Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Quality, Not Quantity

I recently had a very unpleasant 3-D experience. While at the Los Angeles Auto Show, I spotted a 3-D exhibit at the Mazda booth. Mazda had several passive 3DTVs mounted at the center of their booth, with two pairs of headphones and polarized glasses each. On screen, you could select to view two different 3-D presentations showing Mazda’s new car features. I pressed the button for the first video, and watched one of the best examples of how NOT to shoot a 3-D video. Close ups shot with too wide an interaxial, shots with major divergence, serious window violations, and lots of wide shots that looked like cardboard cutouts of cars. Every cut was jarring as the depth jumped all over the screen. None of this was helped by the fact that the headphones were tethered to the display below each screen, and forced viewers to stand only 3 feet away from a 50-inch TV. I watch a lot of 3-D, and this still hurt. The first video ended, and I hesitantly clicked to select the second one. This one was clearly not shot in 3-D, and appeared to have been run through an “automatic” conversion process, as it exhibited depth, but not very realistically, and in all the wrong places. Needless to say, I was very disappointed with Mazda. How many thousands of people watched these painful videos over the ten days of the auto show?

Sadly, the weakest link in the 3-D chain seems to be quality control. Digital technology has made it very easy to create 3-D images, and digital technology has made it very easy to screw up 3-D when people get lazy. At LA 3-D Club meetings, we have seen a huge surge in the number of entries in our digital photo competitions - greatly thanks to the availability of the Fujifilm W1 and W3 cameras - and we have seen a great increase in the number of entries with window violations and other stereo problems. It has become too easy for club members to simply point, shoot, and upload, using the small autostereoscopic screen on their cameras as their only guide. Without people taking the time to plan the depth prior to shooting, or to examine and adjust images before uploading to competitions, we have seen an observable drop in the overall quality of our entries.

In the same way, the use of simple to operate 3-D video cameras, such as the Panasonic 3DA-1 and the Sony NX3D1, by people who haven’t taken the time to learn these camera’s strengths and weaknesses, have led to a lot of professional videos that have very poor 3-D. I have been consulting for a major distributor of 3-D content, providing QC on videos prior to release, and have been finding many problems like those in the Mazda videos. In fact, I’ve also had to flag a few very high profile projects as unwatchable due to problems in the ways they were shot. Another big error that I’m seeing is the accidental editing of pseudostereoscopic shots into projects. It seems that editors are having a hard time keeping track of which clips are left-eye and which are right-eye, and I can only assume that many editors never get to see their work in 3-D as they edit, so they don’t realize their mistakes.

Theatrical exhibiton also has it’s share of problems due to a lack of QC. Who hasn’t been to a screening where the projector lamp is too dim, or the screen masking is cutting into the picture, destroying the floating windows? Last month I went to one theater to see a 3-D movie, and the digital projector was set to the wrong aspect ratio, stretching the image, and increasing the parallax. I complained to the projectionist, and was told that the movie had been shown that way for weeks. At another theater, I was greeted by the ticket seller who said “Now the movie is 3-D, is that okay?” as if knowing that fact might deter me from wanting to buy a ticket. Once in the auditorium, as the trailers played, I could see that the RealD polarizer was out of position, and was cropping off the side of the picture. Again I complained, they were clueless and had been showing the movie this way for a week. Several minutes later I watched through the projection port window as a pair of hands grabbed the Z-Screen frame and tugged on it until it moved an inch to the right. This fixed the cropping, but must have misaligned the optics in the polarizer, as there was now a slightly doubled image on part of the screen. I should have also complained about that, but I know no one would have understood me.

It’s very disheartening to see so much sub-standard stereo due to lack of information and education, and in many cases due to laziness. We need to take a stand for quality in 3-D creation and for quality in 3-D presentation, whether it’s in amateur photography or professional filmmaking, otherwise the quantity of bad stereoscopic content will bring about 3-D’s demise again.

Stepping off my soapbox now.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


OK Go's "All Is Not Lost" is a Grammy nominee for Best Music Video! I am so proud of my extremely talented friends, and so thrilled to have been the 3-D part of the team.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Couple Of Reasons To Be Optimistic

