3DRadar recently caught up with Phil Streather, CEO at Principal Large Format and the producer of Bugs 3D! - one of the first major 3D IMAX movies back in 2003 that really showed the way forward for 3D entertainment.
We were interested to find out a little bit more about Phil's own background, his thoughts on the developments in 3D since Bugs! first screened seven years ago and what he has in store for the future.
3DRadar: What was 3D technology and 3D filmmaking like back when you produced Bugs 3D! in the early noughties?
Phil Streather: Bugs! was produced in 2003 by my company, Principal Large Format (PLF) and released in spring of 2003 by the films executive producers, SK Films of Toronto.
The fundamental difference between then and now (aside from the fact that Bugs! was an IMAX movie) is that most 3D films were actually shot on film. Those films appeared mainly in special venues and IMAX theatres. With shooting on film, this makes it very hard to monitor on-set what is going on in terms of 3D.
Thus you have to rely on the mathematical skills of the stereographer to get the 3D right. We had a brilliant team comprising Sean Phillips as our stereographer and the vast majority of the 3D in the film is bang-on, even by today's standards!
Sean is of course equally happy shooting modern 3D with all the monitors, calculators and stereo image processors available.
3DR: How important was that movie for changing moviegoers perceptions about what was possible with 3D?
PS: The main contribution Bugs! has made to the 3D pantheon in terms of its macro and micro photography. Film audiences had seen the world of insects in glorious close-up in microcosmos but never in 3D. It is 3D that really brings you into the world of the tiny and I am delighted to say that the designer of our specialty rigs and lenses for Bugs! was awarded the Gordon E Sawyer Oscar for his work.
This is an accolade given each year by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to "an individual in the motion picture industry whose technological contributions have brought credit to the industry."
3DR: What do you think have been the two or three main movies or new technologies that have driven the development of 3D in the last 5-10 years?
PS: Three come to mind here. U23D showed us how amazing live action 3D could look. Whilst there are some visual effects during some songs by and large this is a full throttle action film. But, way more than just a concert film. Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington created the film as an experiment with new type of filming technology that was pioneered by film producer and general technology genius, Steve Schklair, CEO of 3ality Digital.
Coraline moved stop motion animation into the next dimension by using single cameras on motion control platforms. They also moved the grammar of storytelling forward with the films' contrast between the flat world of the little girls real life and the rounded world of her life through a tunnel.
Internationally renowned animation company, Aardman Animations are using the same single camera technique on upcoming 3D projects.
And then there is Avatar – no need to add anything here!
3DR: For many general movie-goers, Avatar was the first big movie they saw in 3D? How important do you think Avatar and other major AAA movies from the likes of Disney/Pixar have been to push 3D into the mainstream?
PS: 3D was heading into the mainstream before Avatar with films such as Meet the Robinsons and Monsters vs Aliens. Of course, these are full CGI films, but films none the less. Avatar is also 90% CGI but by using advanced motion capture, Director Cameron was able to convince us those digits were real! Avatar's staggering success cemented Hollywood's hunch that 3D is a good idea and is here to stay for a while.
3DR: What about 3D in the home? What are your thoughts on the latest 3D TVs? Do you think PS3 gaming will drive the uptake of 3D tech in the home – in addition to Sky 3D and 3D Blu-ray?
PS: 3D in the home is a great idea. Bugs! is playing right now on the Sky 3D platform and one of my next films, Meerkats 3D, produced with Oxford Scientific Films for National Geographic / Sky will be on Sky 3D next spring – watch out for this!
One of the TVs I prefer is one that uses passive glasses like the RealD ones in cinemas. I'm not a fan of shutter glasses and find them heavy, flickery and distracting. Rumour has it that there will be 3D TVs using RealD passive glasses which will be available in 2011 and I think that this is a good thing. At the moment there is no universality on glasses and Sony glasses won't work on Samsung TVs and they come with two pairs only. Additional pairs cost around $100 each. There's room for improvement here.
I must admit that I've never played computer games. However, this said, my colleague and mate Julian Napier (also director of my other upcoming film, Carmen in 3D for RealD and Royal Opera House) plays loads of games and is a major fan of 3D. Though he does not do 3D games yet! This may drive the market but I would be surprised if he would let his children take over the 46-inch plasma screen in the sitting room to play 3D games – time will tell!
For more on Phil's work in 3D movie and TV production you can check out www.plf.cc