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Yosemite National Park. . .in High Definition 3D

Movie currently in production shot in HD 3D By John Virata

While 3D films have been around since at least the 1950s, the technique of creating 3D movies gets revisited quite often. Back in the mid 1990s at SIGGRAPH in New Orleans, Sony showed a 3D film at one of its after hours parties at the Aquarium, to the delight of all who were invited to screen it. At this year's NAB trade show in Las Vegas, all the major camera manufacturers were showcasing 3D displays and some had 3D camera demonstrations in their booths.

The market for 3D films (as opposed to 3D animated) is again generating interest, not only among filmmakers, but also the consumer electronics manufacturers as well. 3D Film Factory of San Diego, has been working on 3D films and the technology required to capture the 3D image, for several years, and is currently in production of a new High Definition 3D movie that showcases the beauty of Yosemite Valley. Titled Yosemite National Park, the movie is harnessing the power of custom 3D rigs built in house, a pair of Canon XH-G1 video cameras, and Apple's Final Cut Pro. DMN spoke with filmmaker Karl Kozak of 3D Film Factory on some production aspects of 3D filmmaking.


DMN: The 3D camera rigs were developed in house. Were these built ground up or were other cameras converted to shoot in 3D?
Karl Kozak: They were designed and built from the ground up over the course of almost two years. The 3D rigs you see now are the 7th generation, based on trial and error.

DMN: When you are capturing the footage with the 3D-SS Pro Rig, is it capturing twice the data as a traditional HD camera would capture? Can you explain your 3D workflow?  Can you explain how the images are assembled? 
KK: The 3D-SS rigs place the cameras in a simple side-by-side posture for wider, establishing and landscape shots. Both cameras are genlocked and sync'd up, but capture data individually. In post the separate images are assembled, aligned and checked for depth, movement, artifacts among other things.  Once the piece has been successfully completed and color-timed, it can be output in a variety of 3D formats.

3D Film Factory built this custom 3D rig for the movie

DMN: How does the 3D-SB split beam camera work?
KK: Two genlocked cameras are placed at 90 degree angles on the 3D-SB rig with our specialty glass at 45 degrees in between. In this case the horizontal camera shoots through the glass, while the vertical camera shoots the reflected image off the glass. This allows the two cameras to share the some of the same field of view. We can adjust this field of view to accomodate varying subject distances and the depth effect. A real-time 3D monitoring system is essential here, as is plenty of practice, experience and a keen eye.

DMN: What kind of HD cameras were used in the production of Yosemite National Park and why were those cameras used?
KK: On that particular shoot we used two Canon XH-G1's because they're the only HD cameras in that weight class that offer genlock. In situations when there's a lot of hiking and climbing involved, light-weight cameras make our task easier.

The camera rig is in its 7th generation.

DMN: What kind of data storage is used to store all the footage?
KK: We shot on tape, then transfered to larger FireWire drives.

DMN:  How many hours of footage have you shot for the film? Any idea as to the final length of the film?
KK: To date, we've shot over 50 hours of raw 3D footage and expect to shoot over 200 total hours before we're done.  The final completed length will be somewhere around 60-70 minutes.


ANAGLYPH (RED/BLUE) glasses required to view

DMN: What editing system are you using to put the film together?
KK: The offline editing system choosen for this project is Final Cut Pro 6, on one of our Mac Pro quadcore systems. This system includes 16GB RAM, an Aja Kona video card, high-def monitors and a 4TB RAID drive. In addition, we've developed several proprietary post plug-ins for 3D alignment, depth control and stabilization.

DMN: A 3D film has to be a lot different production wise, than a traditional 2D movie. What are the challenges that have to be addressed when making a 3D film?
KK: You've got to consider all the traditional 2D challenges--shot composition, lighting, transitions, etc., then address all of the compounding 3D issues, such as depth control, camera movement, camera sync, the limitations of a 3D rig, and more.

DMN: Why Yosemite National Park in 3D?  The dramatic, world reknowned landscape and it's probably America's favorite National park.
KK: . . . the dramatic, world renowned landscape and it's probably America's favorite national park.

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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at
Related Keywords:3D filmmaking, HD 3D filmmaking, filmmaking, production, post production


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