Knowledge of the format grows beyond 'goofy glasses'
“About five years ago,” remembers Sony 3D maven Buzz Hayes, “about six of us sat down for lunch at the Magic Castle and realized we were everybody doing anything with stereo (3D) in the industry.”Those days seem to be gone for good. The consumer press may still be writing about “goofy glasses” and wondering if S3D is a fad, but Hayes says, “I think we’ve gotten past that with a lot of serious filmmakers making 3D films. “But the problem,” he adds, “is there’s not a lot of expertise out there.” In response to that deficiency, there’s a surge in S3D infrastructure and education. Most prominent among these is the Sony 3D Technology Center, which is moving into renovated digs in the Capra Building on the Sony lot. The center is a Sony corporate initiative that grew out of years of discussion between Sony topper Howard Stringer, Sony Pictures Technologies prexy Chris Cookson and others about how to bring together the entire company’s S3D efforts. The center is staffed with top tech talent from Sony’s ranks and elsewhere. Cookson is in charge and adds a second title: chief officer of the Sony 3D Technology Center. Hayes, an S3D expert since working on a film restoration of “Dial M for Murder” in 1982, joins the new center as senior VP and chief instructor. Michelle Lee is executive director; she will be working on outreach and administration and will help Hayes in execution of the curriculum. Bruce Dobrin is chief technical architect. Hayes says the center will be “a place where people can come and experiment with the technology before they have to go off and shoot 3D. We’re working with the Cinematographers Guild, the ASC and a variety of other institutions to offer training courses that are as serious as possible.” The center has its own 3D camera rigs from 3ality Digital, standing sets where d.p.’s can practice shooting and S3D previsualization tools. “It’s open to the entire industry,” Hayes says. Sony aims to start classes in February. Other S3D education and infrastructure efforts are also springing up as stereoscopic Blu-ray and TV roll out. Blu-ray testing service BluFocus is hosting a March 4 webinar on S3D tech aimed at content owners, producers and “prosumers.” Testronic Laboratories, another testing and assurance company for broadcast and Blu-ray, will open a 3D test lab in the first quarter this year. Meanwhile, Trailer Park’s Advanced Content Group is working on S3D Blu-ray, including menus and graphics — an area likely to see major growth this year. Standard 2D graphics, no matter how elaborate, look unimpressive against a 3D picture, but as the problems with S3D subtitling have shown, placing graphics in “Z-space” takes more thought and planning than placing them on a 2D screen. However, one piece of S3D news can be debunked. George Lucas recently gave a TV interview saying it was time for the S3D “Star Wars.” At least one website took that as an announcement that the project was a go. However, a Lucasfilm spokesman says production has not started on “Star Wars 3D,” and the conversion has not been greenlit. Lucas and his company have previously expressed concerns over the cost of the conversion and the number of available S3D screens.