Donnerstag, 5. November 2009

Bella Dimensioni and the how the Quest started

Here you can view a snippet of my degree project which i worked on from February until June 2009. Making 3D happen.

Bella Dimensioni (just the middle section) from Philipp Linz on Vimeo.

Three months ago, Ryan Martel and I started a research project exploring the aesthetics of the three dimensional stereoscopic image. We explored the creative process, which filmmakers of stereoscopic film have to go through. We found that productions that involved real domestic stories and imagery were and still are sidelined for spectacular entertainment. If 3-D was ever to succeed as a new television format, these points have to be explored and discussed in detail. It was our ambition to create a three dimensional image to which an audience can relate to on a domestic level. But also explore the possibilities and restrictions, which one has to be aware of when creating a 3-D film, compared to the established two-dimensional way of filming. The process of making a 3-D film from start to finish had to be explored and tried out. This is a challenge, from the pre production phase of knowing the composition of a working 3-D image, to the filming with two aligned cameras, to the post- production phase of editing on equipment that was purposely made for two-dimensional editing.
3-D films have never experienced great popularity, which 2-D movies have. The aim of this research project is to establish what the reasons behind the failing of this new format were and might still be. By analyzing the possibilities, which stereo filming brings with it but also looking at its restrictions. Moviemakers have to understand how to create a 3-D movie, which will work in 3-D as well as in 2-D, whereas a movie shot in 2-D may not lend itself for recreation into 3-D.
What is it that makes a 3-D film successful and what are the reasons behind it? What is the reasoning behind inventing the technology to allow stereoscopic broadcasts on television, if the standardized formats that exist on television right now cannot be adapted into 3-D?
Nature documentaries are a success on the 3D screen. Movies such as Bugs 3-D and Under the sea were audience magnets, however television dramas, investigative documentaries, soaps, news and current affairs are just a few formats of many, which would have to be looked at in detail to see whether they would work in 3D or not. What are the issues one has to look at? As well as many other hurdles that need to be overcome in the process of making a programme for a 3-D TV channel, the most important issue will be the composition of the image. The aim of this project is also to establish what 3D stands for and how the different dimensional grounds have to be used. The foreground and background as well as everything that is placed in between the two, need to work in conjunction with wide shots, mid shots and close ups used in the production. Some assets of filming in the conventional two dimensional way may not have the capable effect in 3-D, such as an object that is out of focus in the foreground or vice versa.

