The new “it’ format – stereoscopic 3D – is gradually taking root in South Africa, with a
3D commercial, an international feature and wildlife films recently produced in the
As digital imaging technician Stefan Nel pointed out at the recent Wild Talk Africa
Conference in Stellenbosch, producing in 3D is “quite a mission’ because there is two of
everything – two cameras (one to produce an image for the right eye and another to
produce an image for the left eye), two lenses and two streams of data.
“Before shooting 3D you need to pre-plan everything meticulously from start to finish.
The shooting format, such as high definition (HD), 2K or 4K as well as the file format
coming out of the camera, need careful consideration. Locking the cameras together is
the most important thing.
“The amount of 3D data involved is huge and it has to be transcoded into another file
format. All of these processes require lots of computers. In post-production you have
systems like Baselight to help you out. The big question in South Africa is budget. If
things go wrong in 3D it costs huge amounts of money to fix.’
Nel, who worked on SAA’s 3D commercial, maintained that 3D conversion (where 2D
source material is converted into 3D) doesn’t work that well as the 2D footage is not
shot in the same way as 3D.
The international film Dredd (DNA Films, IM Global, Paradise F. X. Corp.) was shot in
South Africa at the end of 2010 and is the country’s first live action 3D feature
production. Prior to the shoot technicians at Media Film Service spent 80 hours matching
lenses for the eight cameras used in the production with four 3D rigs.
Says Media Film Service Data Lab producer Jared Haviga: “We decided to stick with
Optima zoom lenses and brought in Phantom Flex high speed cameras – these work
really well and offer a frame format that is higher than 1080. The film crew also used
Red and Sony F900 cameras.
“I spent about 300 hours on set working with the Dredd 3D stereographer and data
manager. The filmmakers wanted the 3D format to tell a story and not make audiences’
heads hurt with inaccurately aligned images, which is why the pre-planning stage was so
extensive. Similarly the post-production process was very long.’
Media Film Service’s DIT workflow technician Ed de Vega was tasked with handling the
complexities of the data management of the three different types of cameras. “In 3D
post-production data management is a must. You have to have files because if you lose
one eye’s footage then you’re in big trouble. Dredd was a tough data management job.
The idea was to conform colour spaces and matrixes to standardise footage. Colour
matching the footage from the different cameras was a big issue and required a full time
“The workflow concerned pulling data in for the digital check and the 3D quality control.
One of the main technical issues that we encountered was with the Red cameras – there
was a phase offset with the time code which means no 3D image in post-production. We
found the Phantom Flex the easiest camera to use.’
De Vega stressed that if you don’t have the right equipment in post-production your 3D
footage will be ruined. “It’s also important in post-production to make sure the images
are perfectly aligned, something that is difficult to do with mirror rigs.’
Broadcasting live in 3D
Graham Wallington of WildEarth produces live 3D wildlife broadcasting on a daily basis.
“We do two, three-hour game drives each day for our 3D safari experience. Because it’s
live it really captures viewers’ attention and the 3D format provides an immersive
As the footage is broadcast live there is no post-production which means cameras and
lenses have to be perfectly aligned.
“It’s a real challenge controlling the interocular (distance between the lenses of the two
cameras) and the convergence (the point at which the two lenses converge on the
subject) in real time,’ continued Wallington. “When we started 3D in June last year we
had to use industrial cameras from Sony rather than broadcast cameras so that we
could send the data back to our production centre. We record on solid state and deliver
footage on HD 3D at 6 megabits per second for our 3D channel in Europe. Broadcasters
use a frame compatible format for broadcast.’
Filming crocs in 3D
Damon Foster describes his and brother Craig’s latest film The Dragon’s Feast, as a
“doccie-horror’ that lends itself to 3D. In the film Damon Foster dives with Roger
Horrocks in the Okavango Delta to observe the feeding hierarchy of crocodiles.
Says Foster: “In the past 12 months there have been huge advancements in 3D
technology. All wildlife filming is tricky but 3D is even more complex as you have to work
with big camera rigs. In order to come up with a more fluid way of filming 3D we worked
with stereographers in Los Angeles. Stereographers are critical for 3D as you have to
closely monitor what you shoot all the time. It’s quite possible to go out and film 3D
shots and then find that none can be used in post-production.
“You have to really plan shots to take advantage of the technology. It’s a fascinating
format because it forces you to have a particular mindset and look at filmmaking in a
different way. It takes years to hone 3D skills and get the most out of it.’