I recently attended two 3-D movie screenings on the same day. They were two very different movies, and two very different audiences, but they did share something in common - well known directors who have just made their first 3-D films, and are very enthusiastic about using stereo.
Martin Scorsese discusses Hugo
First, I went to a film industry screening of Hugo, the new narrative feature by Martin Scorsese. The movie itself is a stunningly beautiful love letter to early cinema, and in particular to the films of French silent film pioneer Georges Méliès. The production design by Scorsese's longtime collaborator Dante Ferretti is just gorgeous, combining the dreamlike period look of 1920's Paris with recurring themes of clockwork gears and steam powered machinery. And the film makes great use of stereoscopic depth to create atmosphere and bring the imagery to life in a way that totally supports the story. A highlight of the screening was the Q&A that followed with Scorsese and his principal crew. When an audience member asked Scorsese whether he thought 3-D had a future, or was just a fad, Scorsese answered with a brief lesson in film history. He reminded us that from the time pictures started to move, people wanted color, sound, big screens and depth. He explained that while Technicolor was perfected in 1935, it still took another 30 years for color to become the standard for use in more than just musicals and comedies (apparently, in the 40s and 50s, the studios felt that color wasn't appropriate for drama). He said that 3-D is regarded in a similar way now, but that filmmakers and people working in 3-D will get more inventive with it, and that ultimately he sees 3-D as another element he can use to tell a story. He pointed out that he was looking out at all of us in the theater in 3-D, that we all see the world in three dimensions, and that he looks forward to an eventual future where holographic actors can actually walk into the audience.
Wim Wenders introduces Pina
Right after the Hugo screening, I rushed over to the AFI Fest showing of Pina, director Wim Wenders 3-D documentary about the work of choreographer Pina Bausch. Bausch was a vanguard of modern dance, who died unexpectedly in 2009, and Wenders' film is a tribute to her vision and inspiration, as presented in dance by the members of her company. The film is truly amazing, and in my opinion is one of the finest examples of immersive stereoscopic filmmaking to date. Wenders' camera captures the dancers’ motion and puts us there with them, both on the stage and out in the world, allowing the audience to be more than simply observers. We share the dancers emotions, their yearning, and their love through their movements and through a brilliant use of space. Wenders was asked why he chose to make his film in 3-D, and he explained that he actually spent 20 years trying to make a film with Pina Bausch, but felt that he was never able to properly capture a true representation of her dancing, that it never looked the way he wanted it to on the screen. He said that he had given up until, in 2008, he saw U2 3D in a theater and realized that stereoscopic 3-D would give him the language he was missing. 3-D would allow a level of engagement that he couldn't get in 2-D. Pina could only be made in 3-D. And the audience at the screening seemed to agree. Even a self-proclaimed 3-D hater in the crowd stood up and told the director that this was the one film that should be 3-D. Personally, I was so moved by Pina, that I went to see it a second time two days later.

I came away from these two films with several thoughts. First, I have been suggesting for some time that while there has been a lot of discussions and industry workshops on 3-D technology, there needs to be more education on 3-D aesthetics. I strongly believe that good stereo is as much about the composition of objects in the frame and the volume of the empty space between them, as it is about setting proper interaxial and convergence. And these two films are great examples of that concept. Second, having shot several dance related music videos myself, I have been advocating that filmmakers wanting to work in 3-D should consult with choreographers to develop their blocking, because choreographers "get it" - they compose movement in space, they think in depth and volume, they understand the language of 3-D (architects also "get it", and would probably make good 3-D filmmakers). And third, I have a renewed hope that we will finally start to see 3-D films coming from Hollywood that are designed for stereo, where the depth is so integral to the storytelling that audiences will finally see stereo not as a gimmick, but as a necessity. It was great to hear Martin Scorsese embracing 3-D as another tool in his filmmaking palette. And after my second viewing of Pina, I approached Wim Wenders and thanked him for making a film with the potential to show a very wide audience that stereoscopic 3-D film is an artistic medium. He high-fived me.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

From the Make: Blog

I was featured on the Make: blog! This video is from the May 2011 Maker Faire.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Back to the Future

I’m writing this from the future. Really! I’m currently in Seoul, South Korea, where I am on the jury for the Seoul International Extreme Short Image and Film Festival’s 3-D category. The organizers of this festival, which celebrates all forms of short film, attended our 8th Annual LA 3-D Movie Festival back in May (where their submission “27 Years Later” was awarded the Jury Grand Prize), and very graciously invited me to attend their festival as their guest. So I am in the future - sixteen hours ahead of Los Angeles. Of course I’m not really able to see events that are yet to come; no winning lottery numbers or horses, and only my best guess as to where 3-D is headed.

At the end of last month, quite a few people were very interested in discussing the future of 3-D. The 3-D Entertainment Summit, held in Hollywood from September 20-22, was an opportunity for the stereoscopic motion picture and television industry to gather to discuss the state of 3-D cinema, television, mobile and internet. Conference highlights included a “state-of-the-industry” presentation that showed 3-D cinema continued to grow over the past year, with some 30,000 digital 3-D screens now installed in theaters worldwide; panel discussions on  3-D storytelling, distribution, and creating content for personal mobile devices, such as phones, tablets and handheld games; and a keynote presentation by James Cameron, still very bullish about the future of 3-D. Cameron voiced concern that the studios may scale back their 3-D production due to recent box-office disappointments, but felt confident that 3-D televison broadcasts would create a growth market for 3-D content creation. He also talked about lessons learned from the making of Avatar and the upcoming conversion of Titanic, admitting that if he were making Avatar today, he would be less conservative with the depth. Cameron said that the 3-D experience will continue to improve as artists take the reins of stereo from the technicians.

