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Walt Disney exec predicts end of 3D rigs

15 August 2011
Walt Disney exec predicts end of 3D rigs

Walt Disney Studios’ vice president of production technology believes that 3D rigs have a limited lifespan and that a more post production oriented approach to filming stereo feature film is required.

Disney’s Howard Lukk (pictured) argues for a hybrid approach to stereoscopic filmmaking which would supplement a 2D camera with smaller ‘witness’ cameras to pick up the 3D volumes, then apply algorithms at a visual effects house or a conversion company to create the 3D and free the filmmaker from cumbersome on-set equipment.
 For Lukk, the problem is that 3D rigs are complicated to build and harder still to calibrate for true accuracy.
 “There are enough things for the DOP, director and camera operators to try to track on the set as it is, without having to track interaxial and convergence,” he said. “We are making it more complicated on the set, where I think it needs to be less complicated.”
 There should not be a battle between natively captured 3D and conversion, he contends. “We should start to ask if there is another method – even combine the two? We really should be looking at all methods to make better quality 3D. In the end, if 3D is not good quality, we are going to kill this stereoscopic industry just as it is re-emerging.”
 If 3D camera rigs are not the future of the industry, Lukk suggests that a hybrid approach will develop which will be a combination of capturing volumetric space on set and being able to produce the 3D in a post-production environment at the back end.
 “This will give you much more versatility in manipulating the images. This idea feeds on the idea of computational cinematography conceived by Marc Levoy (a computer graphics research at Stanford University) a few years ago. Basically this says that if we capture things in a certain way, we can compute things that we really need in the back end.
 “You can be less accurate on the front end. Adobe has been doing a lot of work in this area, where you can refocus the image after the event. You can apply this concept to high dynamic range and higher frame rates.”
 Disney is currently researching this method at Disney Research in Zurich, Lukk added. In addition Lukk says that research is also being conducted at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany.
 “I think eventually we’ll get back to capturing the volumetric space and allowing cinematographers and directors to do what they do best – that is, capturing the performance,” he said. 

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