3ality: Cheap 3D will win out in the home

CEO tips passive as the technology to watch

Steve Schklair CEO of 3ality

Steve Schklair is known by many as the person who started the cinema's recent resurgence of 3D. Yes, James Cameron made 3D filmmaking a phenomenon with Avatar, but Schklair and his team at 3ality have, since 2000, been busy creating new and innovative technologies to help pave the way for the future of 3D filmmaking.

3ality first proved publicly to the world that they were in 3D for the long haul with the release of U2 3D – the first-ever live action feature film to be shot exclusively on 3D cameras.

Steve schklair

"Somebody had to produce a movie to show 3D works as a whole feature in live action and we did it," explained Schklair to TechRadar when we caught up with him recently.

"Until then there was just animation and a lot of people were saying that there were too many variances for live action to work."

The problem with taking 3D back from the animators meant that the term '3D' – which has been used to its detriment to describe stereoscopic movies since the '50s – has remained, something Schklair would like to have seen changed.

"Do I think 3D is a good term? No. We are not looking at 3D, we are looking at an illusion of depth but that has nothing to do with 3D.

"We are looking at 3/2D pictures. CGI is kind of 3D because they actually use volume where we give the illusion of volume. I think that we can do with a better term than 3D but that is the one we have been saddled with, which is fine."

Before filming U2 in 3D, 3ality had been busy showing filmmakers that its technology could be implemented into a normal filmmaking setup, meaning there would be no massive outlay for productions to implement 3D.

3ality rig

This was part of Schklair's three-part plan: make comfortable 3D experiences, create technologies to drive budgets down and create kit so filmmakers could shoot digitally, which ultimately meant that if 3D television were to come on the market then real-time 3D broadcasts could be a reality.

"We needed tools that didn't get in the way of shooting, tools that work in the existing broadcast infrastructure, because the whole world had just gone from analogue to digital and that was a huge expense for broadcasters who were not about to make another one.

"That was our requirements. It had to run through all the post machines that are around, go through all the pipes that everybody has just put in. I thought that if we can't do that then there is no business and I will just go do something else."

11 years later and 3ality's lightweight rigs and processor units are a mainstay in 3D productions. This is something that the company's recent partnership with camera maker RED shows.

"There are so many movies being made in 3D at the moment with the 3ality and RED equipment combination we wanted RED's educational and outreach programmes – of which there are a lot – to be exclusively based on 3ality," said Schklair.

"It is the best technology out there for shooting 3D and it happens to work very well with RED cameras."

Spider Man

The upcoming Spider-Man reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man, is one movie that is reaping the benefits from the RED partnership.

It's the first movie to be shot with 3ality's Digital's TSS wireless and handheld beamsplitter mirror rig, and its Director of Photography (DoP) recently commented on the footage from the RED cam he shot on, saying it was "the best footage I have ever seen from any camera. Ever."

"Yeah, that was on RED and 3ality," said, Schklair. "John Schwartzman [Spider-Man DoP] is happy with the footage and more so happy that he can stick to his schedule!

"Everything we are doing is about helping filmmakers meet their needs. You can build this cool technology but if it doesn't make a business case then it is just another cool technology and it isn't going to go anywhere. It is business that drives that industry."

As much as we all want to believe Hollywood is driven by creativity, it is driven by business and one of the biggest money makers at the moment is 3D. But audiences are starting to cool to the idea of watching a movie in 3D.

Schklair believes this may have something to do with the amount of sub par 2D-to-3D conversions that have hit screens.

"Creatively it brings nothing to a movie," explained Schklair. "It is depth for the marketing department to tell all that they have a 3D movie. But the audience sits there with the glasses on and complains that the 3D adds nothing to the movie. This isn't helping our business."

Sky 3d

Although audiences are turning their backs and 3D TV in the home is still a long way from ubiquity, Schklair is upbeat on the technology and believes there are two things that will drive 3D demand: passive glasses and the United Kingdom.

"Sky is leading the world with what a 3D broadcaster should look like – there is more 3D in the UK than anywhere.

"When it comes to 3D in the home, I will go with what Chris Johns [BSkyB's chief engineer] said: 'I believe that 3D will work in the home when someone can go out and buy an inexpensive passive 3D TV.' Active is not going to win out. Audiences have already started to vote that way."