The 3-D Entertainment Summit also included a 3-D trade show, featuring booths and demonstrations from a wide range of companies, from production and post solutions, to electronics manufacturers, to companies that make designer 3-D polarized sunglasses. Thanks to the generosity of our friends at Strong/MDI Screen Systems, the LA 3-D Club was able to have a presence at the event. Benoit Maillout, of Strong/MDI, was unable to attend, and offered me the opportunity to operate his company’s table in his absence, and promote the club. There was quite a lot of interest from attendees, many of whom were learning of the club for the first time, and were enthusiastic to hear about our organization and how we bring together stereoscopic still photographers, filmmakers, and CGI artists; welcoming both amateurs and professionals to come together to share their knowledge and their images. SCSC member Shannon Benna joined me at the table to promote the launch of her new group, Stereo Sisters, a community for women working in 3-D.

So here I am, one week after the summit, sitting at a computer on the other side of the international date line, preparing to attend several screenings of international 3-D short films. And I can see that the current trend toward 3-D is truly a global occurrence. Many of those 30,000 3-D screens are in Asia and Europe, and independent artists from around the world are creating volumes of new stereoscopic content in a wide variety of media. I may not be able to see exactly what the future holds, but I hope it’s so bright, I gotta wear shades. Polarized 3-D shades, of course.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

One For The History Books

On Friday, August 26th, the LA 3-D Club teamed up with the Echo Park Film Center to present a special 3-D screening of the 1953 movie Robot Monster. The EPFC is a media arts cooperative dedicated to providing equal and affordable access to film/video education and resources. Throughout the year they offer free filmmaking classes for teens and seniors, and affordable workshops for adults, on many subjects including narrative and documentary filmmaking, digital editing, and 8mm and 16mm film (in March I taught a class there on 16mm Bolex 3-D). They have a film and video lending library, and camera and projection equipment available for rental. They hold regular screenings of all kinds of independent films, and they own a veggie-powered school bus known as the Filmmobile, an eco-friendly cinema and film school on wheels. During the summer months, the Filmmobile presents showings of classic movies at the locations around LA where they were shot, and our joint screening of Robot Monster was held in the Hollywood hills at the gates to the famous Bronson Cave, used in the film as Ro-man’s headquarters. Everyone in attendance had a good laugh at director Phil Tucker’s seriously bad dialogue, and it was great to see this 50’s 3-D stinker with an appreciative audience. I even put in a special appearance as Ro-Man

In order to show this movie, I had to reformat an old field-sequential dvd recording of a 1990’s era 3-D broadcast, as Robot Monster isn’t available on Blu-ray, and it got me thinking about the fact that most of the stereoscopic movies from the 1950s are not currently available in any 3-D format. In fact, aside from the two 3-D Expos held in 2003 and 2006 at LA’s Egyptian Theater, most people who weren’t around in the 50’s have never had an opportunity to properly watch these pictures from 3-D’s “Golden Age”. I would think, and hope, that with the advent of D-cinema and 3DTV the studios would look at their back libraries and re-release this content. It would seem like a no-brainer to take such classic films as House of Wax, The Creature From The Black Lagoon, Kiss Me Kate, and Dial M For Murder, and re-release them to a new generation. Unfortunately, the studios have not yet made these films available, nor have they announced any intentions to do so.

It really is a shame. Hollywood is trying very hard to produce good 3-D motion pictures, and everyone seems to be starting from scratch, trying to reinvent the wheel, and mostly disregarding the 3-D of the past as too primitive to be of any value. But I think there is a lot that could be learned from studying these films, and the methods used in their production. Yes, 60 years ago the camera rigs were big and cumbersome, their wide interaxials made it difficult to shoot close-ups, and the language of 3-D cinema was only in it’s infancy. Still, many of the films of that era demonstrate a brilliant use of the medium, their makers finding ingenious ways to work within the limitations of the technology to make beautiful images and tell amazing stories. I wish that it were mandatory that every filmmaker embarking on a 3-D project watch the 1953 movie Inferno, starring Robert Ryan and Rhonda Fleming, directed by Roy Ward Baker. This film demonstrates what well executed 3-D can bring to a serious drama - gorgeous stereoscopic expanses of desert, claustrophobic moments punctuated by a character’s inner monologue, and the great action of a climactic struggle during a raging fire. Today’s filmmakers need to be able to study and reference this and all of the other other classic 3-D films in order to see what worked, and what didn’t, and learn from those earlier efforts for 3-D cinema to have a viable future. After all, as philosopher George Santayana wrote in 1906, “when experience is not retained...infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Monday, August 15, 2011

