Circlescan 4-D promises better TV images

Stan Minasian wants Discovery Channel viewers to get a better look at dolphins than they’ve ever seen in a TV show or feature film.

In fact, he wants to lens dolphins using a new technology called Circlescan 4-D, which production execs say yields greater depth and realism to footage than traditional 3-D processes suitable for small-screen use.

While most industry observers agree that Imax 3-D is the most sophisticated 3-D system on the market, Circlescan is getting rave reviews for its innovations.

“Circlescan would be a tremendous tool for showing people wildlife on TV, in its true form, without resorting to one-D images,” said Minasian, president of the Marine Mammal Fund and exec director and senior producer of its production company, Earthviews.

The system was devised by Eddie Paul, whose resume includes stints as an inventor (he’s currently working on a diesel engine project), motorcycle stunt coordinator (“Streets of Fire”) and animatronic model maker (the syndie series “Zorro”).

Paul acknowledges that there’s no shortage of 3-D production systems available, but says his makes more sense for cash-strapped producers.

“There’s a hologram system the Navy is working on, but it’s extremely expensive, the screen alone probably costs $1 million,” he said.

John Swallow, VP of production technology at Universal, said he’s done some film and video tests of Circlescan.

“Its beauty is in its cost effectiveness,” said Swallow. “With normal 3-D, you need two cameras with a mirror, but this works with a single camera with a device you put over the lens.”

Swallow said Universal has no plans to produce 3-D content at the moment. Industry sources said Fox is consider-ing producing at least one episode of “The X-Files” in 3-D. However, the studio hasn’t committed to using the Cir-clescan system.

Docu producer Minasian, who is in negotiations with Discovery to produce a three-part series called “The Secret World of Dolphins,” plans to include use of Circlescan in his pitch to the cabler.

He’s optimistic that Discovery brass will go for for the system. In fact, he said, Circlescan’s requirement of 3-D glasses could prove beneficial, rather than a drawback. He recently produced another marine-themed program for Discovery, and realized how well-oiled the channel’s marketing machine is. “They find every angle imaginable. If having a 3-D program meant selling the special glasses, or getting an advertiser like Pepsi or Nike to put its logo on the glasses, they would figure out the opportunities.”

Minasian understands initial skepticism about 3-D television, and admits that he was initially a tough sell. “I’ve never been impressed with 3-D because the image is ineffective unless you’re viewing it from head on. With Eddie’s system, the images appear layered from any angle, and it’s not like they’re jumping out at you from the screen, the way they do in most 3-D movies. But it was Eddie’s system that gave us the impetus to move foreward with the dophin series, which is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time.”

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