U2, Hannah Montana films lead 3-D charge

It happens on the pop charts all the time — a pubescent pop diva debuts at No. 1, elbowing a respected rock ‘n’ roll legend out of the way in the process — but what makes the success of “Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour in 3-D” so noteworthy isn’t the fact it bested “U2 3D” at the box office, but the fact it took such a different route to the screen.

In an effort to deliver what “U2 3D” co-director Catherine Owens calls “the haute couture of 3-D filmmaking,” the 3ality Digital production shot Bono and the band in concert over a three-week period in February 2006 and spent nearly 18 months fine-tuning the footage before its final unveiling at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. “Hannah Montana,” by contrast, shot in November 2007, edited through the holidays and opened on Feb. 1.

“I wasn’t interested in building a business around the fact that it took two years to finish,” says Vince Pace, who supplied cameras to both productions and stresses the technology’s applications for quick-turnaround “zero post” results (his company, Pace Systems, demonstrated that potential by broadcasting a live NBA All-Star game in hi-def 3-D).

But “U2 3D” was a special case. Whereas Pace introduced the Quantel Pablo digital intermediate system to enable rapid turnaround on “Hannah Montana,” 3ality viewed the U2 project as an R&D opportunity, using it to refine the cameras and engineer technology that could handle the film’s extreme post-production demands.

“We came back from South America with cameras that halfway through decided to do their own thing: one eye went off in its own direction or didn’t want to focus,” Owens remembers.

“People think 3-D comes great out of the camera, but it still needs to be crafted,” adds editor Olivier Wicki, who spent the first six- to nine-month stretch in New York working closely with Owens and the band to prepare a 2-D (one-eye) edit before moving to Los Angeles for another nine months to help translate the cut into 3-D.

“There was a desire to make sure everything was as perfect as it could be for the audience, and we did extend the time frame to properly involve the band in those creative decisions,” explains 3ality Digital LLC CEO Sandy Climan.

For the Montana/Cyrus film, footage was captured over two concerts, with closeups of Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers onstage picked up during rehearsals (when Steadicam operators wouldn’t block the live audience’s view of the stage).

“The marching orders were to cut a song a day,” explains editor Michael Tronick, who isolated the right-eye footage so he could do all his cutting in 2-D before handing over his edit decision lists to Fotokem to run a 3-D conform. The system’s real-time processing allowed Tronick and director Bruce Hendricks to evaluate the footage a few hours later and make adjustments as they worked.

“We’re used to making release dates on tight schedules in this industry,” producer Art Repola explains. “(Because) we were about to embark on a world-record short post-production for a movie like this, there was a lot of discussion, so in post-production we’re tweaking, not fixing.”

The resulting feature alternates between 3-D concert numbers and 2-D behind-the-scenes vignettes. According to Repola, the flat interludes were “a creative decision to give the eyes a little bit of a rest from the 3-D things and boost the impact when you come off one of those 2-D scenes.”

The NAB Content Theater will present a case study of “U2 3D” at 2 p.m. Monday with d.p. Peter Anderson, editor Olivier Wicki, 3ality Digital co-founder John Modell and 3ality Digital Systems CEO Steve Schklair or 3ality and 3-D effects expert Tim Sassoon.

TIP SHEET

CONTENT THEATER

What: Creation, production and distribution of content made possible by new technologies.

Where: Central Hall, Las Vegas Convention Center

Web: nabshow.com/theater

Monday

Stereoscopic 3-D film and broadcast

  • Live 3-D transmission

  • Panel: Live 3-D sports

  • Case studies: “Journey 3-D,” “U2 3D”

Tuesday

VFX, animation & new digital workflows

  • Case studies: Barry Sonnenfeld and “Pushing Daisies”; Red Camera and “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead”; “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!”

Wednesday

Broadband, Mobile and New Ventures in Content

  • Harry Shearer and My Damn Channel

  • Broadband Pioneers

Thursday

Reel Impressions

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