Sunday, March 10, 2013

My 3D Experience

  Wick recently suggested a post involving 3D and how it affects us as Dolly Grips. To be honest, I don't have that much experience with it. A couple of years ago, the powers that be on a series I was doing decided to that we should reshoot a scene we had already done from the current episode. Only we were going to redo it in 3D.  So, all of us gathered on a Saturday to take a half-day seminar by the 3D techs (nerds) to better acquaint us with what was coming. I found the whole thing very interesting. We learned about "Convergence Points" and "Racking Convergence" and "Neutral Zones"  and basically a lot of very compelling things with cool Star Trek names. I don't remember much of it at this point (let's be honest, my eyes started glazing over at the first mention of "points of convergence.") So we all learned a great deal about 3D, but I was concerned about the nuts and bolts, which would directly affect me.
   I don't recall when exactly the shoot was, but I think it was after an intentionally short day. My first thought upon seeing the huge 3D rig was something along the lines of, "Oh $%&*." This thing was huge. It was a large red case of about 3' high by 2' wide. While interested, I was also wondering how I had suddenly stepped back into the 40's with blimped Mitchell cameras. I then began to consult with the director and operator about recreating the shots we had done in regular 2D a few days before. The first shot was a dolly through a doorway. And therein was the first snag. "Unless you want the lens at four feet high or take the top of the door out, we can't do it," I told the operator. So, we compromised. This was not the first compromise of the day. I then discovered that all the dance floor had to be double laid because the rig was so top heavy that every seam was transmitted through the arm, resulting in a dolly move not unlike what one would see while dollying on a dirt road or doing really bad handheld. So, we brought in more plywood. The next snag was when we needed to place the camera high and wide in a corner of the room. Again, the rig made it impossible to get high or wide enough to get the exact shot we needed. So we compromised. Later, we needed to go into low mode. I soon discovered that this doesn't work either without orienting the dolly the only way it will work, to the side, making the shot we wanted to do impossible because of the geography of the room. So we compromised. By the end of the day, we had spent at least seven hours reshooting a scene that took around four to shoot originally And I was exhausted from double laying everything and constantly redoing things which we discovered didn't work. "I don't know how anyone ever finishes one of these things," I thought. Then, I thought, it's just a different piece of equipment. You adapt. We've gotten so used to cameras and equipment that are streamlined for camera placement and movement, that you truly do have to put put yourself back in the age of Citizen Kane, when the cameras were huge, to make it work.
   Again, this is only my short experience. After all the compromises, the final product, when I saw it, was extraordinary. It looked fantastic. But I don't think I would want to do it for four months.

  Many of you have much more experience that I do with this technology. I know Gil has done at least one whole feature in 3D and many more of you probably have as well. What are your experiences? What tips can you give the rest of us?


Onno said...

Hi D,

I have been following you for a long time now. I cannot think of a subject you have not covered yet. Well done !!

I do not want to disencourage you but you have said it all, the only thing you could do is repeat the subjects which are related to your day2day job and what happens on a regular day.

It is like ballet-dancing, the technique stays the same, the Swanlake story stays the same, the differences are made in the trade of the performance.

Being a dollygrip is a trade with a true performance, the job does not change, the performance does. There is no innovation done on the trade, only some new tools, style or hype.

So that your wellspring of subjects is dry seems to me logical. I would suggest to spreaden your subject range. From what I have seen you have a lot visitors around the world. Most of them keep silent on subject suggestions. What does make them come to visit you? Why do they visit the website on a regular base and keep reading? It is like a community, ww. DG are looking for fellows who are in the same passionated sh!t. I have been around and found out that all the DG are the same, ww. You are in the position to bond them, making friends.

Maybe you can widen you range by writing on more info on grip, give people the ability to url their makingof's, howto's, get more of your well put stories from the set, insight on rigs from riggers, equipment-evaluation,

Btw, it would not hurt you, or others to do a rewrite and a repost of the older subjects :-) repeating posts do not decrease their importance.

You have a very nice style in writing, passionated yet understandable and you can get more out of it, I am sure.


DollyGrip / KeyGrip / manufacturing :-)


Wick said...

Boy was this a non-starter idea. Sorry, D. The avalanche of responses tell me all I really want to know about 3-D.

D said...

Thanks Onno!

Wick- It's totally cool man. I thought it was a good idea. A lot of people read who don't comment. Keep em coming.

British Grip said...

My first experience in 3D was on a low budget short a couple of years back, shot on a weekend for the DOP as a test. It was hard, the rig was massive. It tested the Hybrid to the extreme, it was more or less at its limit to lift that rig. We left the PeeWee in the truck.
A year or so passed and suddenly 3D was the big thing. I found myself working many dailies and small units on 3 or 4 3D pictures at once. The rigs are still massive. The nerds keep trying to use different cameras on them, apparently hoping one or the other will solve all the problems. People keep thinking you can do all the normal stuff with them. They end up on Steadicam, we get asked to rig them on cranes and underwater and everywhere else and it just is no fun at all. There was a reason there was little camera movement and a limited choice of angles in all those old movies, and as D says you have to adapt that old fashioned mindset.
Very little equipment is designed with this weight capacity in mind. On Technocranes we have to put specially made double weights on in place of the first 2 or 3 in the stack. It's not just the weight of the rig, but also the weight of a remote head that is man enough to deal with the rig obviously.
Then there are the problems of trying to shoot for the 3D and 2D version together. You operator asks you to place the dolly or crane in the centre of a large room. Fine so you centre the rig, the centre point of the two lenses. You keep getting told you are off centre, until you gently remind the operator that he is only looking at the right eye image and this shot can't be centred in both 2D and 3D so you compromise. Then just as you find a good centreline and start some rehearsals, the nerds adjust the interocular and as only one of the bodies moves, the centre changes during the shot.
A couple of weeks back I was on another 3D movie. It's a couple of years down the line now and if anything the latest rig is the heaviest by far. And it still doesn't work properly and needs near constant fettling from the nerds.
Sorry if that was a bit rambling, I've done a fair bit of 3D. All in all, the whole thing is a real pain to deal with. Everything is extremely heavy (when you get asked to carry the Steadicam, it's about 80lbs and you can't put it over your shoulder or the top could snap off), everything takes longer, the gear breaks down regularly, the nerds and many of the directors and even DOPs don't understand the problems, and everything is a compromise.

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