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.

Popular on Variety

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

  • Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and

    Film News Roundup: Leonardo DiCaprio Presenting Robert De Niro SAG Life Achievement Award

    In today’s film news roundup, Leonardo DiCaprio will present Robert De Niro with his SAG Life Achievement Award, the Oliver Sacks documentary finds a home and UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television gets a new dean. AWARD PRESENTATION Leonardo DiCaprio has been selected to present Robert De Niro the SAG Life Achievement Award  at [...]


    ‘Karnawal,’ ‘Restless,’ ‘Summer White,’ ‘Firsts’ Win Big at Ventana Sur

    BUENOS AIRES  — With Ventana Sur now firing on multiple cylinders, featuring pix-in post or project competitions for not only art films but also genre pics and animation – two sectors embraced by young creators in Latin America – “Karnawal,” “Restless,” “Summer White” and  “Firsts” proved big winners among Ventana Sur’s arthouse and animation competitions, [...]

  • (center) George MacKay as Schofield in

    From "1917" to "Jojo Rabbit," Composers of Some of the Year's Top Scores Talk Shop

    “1917,” Thomas Newman The 20-year collaboration of director Sam Mendes and composer Thomas Newman has encompassed midlife crisis (“American Beauty”), crime in the Depression (“Road to Perdition”), the Gulf War (“Jarhead”), marriage in the 1950s (“Revolutionary Road”) and two James Bond adventures (“Skyfall,” “Spectre”). Now they’ve tackled World War I, with “1917,” but Mendes’ much-talked-about [...]

  • Billy Magnussen Aladdin

    'Aladdin' Spinoff With Billy Magnussen's Character in the Works for Disney Plus

    Disney is developing a spinoff of its live-action “Aladdin” with Billy Magnussen reprising his Prince Anders character. The unnamed project is in early development for the studio’s recently launched Disney Plus streaming service. Disney has hired Jordan Dunn and Michael Kvamme to write a script centered on the haughty Prince Anders, one of Princess Jasmine’s [...]

  • ROAD TRIP – In Disney and

    Disney Boasts a Bevy of Hopefuls for Oscar's Original Song Race

    When the Academy announces its shortlist for song nominations on Dec. 16, you can be certain that at least one Disney song will be on it and probably more. Disney songs have been nominated 33 times in the past 30 years, winning 12 of the gold statuettes. This year, the studio has at least four [...]

  • Innovative Scores Elevated the Year's Documentaries

    Innovative Scores Elevated the Year's Documentaries

    It’s next to impossible for a documentary score to be Oscar-nominated alongside the dozens of fictional narratives entered each year. But it did happen, just once: In 1975, composer Gerald Fried was nominated for his music for “Birds Do It, Bees Do It,” a documentary on the mating habits of animals. Fried, now 91, perhaps [...]

  • Ron Leibman, Jessica Walter'Mary Stuart' Play

    Ron Leibman, Tony-Winning Actor Known for 'Angels in America' and 'Friends,' Dies at 82

    Ron Leibman, an Emmy-winning actor who garnered a Tony for his work in Broadway’s “Angels in America” and played the father of Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel Green on “Friends,” died on Friday. He was 82. Robert Attermann, CEO of Abrams Artists Agency, confirmed the news to Variety. No further details were immediately available. Leibman, a native [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content