This Time It's Personal

In July, I attended the National Stereoscopic Association annual convention, held this year in Loveland, Colorado. It was great to see so many familiar faces there, meet so many new people, and to get to see so many fantastic stereoscopic presentations. One thing that was very interesting to observe at this year's convention was that SO many attendees were using Fujifilm Finepix Real 3D W3 cameras. At one point we were asked how many people in the room had W3s, and I lost count of how many hands shot up, W3s held tightly in their palms. They appear to have become the 3-D camera of choice for many, and Fujifilm has been very supportive of the 3-D community. In fact, Fujifilm recently donated several of these cameras to the LA 3-D Club for our members to use at club events and outings. I have also recently noticed while attending industry trade shows, and even on production sets, that a lot of Hollywood 3-D professionals are also carrying Fujifilm W3s as their personal 3-D cameras. Many users site the convenient size, ability to shoot high quality 3-D stills, HD video, and the glasses-free 3-D screen as reasons to keep one handy. I know that I've found that in addition to being a very good camera, it makes a great playback device as well - I have my own films loaded onto my W3's memory card so that I can show people my work at a moment's notice on the autostereoscopic display.  Where just a few years ago there were no commercially available 3-D digital cameras, the Fujifilm W3 has definitely filled a niche market.

And now thanks to a flurry of new consumer devices, personal 3-D is going mainstream. This past March, Nintendo released its 3DS handheld game system, with a glasses-free screen, built in stereo camera (albeit low-res), and ability to play 3-D videos, as well as some incredibly cool augmented reality games that merge computer graphics with live stereo imagery. Last month HTC launched their EVO 3D phone on Sprint, also with an autostereoscopic screen, and built in HD 3-D camera, and this month AT&T enters the fray with the LG Thrill 4G, with similar specs, and the ability to upload and stream directly from Youtube's 3-D channel. Sony, JVC, and Panasonic all have consumer level stereoscopic camcorders on the market now. There have also been announcements of 3-D tablets hitting the shelves, 3-D portable media players and digital photo frames, and toymaker Hasbro has even come out with the My3D - an optical attachment that turns iPhones and iPods into digital stereo viewers.

And with personal portable 3-D viewers comes the need for 3-D content. Much will come from the Hollywood studios, and much will be user-generated via the cameras in these devices, and a great deal of truly innovative work will come from independent 3-D content creators. Two 3-D music videos that I shot for the band OK Go have already been licensed and distributed by Nintendo on their 3DS, and both the consumer electronics companies and the telcos are eager to launch their own 3-D streaming media channels. It excites me to see so many new possibilities for getting 3-D content into the hands of the masses, and so many opportunities for both experienced and aspiring 3-D photographers and filmmakers to create and share their work.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tim and Dan perform Star Wars in 3D

Back in January, 2011, Tim and Dan from OK Go performed a scene from Star Wars for a vaudeville-style comedy show in Hollywood. They played Darth Vader and Princess Leia live on stage, and all of the other characters were rear-projected in 3-D. Glasses were provided to the audience, and there was much laughter.

Now, here for your viewing enjoyment, we re-create the experience.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

New OK Go video on the Nintendo 3DS

All Is Not Lost - the new mind-blowing video from OK Go is available now in 3-D on the Nintendo 3DS. Here's some behind-the-scenes footage featuring the guy who brought the 3-D version to the screen.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The 3-D Blame Game

Lately, there seems to be a lot of doom and gloom around 3-D, with the news media heralding it's impending death - again.

There appears to be a constant barrage now of newspaper, magazine and blog articles focused on the  "public backlash" against 3-D movies. Most of these articles site the recent diminished percentage of 3-D ticket sales versus 2-D sales for the same motion picture releases. Typically, the blame is placed on the 3-D itself, assuming that audiences have tired of the 3-D "gimmick" that Hollywood has been foisting upon them. Stereo is being scapegoated as nothing but a money-making scheme by the studios, apparently with no artistic value.

The way I see it, there is an audience rebellion going on, but it's a backlash against mediocre cinema overall. 3-D doesn't make a bad movie better, and audiences are demonstrating that they no longer want to pay a premium price for a sub-par experience, and I don't blame them. The extra cost to attend a 3-D movie does make the stereo stand separate from the other technical and artistic aspects of the production, and makes it a target when the film doesn't live up to expectations. Mars Needs Moms was a bomb regardless of being 3-D, Pirates 4 was a poorly written sequel to an already tired series, and Green Lantern performed well below projected box office estimates in both 2-D and 3-D (while still coming in #1 at the box office during it's opening weekend, a full $20 million above the #2 picture, which to me says more about overall movie attendance than anything else). Saying that audiences no longer want to see 3-D based on poor performance of low quality movies, that happen to be in 3-D, is akin to shooting the messenger.