The first step of achieving our aims, was to establish first of all how 3-D works and how one has to go about in order to achieve a three dimensional image. The only knowledge of creating 3-D we had, was the need for two cameras. One camera representing and filming what the right eye will see and the left would do the same for the left eye. On 16th February 2009 the Broadcast Live convention took place in London and we went to speak to as many professionals in the field of 3-D as we possibly could. However, after having returned, it was clear to us that the artists or the inventors were very reluctant to speak to us and to give us information. People contradicted each other and did not sing from the same hymn sheet, as would probably not be the case with professionals from the 2-D sector when asked simple questions about their field of expertise. We had realized that the only way of achieving 3-D images in true colour was by experimenting ourselves. Our suspicion that there is not one wrong or right way of filming in stereo, is a view supported by Simon Robinson, co-founder of the Foundry, a visual effect and image processing company, who says that: “…there isn’t yet an established grammar for what can and cant be done in stereo.”
Because it was only two of us working on this project, the jobs each of us took on, spanned across many areas of production. Because it was not just the production work, which had to be covered but the research and the actual making of the camera rigs, the projection system and the projection screen, we believed that the best possible outcome would be if we did everything in the pre-production phase together, in order to progress together, establish and fix problems as a team too. On the 25th April 2009 our teamwork came to a tragic end and I continued with this research project by myself. Of course the amount of different jobs to juggle by myself were greater than expected, which meant that I had to adapt and work under the given circumstances to complete the project. The job of editing would under normal circumstances not have been my job, dew to the tragic event however I had to manage every part of this project.
It was the objective all along to create moving imagery, which looks at the day-to-day life of the 21st Century modern day citizen, the daily encounters with the mechanical and the human. The original idea had been to not only to explore the possibilities of filming in 3-D with 2 DV cameras but also with mobile phones, webcams and surveillance cameras. It took a long time to work out whether it was possible to film with two mobile phone and two webcams of a kind, even though the images are showing potential of three- dimensionality, the two mobile phone cameras were too different from each other. The light and colour differences were to big on these 5 megapixel cameras. With the webcams, I experienced the same issues, even though the cameras were better than the ones of the mobiles, light intensity was the main problem once again. When shooting in stereo 3D, a very important part to it is that both cameras used operate exactly the same way. The two surveillance cameras, which were also tried out, delivered great stereoscopic imagery. The two high spec colour cameras were mounted on an externally controlled motor head, with the interaxial space of 65 millimetres. The distance the cameras are placed away from each other is a crucial part when filming in stereo. The space between the camera lenses is modelled on the average distance of the human eyes. If the cameras are placed too far apart from each other, the risk is, that the object filmed may be either cut off or only visible in one eye. When however big objects in distance are filmed, such as mountains, valleys or towns a bigger interaxial distance is recommended. However, here we have also encountered a big problem, when the distance between the eyes is moving outwards; the filmed image shrinks and gets smaller, giving the impression of a scaled down model of the object. The reasoning behind my decision not to use the surveillance cameras was the amount of effort, which would have been involved in the logistics of moving and running the camera pair. When taking it on location, the camera set up needed to be transported in a truck and powered by a generator. The amount of effort involved in moving and setting it up proved to be very time consuming, too much so that I had to decide to leave the surveillance cameras out of the production too. The two cameras which were left, was a pair of Sony HVR-A1E DV Camcorders, which were small enough to be fitted side by of each other, with a 65 millimetre distance between the central points of the two lenses onto a piece of metal on the bottom of which was a tri pod plate, for easy attach and detachment on to and from a tri pod. In his book Stereoscopic Cinema, a study in depth, Lenny Lipton explains why this is the best possible way of filming in stereo and why ay other method…”has severe limitations, they produce a peculiar vertical field, they are limited to a fixed interaxial distance, and they do not work well with wide-angle lenses.”
Since each of the two cameras had their control buttons fitted to the right side of the casing, it was impossible to function the controls manually. Another issue that had to be dealt with was the one of manually focusing and zooming. Since the cameras were not remote controlled it was impossible for the focus to be exactly the same for both the cameras. This is why I had to rely on the cameras automatic focusing abilities throughout the filming period. Using the zoom on the two cameras manually was also impossible dew to the same issues as with the manually controlled focus. However, the zoom could have only been used in this production, if the cameras were converged inwards. The reasoning behind this is, that the cameras would individually pick up imagery that when played in 3-D will only provide a very small part of the picture which will actually be in 3-D. In this research production I have included three shots, which are all filmed with both the cameras converged. However, for the purposes of these shots and because the nature of the cameras would not allow me to do different, I zoomed into the object as much as I could because then I knew that both cameras would be zoomed in to the object the same distance. All three shots used in this experiment, did not provide a sufficient enough outcome to be called 3-D, nevertheless I felt it as important to document failure as well as success that I experienced during this production.

In the 14 minute film Bella Dimensioni, the audience is engaging in ‘ a day in the life of ’ a photography student, who is encountering day to day issues. A great inspiration for this narrative was the movie Man with a movie camera by the surrealist Dziga Vertov, in which every day citizens are being monitored as they go about their daily actions. Another reason for why I am drawing a comparison to this influential piece of soviet cinema is through the way in which Vertov used effects such as super imposing two shots. It was important for me to see whether effects which work well to convey the makers intentions in a two-dimensional production would also be acting as an asset to the makers of a three- dimensional film. That is why I used slow motion effects on some of the shots in order to see whether this effect gives the research piece as much as it would a 2-D film.
I was also inspired to film the normal, the every day and its happenings by the early filmmakers Auguste and Louis Lumiere, who in there early works have filmed trains pulling into a train station, people leaving the church, doing gardening work and playing cards just to name a few. The Brothers were the pioneers of movie making and started with filming the familiar and real. I like to think of 3-D filming as a new art form of portraying images and that before an audience can be attracted to watching the unreal fantastic 3-D images they should get the chance to view their domestic environment and familiarize with what this stereoscopic cinema is all about. I believe that the way to attract a big fellowship for what is still being seen by most, as a ‘gimmick’ should be by familiarizing the viewer with the familiar when introduced to a new art form.

