By Rob Ferraz
The return of 3D is coming soon to a theatre near you, thanks in part to some made in Toronto technology.
Bill White and William Reeve of Toronto’s 3D Camera Company joined forces with Arri Canada last year to create a lightweight 3D camera rig called the 3D Arri 235 system. According to their <a href="http://www.3dcameracompany.com">web site</a>: <em>“The unit consists of fully synchronized pairs of new ARRI action cameras that are specifically modified and mounted on a convergence system to control stereoscopic depth. All the 3D parameters can be adjusted on the fly.”</em>
Sebastien Laffoux of <a href="http://www.arrican.com">Arri Canada</a> says the modified camera was put together on very short notice, taking three months to complete. "It’s one of the many tools that will be used from now on to shoot 3D,” he says.
Laffoux adds that what makes the new system special is the size and the quality of the images. He compares its weight of 50 pounds to that of the Imax camera, which is 350 pounds. “It broke the limitations of the Imax domain,” he says, referring to the system’s capabilities for handheld and steadicam use.
“What’s unique about what they have is that it’s very small and it’s customized in such a way that it behaves as one camera . . . It saves a hell of a lot of time and also when the negs get to the lab it’s a lot easier to manage because the frames are matching,” he says. “It streamlines the production workflow but it keeps the quality of 35mm. 35, today, is the only way to record true 4K images. That’s the strength; that’s why they’re able to blow it up to Imax and have decent results. “
The rig was used on the Imax feature <em>Dinosaurs Alive</em>, which was shot last year in the Gobi Desert. They had originally planned to use the camera for 10 per cent of the shoot but it worked so well that it was used for half the feature.
Currently White is partnering with filmmaker Hagan Carlile on the 3D feature <em>The Last Headhunters</em>. The film follows the exploits of William Jamieson, a leading tribal art collector. “It’s Indiana Jones meets P.T. Barnum meets <em>Ripley’s Believe it or Not</em>,” Carlile says. He and White plan to eventually parlay the film into a television show.
Both agree that there’s no mistaking 3D is the way of the future. White points to technological changes in exhibition that are paving the way for the format. He says there’s a worldwide change going on to convert to digital projectors in theatrical settings. “Basically every digital projection system being installed in the conventional theatres can be 3D capable,” he says. “Studios are putting a lot of money behind 3D now because they think it’s a new experience for the audience and it’ll get them back into the cinemas.”
Carlile concurs. “The cinematic potential is unparalleled. For filmmakers right now, it’s so exciting. What 3D is going to give is a whole new experience for the audience. And it really is quite powerful.”
When asked “Why 3D?” Laffoux simply replies: “Once you see the images that are produced and projected, the question is answered.”
As to why 3D has failed to catch on in a significant way in the past, White points to the lack of technology, cumbersome set-ups for exhibitors and eye-strained audiences.
Now films are projected through a single lens projector. “The audience wears passive round circular polarized glasses which are extremely comfortable and basically produce no significant eye strain,” Carlile says. “They’ve perfected the polarizing filters for 3D.”
This, of course, means the films can go beyond 40-50 minutes without the audience getting nauseous.
White believes that moviegoers are ready for the new experience. He points to the example of the 2005 animated feature <em>Chicken Little</em>, which had a limited 3D release. “Twenty percent of the revenue was achieved in two percent of the theatres, which were showing it in 3D,” he says.
With directors like James Cameron, Robert Zemeckis and Peter Jackson firmly behind the shift to 3D, it seems destined to succeed. And if that’s not enough, Cameron’s $200 million sci-fi epic, <em>Avatar</em>, will be released solely in 3D in 2009, whether theatres are ready for it or not.