It would be just as easy to say that audiences no longer want to see movies with CGI effects, or with scored music. Or maybe the public just doesn't want to see any more movies with the word "Green" in the title, i.e. The Green Hornet and Green Lantern - Quick, Hollywood! Put The Green Mile 2; the prequel to Fried Green Tomatoes; and Soylent Green:The Musical  into immediate turnaround!

Seriously, though, how about just being able to pay a reasonable price for an excellent movie.

In 3-D.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Digital Cinema For The People

Last month’s 8th Annual LA 3-D Movie Festival was a huge success! We screened over 35 films in competition, held a special exhibition of student works from USC, CalArts, and the Echo Park Film Center, and presented a sidebar show of movies by Korean filmmakers. There was a conversation with Stereo VFX Supervisor Chuck Comisky, equipment demonstrations from festival sponsors 3D Film Factory and Ron James Film, a great Q&A with stereographer Brian Gardner following the screening of Coraline, and a spectacular closing night awards screening and party. I want to thank all of the incredibly talented filmmakers who submitted their work to be screened, the many club volunteers who worked so hard to make the festival happen, and everyone who came out to enjoy two days of the best indie 3-D content in the world.

And of course, a huge thank you to Jim Kirst and the staff of the Downtown Independent Theater. The Downtown Indie has been our monthly home for 3-D movie nights for almost two years now, and we’re looking forward to continuing our partnership with the theater to continue showing stereo content that you won’t see at any other venue. If anyone poked their head into the projection booth during the festival, you may have noticed the brand new Dolby digital cinema server and Barco 2K projector that was just installed a day before our show. This new equipment is brighter and has a higher resolution than the theater’s previous digital projection system, and allows the theater to show movies delivered as digital cinema packages, or DCPs - essentially a digital version of a film print - the digital format utilized by mainstream cinemas around the world. This gives the theater the ability to play more content from a wide variety of distributors.

A DCP is a specially mastered set of files - each frame of a movie is encoded into a jpeg2000 file, and the audio and video are saved as “essence” files within mxf wrappers, along with additional files that tell the server where to find each frame in those wrappers. DCP files can be encrypted by the distributor to require a special digital key in order to play on a specific server/projector. DCPs can support both 2-D and 3-D content, so I was very excited to hear that the theater had purchased this equipment.

Now, running d-cinema 3-D requires some additional bells and whistles to provide left and right polarized images from a single projector configuration, and unfortunately, this extra equipment wasn’t part of the theater’s package, so we weren’t able to use it to show 3-D content during the festival. The theater asked me for advice on adding 3-D capabilities to the new system, so I introduced them to Chris Ward of Lightspeed Design, the company behind the DepthQ electronic polarization modulator - an LCD panel placed in from of the projection lens, which polarizes the light, rapidly switching 144 times a second between opposing circular polarizations in synch to the left and right frames being projected. One week later, the DepthQ modulator was installed and ready to use. This device, in conjunction with the theaters new server and projector, and the LA 3-D Club’s silver screen, provide all of the pieces for true 3-D digital cinema at the theater, and at our future screening events.

I can’t wait for next year’s 9th Annual LA 3-D Movie Fest!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

In The Merry Month of May

May is a very busy month for the LA 3-D Club. On May 14th and 15th we will be presenting the 8th Annual LA 3-D Movie Festival. This year’s festival promises to be an amazing event. We’ve received some fantastic 3-D films from all over the world, which will be shown in two blocks on Saturday afternoon. These films will be competing for some great prizes, including copies of Sony Vegas Pro 10 editing software, a camera rig and training course from 3-D FIlm Factory, and, of course, the coveted LA 3-D Club Ro-Man trophy. We are very pleased to have Chuck Comisky, 3-D Stereo VFX Supervisor of Avatar, as our special guest speaker. Mr. Comisky will also be sitting on our competition jury, along with our other esteemed judges, Buzz Hays, senior vice president of the 3D Technology Center at Sony, and David Wilson, founder of the Museum of Jurassic Technology. The program will also include a 3-D feature film on Saturday night, a free showcase of student produced 3-D films and free equipment demonstrations on Sunday afternoon, and an awards ceremony screening and reception on Sunday evening.  Passes to the festival are $30, and SCSC members can get a $10 discount by using the password “Holmes” when purchasing. For more up to the minute information about the festival, and to purchase passes and merchandise, visit the website LA3DFest.com

At our general meeting on May 19th, we’ll be holding the final photography competition of the 2010-11 member year, we will also be hosting the last International Stereo Club Competition (ISCC) of the season. The ISCC is a competiton open to an international roster of Photographic Society of America stereo division member clubs, and includes the best images from each organization. The images at the May meeting should look fantastic thanks to a brand new screen, which was generously donated to the club by Mr. Benoit Mailloux, President of Strong/MDI, a leading manufacturer of cinema screens. We’re thrilled to have such a high quality silver screen to use at our meetings.