The project contains images out of the character’s normal day. The morning routine, the way to college, the travel by bus and train or car, the return home and doing the homework are all familiar actions to the viewer. Even though it was known to me that a selection of shots that I attempted would not work or only to a certain degree, but I believed that the more images the production consisted of, the more the viewer would realize which shots worked better than others.
However, it is clear to see that most shots are angled to the ground, placed very low to the ground or filmed diagonally rather than straight on. These three rules, we established while preparing for the 3-D shoots. If the camera is too high up from the ground and facing straight on, the apparent depth within the image is still there, however more of a strain to the eyes of the viewer. Putting the cameras low to the ground enhances the depth of the image and gives the eyes an extra bit of guidance into the pictures depth. For many of the shots, regardless of what was in the foreground, the cameras were placed diagonally in front of it. This creates a diagonal one-point perspective, which provides depth to the image, but crucially for every 3-D image, with a cut off point. The reasoning behind these theories is, to give the viewer the most pleasurable watching experience and no eyestrain or headache because objects in the distance of the moving image may be too far apart for their brain to cope with.
I have on the other hand also included images which have not been filmed with the guidance of these three or just one or two. The reason for this being that the spectator may be aware of image where there may be room for improvement.
In order to produce a stand out, good quality moving image in stereo 3-D, the audience should not be able to see any spill of either camera image when the two are superimposed. The object must not show any ‘ghosting’, which would reveal to the audience that the object had either moved too far away from the camera or come too close to it. Nonetheless, this is very hard to achieve since in a conventional two- dimensional moving image the object can move into either direction in and out of frame and as close and as far away from it as possible, whereas the image, since it consists of two merged images to form one, in a three dimensional movie may distort that much that two separate images are visible to the viewer. It is possible to fix any faults, such as moving images closer together or further apart or to digitally enhance the image in the postproduction. However, as Alexander Lyients writes on the “First and foremost you will need to truly understand 3-D to be able to do Post for it”
One issue that was never really resolved and is still up in the air is the issue of playing the moving image back to the viewer. During the time of the two of us working on this project we had the time to establish how we will show the project to the audience, however since having been on my own with this project it was impossible for me to develop the projection system needed in order for the project to be shown in true colour. The process of creating a 3-D true colour projection takes a lot of time, effort and funding, which I by myself certainly could not come up with. Two projectors, one projector for each eye would project the images through a polarized filter, at separate angles to each other. The projectors key- stoning would have to be the same, which is hard to achieve if they are placed on top of each other. They have to be 100% exactly synced; otherwise the two images will not work well together to reproduce the 3D effect. The images have to be projected onto a special silver interlaced screen, which has a highly reflective surface. The reason for having to project onto silver and not a normal white projection screen is the directional reflection that is needed for perfect stereo image projection. The domestic white wall or plain white projection screen would not be able to absorb the light in such a way and the light would get spilled and not contained. The reasoning behind placing linear polarization filters in front of each lens at a different angle to each other is, so that when the viewer is wearing their pair of polarized glasses, the right eye will only be able to see the right image and the left eye the left image. This is the same principal, as with any other 3D viewing system that requires glasses, such as the anaglyph way with red and cyan filters place in front of each image. With this method, the images are already laid on top of each other in the postproduction and, it is possible to project the image onto a white screen and to watch it on any domestic TV/computer screen.
I am however right now in contact with the local cinema, which recently installed a 3-D ready screen and would be able to hire the room out to me. If everything goes to plan, my first showing of this research project will be in true colour on a cinema screen.

Having discussed the viewing methods and possibilities of true colour 3D, it is clear to see that the target audience can not be established for this project as easily as may be the case for a conventional two dimensional television programme. Ryan and me established from the start of this project, that this research piece should be used to educate the viewer on 3-D and its heritage. Hence we believe that a programme such as this experiment could be one of the possibilities for one of the first programmes to be broadcast on the first 3-D TV channels, which are being developed for the future of broadcasting. That is why it is pretty hard to establish the target audience for a medium that not yet exists on the easily accessible scale.

