3ality Bytes in 3D

Steve Schklair is justifiably proud of his 3D camera rig: its remote lens controller, and a dash of AI (artificial intelligence), solves an age old problem of selecting and maintaining focal planes, and thus, which image components present in the foreground, midground or background of the final picture. I wish I could show you what I mean, but just look at 3ality Digital’s new crowning glory, the cinema release “U2 in 3D” ‘music video’ and you’ll see it – in the crowd, in the band, and in the close-ups of hands, faces and guitars – variable depth of field and the subject remaining rock solid in its 3D plane.

Schklair explains what 3ality do. “We manufacture stereoscopic camera systems with sophisticated artificial intelligence that automatically aligns and adapt to mechanical and lens imperfections that can increase costs, reduce quality and cause eyestrain.”

3ality's 3D Sony/Zeiss rig

Why so stable? “We use AI to remove the eccentricity that each lens is manufactured with, and which is critical when marrying stereoscopic images. We build backup tables for all our lenses and this eliminates misaligned images.”

Much of this focal plane resolution was unable to be fixed in-camera, and had to be painstakingly adjusted optically, if at all. With Digital Intermediate 4K processing this can be achieved to a greater extent, but the 3ality 3D camera rig significantly reduces the amount of post-processing required.

Based on two Sony HDVS HD-SDI cameras and two Zeiss DigiZoom lens, and using a prompterstyle refraction system to overlay one lens over another, 3ality’s rig complements their new handheld stereoscopic rig based on miniature Iconix HD cameras. Images are recorded on location hard drives for uncompressed recording or onto HDCAM SR tape. Lens table and position metadata is a critical component of the recorded signal.

3ality’s Steve Schklair with portable Iconix 3D rig

Rejecting the faddism of 3D, Schklair points out that recent Hollywood release ‘Beowulf opened’ in 850 theatres across the US in 3D, while every major Hollywood Studio has a 3D project in production. He’s right and in fact, Dreamworks is going exclusively Stereoscopic in all future productions, including ‘Monster vs Alien’ in 2009 and ‘Shrek Goes Fourth’ in 2010.

So, are producers willing to extend shooting schedules or budgets for 3D? “Absolutely not,” declares Schklair. “3D must not extend the schedule – it still has to be a 45 days shoot, for example.”

Shcklair has seen a great interest in digital cinemas and their ability to display non-traditional program material. He calls this ODS, or ‘Other Digital Stuff’ which could be short form music videos, indy video, commercials and stills – anything that might give D-Cinema an edge over traditional display media, be it at home, or at the Megaplex. In fact, Schklair doesn’t see 3D finding its greatest success with feature length films – it’s the ODS that will sell the benefits.

What about viewing U2 in 3D? Well, seeing and hearing ‘Miss Sarajevo’ in 3ality’s preview suite means it will look and sound good – but it actually looked and sounded bloody amazing – almost hyper-real in its unique interpretation of what the eye sees.

If you get the chance, see U2 in 3D, then decide if 3D is fashion or future. Even if you don’t warm to the experience, you still have to admire Schklair and his team at 3ality for single-handedly working harder to promote HD D-Cinema than the combined marketing efforts of most broadcasters."

Author: Brett Smith
Editor: Phil Sandberg
Source: BroadcastPapers Content + Technology