May 20 and 21st, the club will be in San Mateo, CA, for the Bay Area Maker Faire - the world’s largest festival of DIY. Art, craft, science and technology are all represented at Maker Faire - there’s everything from flame-throwing robots and cupcake cars, to musical tesla coils. Once again, the club will be curating a 3-D Village area, which will feature an LA 3-D Club booth where members will be demonstrating stereo photography and video techniques, and showing their work. Other exhibits will include Barry Rothstein’s phantograms, my own 3-DIY camera rigs and displays, and a bunch of other participating exhibitors with interesting 3-D related inventions. It’s an incredible event, and my words don’t really do it justice. I would encourage everyone to make the pilgrimage to San Francisco that weekend to attend - you won’t regret it. Information is online at makerfaire.com

A very busy month indeed. And, as always, you can get the latest information on 3-D events and the club’s activities at our website LA3DClub.com

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Secret Project With Ok Go - Part II

Several months ago I wrote about the secret 3-D video that I shot for the band OK Go. Well there is some exciting news to report. In February, I received an email from the band's management, asking if I could format the 3-D video files to some specifications provided by videogame maker Nintendo. I prepared the files as requested and sent them off, curious as to what Nintendo was going to do with them. I soon found out that Nintendo had signed a deal with OK Go to include the video with the launch of the new autostereoscopic 3-D hand-held game system, the 3DS.

In mid-March, the band and I were invited to a private pre-release demonstration of the 3DS in Hollywood. I arrived at the demo location and met the Nintendo representative, who introduced to me the 3DS handheld electronic game and its human bodyguard (seriously, it had a bodyguard. My plan to "grab and run" was thwarted!). The 3DS itself is a small handheld game system that opens like a clamshell to reveal two screens. The lower screen is a touchscreen for controlling the device, and the upper screen is a 4-inch diagonal autostereoscopic screen for displaying 3-D games and content to a single user. According to reports, the screen uses a parallax barrier technology developed by Sharp Electronics to deliver a 400x240 left and right image to each respective eye. I was handed the 3DS, and found the screen's "sweet spot", centered about 18 inches away from my face. The Nintendo people wanted to show me some games first. They activated the 3DS' stereo cameras - yes that's right, the 3DS has a pair of cameras built into it for shooting 3-D. At only 640x480 pixels it's no replacement for a Fujifilm W3, and right now you can shoot stills with this, but not video. Once activated I could see the live view in stereo on the 3DS screen. They placed a card on the table and asked me to point the game at the card. The 3DS prompted me to position myself to where it could read a tracking mark printed on the card, and once it locked in the game began creating a world of augmented reality on my screen. I played a game where I shot at a dragon that was virtually coming out of a hole in the tabletop. My goal was to find the dragons weak spot by circling around the tabletop. This was very cool. In another game demo, the 3DS wrapped a photo of my face onto "beachballs" that attacked me head-on in the 3-D room-space onscreen. This was a new gaming experience for me, and the 3-D really enhanced it. A "depth slider" to the side of the screen allowed me to dial in the amount of depth displayed by the CG elements on the screen, and I could turn it off completely if I desired. I was given several other demos of the screen's rendering capabilities, and was so far impressed.

But, of course, what I really wanted to see was the video. A tap on the touchscreen to launch, and White Knuckles 3-D began playing in all of it's "dogs and buckets" glory. The image on the glasses-free screen looked bright, and the depth worked perfectly. I was very happy. I watched it again - there was something rather addictive about holding a 3-D video player in your hands and watching it without glasses. I gave the Nintendo rep my approval. By this time Dan Konopka, OK Go's drummer, had also arrived at the demo, and was also enjoying the video. Special props to Dan for what happened next - he told the Nintendo people that they needed to include credits at the end of the video to recognized the people who made it, and they agreed to add that for the release. the demonstration was over, and the 3DS was sealed into it's protective briefcase, and handcuffed to the bodyguard, who was racing off to the airport to fly it to another demo (okay, there weren't really handcuffs, but it was locked into a briefcase).

