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3D groundwork pays off

3D Production - Italian facility invests heavily in stereo-capable workflow, by Neal Romanek.

3D Production – Italian facility invests heavily in stereo-capable workflow, by Neal Romanek.
While many of us cling to a rigid workflow that was invented for analogue media early last century, David Bush, partner and digital film consultant at an Italian post production facility has a vision of a full-spectrum workflow. It’s a vision where editors work in pre-visualisation and cameramen are available for the post process — and where pre-production, production and post are all occurring simultaneously.
An invitation to chaos? Not if Genoa-based E-Motion is anything to go by. The facility provides a comprehensive digital production environment from shooting to final output, and is now the first in the country to offer this full-service environment for 3D production.
“I’ve been convinced for some time that it would be wise to do production and post concurrently,” says Bush, who runs the outfit alongside President Nello Brancaccio and Director Corrado Caputo. “I’ve often spent time explaining that to directors. In the case of stereoscopic production it makes a hell of a difference to be able to see what you’re doing contextually as you are shooting it. And not just single shot, but to see how everything is working together.”
E-Motion’s set-up is based around Red acquisition. It owns two sets of Red Ones (four camera bodies), two sets of Red Primes, two specially constructed stereo rigs with an ancillary side-by-side rig and a Pablo 4k stereo 3d — all set up for post production in a calibrated stereo projection room with two projectiondesign cineo32 projectors set up with linear passive polarisation.
“Most of what we shoot in stereo is with parallel shooting,” he explains. “We like to be able to vary the ‘vergence’ in post because that enables us to ease one shot into another and finesse things. We don’t want people to have to do gymnastics with their eyes all the time.”
The Quantel 4k Pablo with Neo Panel is the workhorse of its post suite, which employs twin projectiondesign cineo32 projectors with linear passive polarisation, a silver screen, and surround sound monitoring. The cineo32’s are, according to Bush, “a very reliable method for doing highly accurate stereoscopic colour grading. They give us 10 bit image processing and a brightness factor of 5 to 6 ft-lamberts when measured through the glasses.”

Stage and theatre
Being able to achieve the dream of fully ‘vertical’ production in 3D requires careful preparation. The company has spent a year researching and testing various technologies for its 3D workflow, sometimes modifying them to produce the best results. It seems as if nothing has been taken for granted.
“We’ve been learning how to shoot stereo well, how not to make mistakes, and doing a lot of test shoots of our own. The best way of knowing how to use it is to work with it for as long as one can.”
When they were ready, E-Motion approached the market at the Cannes Film Festival, selecting a few projects that were setting out to do ordinary 2D work, and suggested they might want to look at 3D. “Then we invited them to come to Genoa for a test shoot.”
One intriguing 3D project about to get underway is a Russian-Belarusian production of Ibsen’s <I>A Doll’s House<P>, directed by 78-year-old Russian Diamara Nizhnikovskaya. Ibsen would seem about as far afield imaginable from 3D boxing or football, but, in fact, theatre is a medium that relies on being able to see the relationships of characters in real 3D space. Stereo production may not just revolutionise the sci-fi spectacular, it may help revive and revolutionise the stage and theatre experience.
“3D gives the audience the opportunity to watch a play from the ‘ideal seat’ in a theatre and to feel the physicality of the actors on the stage as if they had been there during the actual performance, especially with well-engineered surround sound,” says Bush.
The project was initially proposed as a 35mm shoot but Bush convinced Nizhnikovskaya and the film’s producers that if it were made in 3D it would have a far more exciting visual appeal, entice younger audiences, and generate better opportunities for international sales.
It will shoot in Budapest, Venice, and Genoa with Bush advising technicians and liaising between the Belarusian and Italian crew-members — including veteran Italian cinematographer Blasco Giurato who will be shooting 3D for the first time.
In Budapest, E-Motion will set up the Pablo in a screening room adjacent to the sound stage. “In between set-ups, the director can wander in and say, ‘Show me this morning’s cuts’ and I will have it ready to go. It’s a very interactive way of producing and post producing a film.” The Pablo will also be linked with the Genoa facility for further viewing or editing as desired.
Digital Intermediate Supervisor Steve Shaw worked with Bush on test shoots for the project. “One of the biggest problems with 3D is people assuming that you can shoot stereoscopically on the fly and then fix it in post later,” he stresses. “Anyone undertaking 3D production needs to understand the process throughout the duration of the project.
“There are companies specialising in shooting and stereoscopic rigs, and others providing post production services, and quite often the two work almost against each other. If you don’t shoot it right, you can never post it right. And if you’re staring a problem in the face, you have to know whether or not it can be fixed, and if it can’t be fixed someone has to be able to say that sooner rather than later.”
E-Motion’s groundwork and technology investment seem to be paying off. Among 3D projects slated for post at the facility during 2010-2011 is Mumbai director Vinod Kumar’s Escape from Heaven and two Australian/Italian horror films, Urbane and Nosferatu.
Adds Bush, “In my opinion the relevant question today is not whether to use digital or film for, but rather whether to do it in 3D or not.”