You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

3D draws doc converts

Format wins over filmmakers despite high costs

The 3D format is not only a big issue for the producers behind blockbusters, toons and genre films, but also for the documentary film community.

Peter Hamilton, a TV business consultant who also runs DocumentaryTelevision.com, a website dedicated to news about factual shows, asked doc shingle Hoff Prods. to estimate the costs involved in producing a 3D show compared with an equivalent show in 2D HD. Hamilton will be leading a panel at Sunny Side of the Doc about 3D factual content.

He had already commissioned such a report from Hoff in 2010, but new figures show that although the cost of 3D has dropped by 6.6%, it is still substantially higher than 2D HD. Hoff analyzed the cost of producing a hypothetical, one-hour program for cable TV. The 2D HD costs were $325,000 against $621,000 for 3D — a difference of $296,000.

The reasons for this difference range across the production process. When shooting in 3D, for example, it’s necessary to have two extra crew members: a digital imaging technician and a stereographer. It also took twice as long to shoot the same show — 16 days for 3D against eight for 2D HD.

But despite the high costs, networks have continued to raise their investments in 3D content, because they believe that, although the format is likely to always be a niche in the TV universe now, it’ll pay off in the long run.

“Consumers are prepared to pay a premium for 3D programming and that could be quite profitable, despite these costs,” Hamilton says.

As well as sports, movies and live music, factual content is an important part of 3D offerings. Although much of the factual output is nature documentaries, programmakers are getting more ambitious and have started to experiment with new forms of content.

3D channel 3Net, which is run by Discovery Communications, Imax and Sony, recently greenlit a four-part series from Towers Prods. on the American Civil War, “The Civil War 3D,” which incorporates historical re-creations shot in 3D.

BSkyB, under 3D chief John Cassy, captured the first BAFTA for a 3D program earlier this year for “Flying Monsters 3D,” which was presented by David Attenborough. The series from Atlantic Prods. re-creates the lost world of the pterosaurs, a prehistoric winged creature. Attenborough and Atlantic are now making another 3D film for BSkyB about penguins.

Most 3D productions are co-productions because of the high cost, but expenses will continue to fall, not just because the equipment will get cheaper, but also because the producers and the networks are learning as they go, and finding out how to work more efficiently. “The more experience you have, the more nimble you’ll be when you are at the location,” says Hamilton.

Hoff’s main conclusion was that careful planning was paramount.

“One of the most important means of achieving cost efficiencies is through thorough pre-planning with respect to scouting and so on,” says Hamilton.

Doc mart matures alongside biz | Hit formula | 3D draws doc converts

More Film

  • Brie Larson

    Brie Larson on Diversity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: 'We Gotta Move Faster'

    While Brie Larson is thrilled over the success of the female-led “Captain Marvel,” the actress wants more diversity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Larson sat down with Variety’s Marc Malkin for the first episode of Variety and iHeartMedia’s new film podcast, “The Big Ticket.” “I’m happy to be on the forefront of the normalization of [...]

  • Mammoth Films Festival to Open With

    'In Fabric' to Open Mammoth Lakes Film Festival

    Director Peter Strickland’s “In Fabric” starring “Game of Thrones” star Gwendoline Christie is set to open the fifth Mammoth Lakes Film Festival, the organization has announced today along with their film lineup. The festival in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., will take place May 22-26 and feature several films’ U.S. debuts. In addition to the narrative feature [...]

  • Kristen Stewart'JT LeRoy' Film Premiere, Arrivals,

    Kristen Stewart: 'Charlie's Angels' Reboot Is 'Woke' but Still 'Funny and Weird'

    “Charlie’s Angels” has made the jump to 2019. Kristen Stewart, who stars in the Elizabeth Banks-directed reboot as one of the Angels, says the classic ’70s franchise has been updated to modern times without losing its pulpy action. “At one point I think we said it was woke and grounded, and everyone was like, ‘Wait, [...]

  • Calamity Jane

    Indie Sales Acquires Remi Chayé's Female-Driven Animated Feature 'Calamity' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Paris-based company Indie Sales (“My Life as a Zucchini”) has acquired Rémi Chayé’s animated film “Calamity – The Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary,” the French helmer’s follow up to his critically acclaimed feature debut “Long Way North.” “Calamity – The Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary” tells the story of the 12-year-old Martha Jane who must [...]

  • Scarlett Johansson on 2020 Election, Avengers

    Scarlett Johansson on Running for Office: 'Maybe at Some Point'

    President Scarlett Johansson, anyone? While she may not be running for office at the moment, Johansson says a campaign may be in her future. “Maybe some time in the future,” she says when asked if her political activism has inspired her own aspirations. “I think the greatest way to effect change is in local politics. [...]

  • Circus of Books

    Netflix Acquires Tribeca Doc 'Circus of Books,' Exec Produced by Ryan Murphy (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix has acquired worldwide rights to the documentary “Circus of Books” ahead of its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. Rachel Mason wrote and directed the pic, and also produced it along with Kathryn Robson, Cynthia Childs, Camilla Hall and Adam Baron. Ryan Murphy, Josh Braun, John Battsek, Rhianon Jones and Gerald Herman executive produced. [...]

  • Santa Fe Studios Netflix

    Santa Fe Studios Competes With Other New Mexico Stages for Streaming Business

    Albuquerque Studios entered the spotlight last October when it was purchased by Netflix. While the complex is clearly the jewel in the crown of New Mexico’s production infrastructure, with eight soundstages totaling 132,000 square feet, 100,000 square feet of production offices, a large backlot and support space, it’s not the only modern studio facility in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content