There is no doubt in my mind that a great 3-D image delivers more authenticity and brings a realer dimension to an image which previously could have only been seen in 2-D. It is though very hard to achieve a moving image that works perfectly well, since the filming methods and the laws of shooting in 3-D are very complex and very hard to follow. Lenny Lipton states in his book Stereoscopic Cinema, a study in depth that the mathematical skill needed for the creation of working 3D imagery is “ on an advanced high school or perhaps freshman college, level.” The whole process, from raising the funds to shoot a stereoscopic image right down to he editing process, a 3-D production is expensive and time consuming and the most pressing issue of all would be: Who is going to watch it?
We believed from the start of this project and I still do now, that the most important step the 3-D industry has to take is the one, which will allow the audience to relate to what they see on screen. The commonly argued case for three-dimensional imagery is that the image will deliver more reality and truth to the viewer, because he/she could see an image in ‘three dimensions’. However, no realistic 3-D movie has been developed yet, movies such as Friday the 13th 3-D, Bugs 3-D or Jonas Brothers 3-D may all include some realistic images, however do not convey the drama or the excitement that is portrayed by some 2-D series or movies of the domestic and realistic. In order for stereoscopic imagery to succeed in these times on a big scale, more films that are based on real life and on real issues are needed.
It would be great to see a movement of filmmakers to take on this challenge and create a moving image that will be a compromise between 2-D and 3-D. The great depth of an image, the great ‘ out of screen’ effects of a stereoscopic film, hand in hand with a great story line, realistic imagery and true emotions. If this is achievable, than I can see a great future for this new art form in the cinema and on the television screen.
Copyright: Philipp Linz



• D. Vertov, Chelovek s kino-apparatom (Man with a movie camera), Soviet Union, 1929

• The Lumiere Brothers’ First Films, Bertrand Tavernier, Association Frères Lumiere, Paris, 1996

• L. Lipton, Stereoscopic Cinema, a study in depth, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 1983

• 3D World, vol.116, May 2009

• R. Barthes, Image Music Text, Fontana Press, London, 1977

• K. Campbell, R. Cowan, Re: Urbanism, Urban exchange, London, 2002

• B. Block, The Visual Story, Focal Press, Woburn, 2001

• M. Foucault, Power/Knowledge, The Harvester Press, Brighton, 1972

Ryan, who i started this project with. Thanks to him i finally found something i feel passionate about! Thank you!

R.I.P. My friend, brother and inspiration!

If you are interested please see the photo diary of Ryan and my journey to produce and playback 3D:

Our first 3D rig prototype.
It consisted of an uneven plank of wood with many holes in it..........It did the job though....sometimes.

Due to us not being able to use the University for our experimentation...........we had to find another place to do so.
Ryan's room

It is very important to establish the distance between the object and the camera(s) to know how close the object can be to the camera and how far away the object can be. This specific afternoon we found out that soooooo much editing is needed in order to allow objects to be close or very far in the distance. This can easily be seen in Bella Dimensioni, since when objects are either too close or too far away, the stereo effect does not work and it will give you a head ache.

Ryan and me established early on that we do not just want to show our project in anaglyph (red and cyan) but to achieve playback in true colour. Which we achieved! However, Bella Dimensioni has never been viewed in true colour.

.....After many long days in Falmouth making the hardware and trying for some sponsorship it was finally time to get filming.

On the left you can see a pair of CCTV cameras on a motorized 3D rig......Sadly it was so heavy and needed a massive generator that I, without any means of transport was not able to film with this incredible piece of engineering. However, picture quality was great and in previous test i managed to create great stereo moving imagery.

...The cameras i used throughout this project are these two you can see, its a new rig plate (i believe that i do not have to explain why i build a new one)

.....I would like to take the opportunity to thank my crew and actors who helped me out to make this project happen, without you I would have not managed it.

Thank you!

The quest has begun!

First and foremost i want to thank my recently passed away friend Ryan Martel, thanks to whom I am where I am now. He is a major influence in my work and I am dedicating my 3D Quest to him, his girlfriend Katie and Mum Sally.

Rest In Peace Mr.3D

I am pleased to announce that from now on the advancements of my research are visible to people who are interested in what i do and how I am going about realizing my dream of creating three- dimensional moving imagery.

I am keen to make people aware of the fact that 3D will have the potential of enriching television and film consumption.

It is my aim to establish how working with 3D differs from working with the conventional '2D' and how one goes about adapting to this new way of creating moving imagery.

Another reason for me having established the Blog is to get in touch with other people who have specialized in 3D filming and may want to collaborate on projects and or just want to follow the progress.

It is my aim to establish 3D as a seriously appreciated new way of Moving Image production/ consumption. Lets make it lose its 'gimmick' reputation and create something that will be loved by everyone!