Cameramakers See 3-D Boom

Two U.S. camera-rig makers have already become well known in the burgeoning stereoscopic 3-D market: Pace Technologies (Avatar) and 3ality Digital (U2 3D). But the space is about to get more crowded, as manufacturers -- several of them in Europe -- aim to democratize digital 3-D filmmaking with new systems.

"The market for 3-D is growing," says Andreas Dasser, managing director for Munich-based P+S Technik. "Manufacturers are working to democratize digital 3D filmmaking. Many of the (early) rigs were self-made, but the growing market shows that there are more rigs now needed. Now, if you want to shoot 3D, you can buy a rig that offers the standard quality for a proper shoot."

Dassner says P+S has sold nearly 30 rigs worldwide, including at least 10 in Europe. The U.K.'s 3-D production company Principal Large Format and Italy's Xilostudios are P+S Technik 3-D rig users. P+S Technik already offers a mirror, or beam-splitter, 3-D rig. Mirror rigs split the light coming into the camera in two, with half going straight on to a camera pointed at the action and the other half reflected into a camera pointed at the mirror.

A mirror rig lets the left and right cameras line up very closely -- so close their lenses would bump into each other if they were side by side. It is especially useful for close-ups or for shots where the director wants the 3-D to be subtle. Technik is now working on two more 3-D rigs: a side-by-side rig for wide-angle shooting and a lightweight mirror rig for Steadicam and handheld shots.

France's Binocle also offers a range of 3-D mirror and side-by-side rigs of various sizes for different applications, with more models on the way. Binocle rigs were recently used to shoot the French Open tennis tournament. CEO Yves Pupulin reported that three movies are slated to go into production this month that will use the company's rigs, although he declines to name the projects.

The growing availability of 3-D rigs "comes with pluses and minuses," says Phil Streather, CEO of Principal Large Format. "There are probably only 10 or 15 experienced stereographers. It is going to be very important that training emerges."

By Carolyn Giardina, Variety