “One of the biggest realisations we had was the amount of light loss produced by the 3D system when projected and viewed, particularly with dark performances,” Lee says. “Around 85% of light can be lost when output, which we will take further into account next time by making additional compensation to the camera’s exposure and racking settings.”

‘Swan Lake’ will be output to DPX or Tiff files to be made into digital cinema prints and mastered to HDCAM SR dual stream. The facility is also conducting tests for Blu-ray authoring.

“The predominant demand is for digital cinema, with many parties interested in making alternative content, whether for music or other arts content. That generates demand for 3D advertising and a lot of this demand is for 2D-to-3D post conversion because the cost of rotoscoping a 30 second spot is naturally far less than that of a full length feature. There’s also some demand for 2.5D dimensionalisation, in which elements of existing 2D ads are made to float in 3D space.”

Stereo production can cost up to double that of HD programming currently, due to the need for twice the camera systems, operators with stereographic skills and time taken in the online, Lee commented. “It will be 12 to 18 months before 3D content will be made directly for TV. Wildlife and factual features would be attractive in 3D when distribution to the home comes along.”

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