There has been a lot of press during the last year or so reporting on the successes of 3D in the cinema. You will note, however, that all of the offerings to date have been animations. There is a reason for this: even with digital technologies, it is technically easier to create an animated 3D film than a live action 3D film.
Insight Media Consultant
Well, the time has come and Hollywood is about ready to show off the results of their first digitally-captured stereoscopic live action feature film effort. It is New Line Cinema and Walden Media’s "Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D". The movie is loosely based on the original Jules Verne story and is slated for release on July 11, 2008.
In order to create 3D digital cinema content, stereoscopic images must be created. While the technology to create these images has indeed advanced, 3D image capture is still found to create unique problems. Reflecting on the process of creating the film, Jonas Thayler, Vice President of Post Production AFG/Walden Media stated, "At the end of the post production workflow, much of which we designed ourselves, we found we needed more sophisticated noise reduction than our tools could provide."
This statement touches upon the point of this article: 50+ years after the first 3D movies, these are still early days in the history of the 3D cinema. The unique processes and equipment required to film live action 3D are still under development and practitioners in the art are still developing the required procedures.
To deliver an excellent 3D experience, one of the main challenges is to create left eye and right eye images which are identical in every way except for their perspective. To accomplish this, cameras that are separated by a few inches are needed to capture images. In the case of "Journey", the cameras used were James Cameron’s new Fusion camera system. The few-inch separation is dictated by the need to emulate the separation of human eyes. When the left and right eye images are matched, the 3D is easy to watch and quite believable, but accomplishing this level of consistency is no easy task. As a practical matter, the as photographed left eye and right eye images are always different. This is because two different cameras shooting through two different sets of optics capture them. The resulting differences between the raw images manifest themselves as imbalances in image qualities including color, video noise and sharpness level.
In the case of "Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D" Oscar-nominated and FX Specialist Director Eric Brevig, retained DTS Digital Images (Agoura Hills, California, www.dts.com) to address 3D image issues. The company responded by applying unique imaging algorithms to a number of the most problematic sections of the movie. In particular, the filmmakers had numerous shots that were substantially enlarged during post-production. This meant that the blow-ups did not match adjacent shots because the blow-up process made them look much noisier and much less sharp. DTS Digital Images applied unique noise reduction and detail enhancement technologies to create a seamless look from one shot to the next.
The movie recently previewed at the ShoWest conference in Las Vegas. You can Google the movie title and read reviews posted by others regarding the quality of the 3D technology and the movie (Also see Chris Chinnock’s comments on this and other developments at ShoWest in his March 13 Display Daily article (http://displaydaily.com/2008/03/13/3d-dominates-showest/). For me: I loved the original 1960 version of "Journey to the Center of the Earth", although by today’s standards it is seriously hokey. But the kid part of me can’t wait to see Hollywood’s latest effort. On the other hand, the grown up, engineer part of me can’t wait to see and evaluate the 3D technology and determine how it adds to the cinematic experience. Such conflicts! Stay tuned to Insight Media publications to read our verdict.