Last week I visited FMX, an exhibition about animation, vfx and post production in Stuttgart, Germany.
This show has grown considerably within the last 10 years and offers some very cool insights. And they've started to heavily embrace 3D stereo over the last few years. Here's in short what interesting stuff I recall:
Robert Neuman from Disney Animation talked about stereoscopy on "Bolt 3D". They used some very neat tricks to tackle some of the most common problems. They heavily relied on multiple camera setups, where you 'shoot' different layers of foreground and background with different interocular distances and then combine them in compositing. This gives you a great deal of control over the depth effect, especially with zooms or long lenses.
They also used a so calles floating window, where you actually use the black space around the image. They used a slim black frame around the image and tweaked and twisted it (sometimes pretty heavily) in space. You don't really notice it, but it's a great tool to handle objects that reach into the audience and at the same time intersect with the image frame.
Also some nice info about their overall pipeline, which for my taste was not 3D-centric enough. It's still pretty much edited as a 2D movie which just takes a lot of the 3D effect away due to fast cutting.
There was a screening of "Coraline" in 3D, and oh my god was that movie awesome!!! I've never seen stop motion done in such perfection before. And I haven't seen such an overall great movie for a very long time. The story is great, every nuance, artistically and technically, is done to perfection.
And then there's the 3D! The use of depth is just perfect and totally in tune with the narrative. Take a lesson there, Dreamworks!
Then Brian Van't Hul, the DoP and VFX sup took the stage and showed some great pics and clips (also in 3D) of the making of the film.
They shot with single cameras (which they just shifted for every frame, a great advantage of shooting stop motion), mostly machine vision cameras due to their durability and flexibility. A Lot of their rigs were custom built for the desired shots. They also used the Red One for some high speed fog footage.
Simon Robinson from The Foundry showed some new cool Nuke plugins for handling 3D stereo comps. He didn't name them but I believe those were the actual Ocula plugins.
Some very neat features are auto alignment and keystone removal, auto histogram adjustment and disparity map. This one is great, because it calculates the left and right distance of features and creates a map with which you can actually paint and roto in depth as well as use it in conjunction with other plugins. You can even change interocular distance in post! It's still not exact enough to create a clean depth map, and changing i-o distance doesn't always work perfectly, but they're getting there. They're still in heavy development.
I asked if the calculation was only for two camera views, or if there was the possibility to maybe use a ring of several small b&w hd cameras around the main camera to get as many features as possible for depth calculation. He said that would indeed be possible. Cool stuff!
It looks like right now Nuke is the tool to use if you do a lot of 3D stereo work.
Andrew Oliver from Blitz Games took the subject to gaming. There is a lot going on with 3D stereo gaming right now, maybe even more than with movies and home theaters!
They showed some stuff of their technology with which you can make your actual game console (ps3 or xbox, not the wii) 3D capable with the 3D displays currently available. Which are quite a lot considering that an increasing number of tv sets can do real 120Hz now!
They use some proprietary driver tchnology to enable game developers going 3D with their games.
There are however some hurdles: The user has to update the firmware of his console (fairly easy). And the games have to be designed to deliver stutter-free 60fps at 1080p, which most of the games to date don't due to hardware limits. So in order to get good 3D, they'll have to go a step back in terms of polygon count and texture detail for now.
They showed an in-house game demo of some samurai action adventure which made good use of the depth and looked really cool.
Neil Schneider from Meant To Be Seen showed his web portal mtbs3d.com which is essentially a community for rating 3D capable games, focussed on their use of 3D and their compatibility with the different systems. Very interesting stuff. And he also said that he has seen some stuff in development which he can't talk about but the next few years should look quite exciting in terms of 3D gaming. When asked if he knew more about Ubisoft's Avatar game, he said that he may not talk about anything he might or might not know. I think there might be more about that movie than we expect right now...
Keith Elliott, one of the inventors of the DLP technology explained a lot about the current development of delivery technology for 3D stereo, especially for home entertainment. A lot of companies are heavily working on sufficient ways to show 3D content over the available distribution pipelines. I can'tremember all the tech details, but the fact is: It is possible right now, with existing technology, to have 3D stereo hd content delivered to your home cinema. I really just hope this doesn't go the HD-DVD/Bluray way. We'll see... the next few years will be exciting!
There was also a booth with different 3D displays for pcs. The iZ3D has two sandwiched full-res lcd panels with passive glasses. The glasses are very light and the image looks great. However, the viewing angle is very limited, so this one is more for single gamers or 3D artists.
The Zalman has line-altering stereo with a single panel which didn' really look very cool. Also passive, very light glasses.
The Nvidia system seems to be the most sophisticated one. Active glasses at 120Hz, free viewing angle, perfect 3D. However, the glasses are a few grams heavier and, quite weirdly, the sunlight from outside seemed to flicker through the glasses. Maybe just a bug. Otherwise, better don't use them in sunlight.
There was a lot of other interesting stuff as well. Richard Edlund spoke about his profession as a VFX sup (unfortunately I missed that one) and there were lots of other screenings and making ofs of current feature films (Watchmen, Benjamin Button...) and games, and of course also some talks about the Red workflow.
If you live in or near Germany and are interested in this stuff, this show is worth a look.
Although my former film school is involved in arranging the event, I'm not associated with the organizers btw ;)
If anyone else has been there and has seen more interesting stuff, feel free to weigh in!