Fast forward nearly two weeks, and Nintendo put out a press release announcing that when the 3DS is released on March 27th, the OK Go video will be part of the first system update.  It was confirmed, so now I needed to own a 3DS. I found myself standing in line at the Best Buy in West Hollywood, at midnight on a Saturday night, to be one of the first to get my hands on one I got the device home, charged the battery, and powered it up. The screen looked just as I remembered from the demo - so far so good. A simple wifi connection to the internet, and I was downloading the system firmware update that would add White Knuckles to the menu. Several minutes later, and there it was.

For those of you who don't have a 3DS, here is what the experience is like as shot with my stereo camera rig:

Nintendo states that the video is only available for a limited time, and will be deleted when they release a future system update. I'm going to permanently turn off the wifi, so I'll always have it saved, and ready to watch at a moments' notice.

Click Here to read Part I from November, 2010

Thursday, March 24, 2011

It's Official: White Knuckles 3-D on 3DS

The 3-D music video that I shot for OK Go will be the first music video available for the new Nintendo 3DS when it launches this coming Sunday, March 27th.  The video was shot in true 3-DIY style (see my previous post), and will be viewed by millions of people this weekend!

From Nintendo's press release:

OK Go's 'White Knuckles' Music Video Jumps onto 3DS  - in 3D

March 24, 2011
The new nintendogs™ + cats game won't contain the only furry animals running around the Nintendo 3DS™ system when it launches on March 27. Users who perform a system update will get access to a 3D version of the "White Knuckles" music video by OK Go. The single-take video, which features a bevy of adorable rescue dogs (and one goat), has been viewed more than 9.3 million times on YouTube. OK Go is known for its creative, one-of-a-kind videos, and the glasses-free 3D technology of Nintendo 3DS creates an entirely new experience by introducing a new dimension to the dogs and band members.

"We shot the 'White Knuckles' video in 2D and 3D at the same time, but until now, there hasn't been much opportunity for people to see the 3D version," said Trish Sie, the video's Grammy-winning director. "I'm fired up for people to watch the video again with Nintendo 3DS and experience it in a whole new way. This opens up all kinds of creative opportunities."

The recommended system update, which is now available, also enhances the communication features of the Nintendo 3DS system. To perform the update, users simply start the "System Settings" from the Home Menu, select "Other Settings" and scroll the page right to select "System Update."

Nintendo 3DS launches in the United States on March 27 at a suggested retail price of $249.99. For more information about Nintendo 3DS, visit http://www.nintendo3ds.com/.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Announcing the 8th Annual LA 3-D Movie Festival

I'm excited to announce that the 2011 edition of the SCSC's Los Angeles 3-D Movie Festival will take place at the Downtown Independent Theater in May. This will mark the eighth time that the LA 3-D Club has presented an international competition of independent 3-D films, in what has now become an annual event.

A little history - Back in March, 1997, the club held its "First Ever 3-D Movie Competition" followed in June, 1998 by the "2nd Ever". The following year saw the "3rd Ever" in August of 1999, and then the club took a break from the movie competitions for a few years. While these competitions all took place several years before I attended my first SCSC meeting, I have had the pleasure of viewing many of the entries from those events on the SCSC DVD, where they are presented in field-sequential 3-D (It would be great to someday soon get new HD transfers of these films).

I first participated in the "4th Ever" competition, held in May, 2005, with the first 3-D video that I ever made, a piece called "Shooting Star" that was shot using a NuView lens attachment. The event was held at the Longley Way School in Arcadia, California, which served as the meeting place for the SCSC Movie Division. By the time of the "5th Ever" in May, 2007, I had begun doing digital projection for the Movie Division meetings, and the competition saw a great selection of digitally produced videos, including Ray Zone's "Slow Glass" and Tom Koester's "Towers of Simon Rodia".

2007 also saw the introduction of the much coveted Ro-Man Award trophies, which are presented to the winning filmmakers. Over the years, the panel of judges who bestow these awards has included such luminaries as Lenny Lipton, Phil McNally, Chris Condon, Dan Symmes, Bob Burns, John Rupkalvis, and Thomas Jane, to name just a few.

The "6th Ever" competition was held at the Longley Way School in May, 2009, and featured an international selection of entries from around the world, including movies from Japan, Germany, France, Colombia, and The Netherlands. It also saw the premiere of Sean Isroelit and Jeff Amaral's award winning short film "The Caretaker" starring Dick Van Dyke.

By the time of the "6th Ever", we had started taking our show on the road to present at film festivals. Selections from LA 3-D Club move competitions were presented at the Big Bear Lake International Film Festival, and at the Paso Robles Digital Film Festival's 3-D Indie Film Expo. Shortly after our event, in August, 2009, we were invited to present a screening of 3-D movies at the Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival, and we were introduced to Jim Kirst and the Downtown Independent Theater, which quickly became the new home of the Movie Division.

