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Stereoscopic 3D Production for Everyone: Part 1, The Camera

Editor’s note: The following post is from guest author Kevin McAuliffe, a Senior Editor at MIJO in Toronto. (You may also be familiar with his tutorials over at Creative Cow).

I’m an editor by trade, but there’s so much more out there that interests me. One thing that has always piqued my interest is stereoscopic 3D and, in particular, stereoscopic 3D workflow. 

Like everyone, I watched “Avatar,” but to be honest, I wasn’t blown away.  I’d seen that type of stereoscopic 3D long before “Avatar” and all the other “3D craze” movies that have come out in the last few years. 

Oh Captain EO, my Captain

I saw it when I was 8 years old at Epcot Center (still called “Center” back then) at Walt Disney World.  The movie was called “Magic Journeys” and was like nothing I had ever seen before in my life. This was followed up four years later by “Captain EO,” a 3D sci-fi film starring Michael Jackson, directed by Frances Ford Coppola and produced by George Lucas. 

(If you happen to be planning a trip to Walt Disney World soon, you can still check out “Captain EO,” as it was brought back after the death of Michael Jackson. It’s a fantastic trip back to 1986 and at what was to come as far as stereoscopic 3D production went.) 

These two short films are what got me excited about stereoscopic 3D. Then nothing really came of 3D until the last few years, when it’s seemingly become all the rage, with the ability to see films in 3D not only in theatres, but now in the comfort of your own home. 

But with the onslaught of 3D films, a new issue has arisen: the ridiculously high cost of 3D production, at least for the prosumer out there. I consider myself a television professional, but how can someone like me get out there and start creating stereoscopic productions? 

Well, this is where this article series is going to take you. By the time we’re done, you will have the ability to shoot, edit and screen your 3D footage, and you’ll be able to offer this service to your clients. So, let’s get started!

Getting Started: Cameras

Most people think that we’re going to rent 3D camera rigs, buy or rent stereoscopic monitors and spend (tens of) thousands of dollars. But we’re not. We’re going to start simple. Once you have the “theory” of 3D workflow down, it can be scaled up or down, depending on your needs. 

The first thing we’re going to need is to pick a 3D camera to shoot with, one that you can actually afford to buy (or rent). I decided to do something a little unorthodox. An editor in the suite next to me (big shout out to Tharanga Ramanayake) is always raving about the GoPro, a little camera he uses to shoot videos of himself riding around the streets of Toronto on his bike. 

This example image from the GoPro website shows off typical GoPro usage.

It just so happens that I know the PR rep for the company, so I dropped him an e-mail. I gave him the pitch that I really don’t know anything about HD 3D production. I wanted to educate myself and share the process with as many people as I can. 

He was on board and sent me two GoPro Hero2 cameras, along with the 3D Hero System (which we’ll get to in just a second). If you’ve never heard of GoPro, you’re missing out. Nick Woodman, GoPro’s founder and CEO sums it up when he says, “GoPro’s reason for being is to make is easy for people to capture insane video and photo of their lives most exciting moments.” 

And it’s true. What makes GoPro so awesome is not the fact that you can attach an HD camera to a bike, helmet, surfboard, car or just about anything you can imagine. It’s the fact that you can be a one man/woman camera crew and shoot the most unbelievable things by yourself.

Most people look at GoPro’s website, and think that since they don’t make surfing, snowboarding or skateboarding videos, they would never need anything from a company like this.  But GoPro cameras are being using in over seventy television productions including Deadliest Catch and “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” a new web series (watch the Ricky Gervais segment. Can’t miss the GoPros). 

Specs

These little cameras pack a big punch.  The Hero 2 (seen below) is an 11 megapixel digital camera which can take single shots, bursts and time-lapse shots as well. Obviously, it’s a video camera as well that can shoot in multiple resolutions including:

  • HD RESOLUTIONS:
    • 1080p: 1920×1080, 30FPS
    • 960p: 1280×960, 48FPS + 30FPS
    • 720p: 1280×720, 60FPS + 30FPS
  • STANDARD DEFINITION RESOLUTIONS
    • WVGA: 848×480, 120FPS + 60FPS

As for how much you can fit on a memory card:

  • AVERAGE RECORDING TIME WITH 32GB SD CARD:
    • 1080p30: 4 hours
    • 960p30: 6 hours
    • 720p60: 4 hours
    • 720p30: 6 hours
    • WVGA 120: 4.5 hours

I need a Hero

You’re probably thinking, “What does this have to do with stereoscopic 3D production?” 

Here’s how we get back to the Hero 3D System. With this unit, you can hook up two GoPro Hero2 cameras via a fancy little rig, allowing you to shoot left eye onto one camera and right eye onto the other.

Sync cable to hook two GoPro Hero’s together to shoot stereoscopic 3D

Basically, what I’m getting at here is that you can now become your own 3D HD camera operator for $700 US. Now, with the waterproof (yes, that’s right, waterproof) 3D casing you also get:

  • 3D HERO Synchronization Cable
  • Skeleton Door (allows for optimal sound capture in dry environments)
  • 3 Pairs of 3D Anaglyph (Red/Blue) Glasses
  • Helmet Front Mount
  • 2 Flat and 2 Curved Adhesive Mounts
  • GoPro CineForm Studio 3D editing software

Everything you need to get up and running shooting in 3D with your GoPros.

I should also point out that the Hero2′s do also come with an external stereo mic input (3.5mm), so you can capture audio as well. The 3D Hero System’s housing is only five inches by two and a half inches, and it’s compatible with all the current GoPro mounting accessories.

Next Steps

OK, we’ve got all the gear we should need to get out there and start shooting some stereoscopic footage. In the next article, I’m going to go through the setup of the camera(s), recording and offloading of the footage for editing. 

For the editing portion of the series, we’re going to look at both Avid’s Media Composer and Premiere Pro CS6 on an HP Z820. We’ll see which workflow is easier and delivers the best end result. I’m also going to take a look at the GoPro CineForm Studio application that comes bundled with the 3D Hero System to see if it can compete with the big boys. 

For more information about GoPro, head over to www.gopro.com .

Kevin McAuliffe is currently a Senior Editor at MIJO in Toronto, Canada with clients including Paramount Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures and Alliance Films to name a few. He has been in the television industry for over 13 years and has worked for Discovery Channel Canada and HGTV Canada as both an offline and online editor. He also spends a chunk of his days in Adobe’s After Effects, which he’s been using since version 3.5. 

You can reach him at kevinpmcauliffe@gmail.com, on Twitter @kpmcauliffe or on Facebook.

Posted on 25 September 2012 |

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5 thoughts on “Stereoscopic 3D Production for Everyone: Part 1, The Camera

  1. Amazing article! I’d like to translate it to Portuguese (brazilian) and share it with friends, can I?
    Waiting for an answer.
    Congratulations for the article.

  2. Nice. Interesting and grounded article that didn’t put me to sleep. Good work Kevin! I look forward to the next one. Will you be covering CG 3d work flow and processes at all?

    Cheers.

    • Nice article, didn’t know that GoPro had a 3D link up system, but that will help stereoscopic production greatly.

      @Simon. There are some CG tutorials on projectchapman3d.com based around an AE > Premiere workflow.

  3. As someone who works for a major 3D Conversion company, I would just like to point out that, although Native 3D seems to be “ideal” to shoot with, there is much that native 3D shooting cannot accomplish that conversion can, and vice versa, if done correctly.Though both can, and should, work seamlessly together to produce an overall masterpiece. Kudos to you! I really appreciate the information within this article (as well as the overall positive attitude towards stereoscopic filmmaking).

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