By the end of 2009, we had equipped the theater with a pair of dual polarized projectors and a silver screen courtesy of USC, and were planning to begin our monthly curated 3-D nights. The rapid growth of independent 3-D production, and our partnership with such a great new venue made it the right time to rename our competition and make it an annual event. The 7th Annual Los Angeles 3-D Movie Festival was presented on May 15th, 2010 to a record turnout, and featured two blocks of independent 3-D films in competition and a special screening of the feature film "Dark Country", complete with a Q&A with director/actor Thomas Jane and actor Ron Perlman. The festival was a resounding success, and proved to be both a great time and a positive fund-raiser for the club.

Which brings us to the present, and the 8th Annual LA 3-D Movie Fest. The call for entries is now open, and the festival is scheduled to be held over two days, May 14-15, 2011. I invite everyone who is shooting 3-D films to submit their work, and I encourage members of the club to volunteer to help make this year's festival the best one yet! Details are available online at both www.LA3DClub.com and www.LA3DFest.com

Special thanks to John Hart, SCSC Movie Chairman Emeritus and Lifetime SCSC Member for his assistance with the history of the movie competitions.

Friday, January 7, 2011

3DTV Abandonment Issues (Don't Try This At Home!)

In February of 2008 the power supply in my eleven-year-old TV died, and I found myself in the market for a new set. At that time, both Samsung and Mitsubishi were quietly selling 3-D ready rear-projection TVs based on Texas Instruments' DLP chip, which worked by projecting alternating left and right frames at 120Hz. These TVs required that content be formatted into a checkerboard pattern of L-R-L-R pixels which would be separated inside the TV for the DLP's wobulating micro-mirror array to display. At the time, the only way to play this format of 3-D was via a computer connected to the TV's HDMI port, and using specialized 3-D playback software such as Peter Wimmer's Stereoscopic Player or DDD's TriDef player. The level of technical knowledge necessary to make this all work together put it out of the realm of the casual consumer. But I needed a new TV, I had the tech savvy to make it work, and I already had 25 pairs of active LCD shutterglasses that I scored on Ebay for $1 each (They were listed as “3-D glasses that don't work with Spy Kids”) So I bit the bullet and puchased a 56” Samsung.

Fast forward almost three years to the present, and nearly every major consumer electronics company is aggressively marketing a 3DTV. Most are LCD based, a few are plasma, and only Mitsubishi is still using the DLP technology. 3-D content is now available through satellite and cable TV, Blu-ray disc, streaming internet sites, and even game systems like the Sony Playstation3. This is great for those buying new TVs, as they can now easily waitch 3-D at home, but not so great for us early adopters as most, if not all of the new hardware offers no support for the checkerboard pattern required by the first generation "3-D ready” sets. (Panasonic actually does make one Blu-ray3D player with checkerboard output). In the current 3-D standard, broadcast content is delivered in either a side-by-side or over/under squeezed format (to be "frame-compatible" with current broadcast bandwidth limitations), and full HD Blu-ray3D is in a multi-view encoded file format. Neither of these formats are directly playable in 3-D on the older TVs.

So what is a DLP owner to do?

Fortunately, Mitsubishi decided to support their existing base of 3DTV users by releasing a converter box that translates the current 3-D formats into the older checkboard (Mitsubishi's new DLP TVs will have this function built in). Unfortunately, Samsung did not follow the same path. They no longer produce DLP-based TVs, and chose to abandon their existing customers by not offering any support to make their older sets work with today's devices. In addition, because the Mitsubishi converter reads the EDID identification code of the TV to which it's connected, and will only activate when connected to their own company's products, the Mitsubishi converter will not work on Samsung televisions. At least, it's not supposed to.

Some intensive internet searching turned up a potential solution. A discussion on the AV Science Forum website described a method to hack a Samsung TV so that it will work with the Mitsubishi converter box. It required jumping through some very technical hoops, and potentially turning the TV into a giant paperweight, so I proceeded with caution. I followed the online instructions – setting my TV into service mode, connecting my laptop PC to the HDMI port, and using a program called Powerstrip to write a new EDID code into the TVs memory. And it worked! Now, when I connect the converter box, the TV identifies itself as a Mitsubishi 3DTV, and the box goes into 3-D mode. For video playback, I'm using a device made by Western Digital, called the WDTV Live Media Player. This small box connects to my home network and also allows me to play files directly from flash drives, hard drives, and the internet. I am now able to watch my collected archive of 3-D video files and also stream 3-D video from Youtube, and everything looks fantastic - on my nearly-three-year-old, unsupported TV.

Of course, neither Samsung nor Mitsubishi endorse hacking your TV in this way. The consumer electronics companies would much rather sell you a brand-spanking new TV...and blu-ray player, and AV receiver, and proprietary glasses. Don't even get me started on the glasses...