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    Article featuring two of our new projects, Experience the Smokies: 3 Cities in 3D & Sevierville in 3D from the December 2010 issue of Post Magazine. http://digital.copcomm.com

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    Cover story article on our new project 3 Cities in 3D that will be broadcast on WealthTV. The article is in the October 2010 issue of HD Video Pro, a nationwide magazine. http://www.hdvideopro.com/

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Cover story article on our new project 3 Cities in 3D that will be broadcast on WealthTV. The article is in the October 2010 issue of HD Video Pro, a nationwide magazine. http://www.hdvideopro.com/


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Saturday, September 25, 2010
This Ain’t Your Daddy’s 3D
Randall Dark jumps into the 3D deep end with Panasonic’s new AG-3DA1
By Dan Brockett

HD-pro2.jpgWe all saw it. Lurking under glass in a darkened corner of Panasonic’s NAB 2009 booth was a bug-eyed prototype of what would soon evolve into the first professional one-piece 3D digital production camera. HD technologist Randall Dark saw the Panasonic’s 3D camera prototype, too. Although Panasonic pledged “end-to-end 3D technology” at NAB 2009, it was the small, light, 3D-camera concept that kick-started Dark’s imagination about what was coming next.

Randall Dark is widely acknowledged to be one of the true pioneers in the world of HD production. As the founder of HD Vision Studios in New York and Dallas, Dark has played a part in producing more than 2,000 HD projects, ranging from feature films to commercials to live presentations. An expert in emerging technologies, Dark has recently been working with all of the latest and greatest gear that HD filmmakers have now embraced as their own.

“I realized that HD is now like Kleenex; everyone is using it,” says Dark. “The RED camera is great, the [Canon] 5D Mark II and 7D–the technology is now here, and it’s cost-effective. But I have to be honest, over the past few years, I was always saying, ‘Where is my next windmill?’ I needed a challenge.”

The challenge that Dark was looking for came in the form of a new 3D camera. “I started reading about the AG-3DA1 camera,” Dark recalls, “and I thought to myself, ‘This could be a whole new language, a whole new way of doing things.’ The camera was aesthetically interesting to look at, and after I read about what it could do, I just thought to myself, ‘That is just outrageous.’”

Never one to procrastinate, Dark was hooked on the idea of quickly putting a 3D production into gear, one of the first to be shot with the new camera. Partnering with Cinemarr Entertainment of Sevierville, Tenn., a production company with experience and ties around the eastern Tennessee area, Dark contacted several of the local tourism boards to ask if they’d be interested in shooting a 3D travelogue of the local area and attractions to boost tourism. They said yes.

The next step was for Dark to check in with his contacts at WealthTV, a cable network for which he had HD-pro3.jpgpreviously shot HD content. “I helped to launch WealthTV with high-def,” says Dark. “I had produced all of these travel shows for them a few years ago. It just so happened that they were looking for 3D content, since they were gearing up to launch WealthTV 3D. They were interested so they signed on. I had a broadcaster, I had sponsors; now I needed to talk with Panasonic to tell them what I wanted to do. I met with Jan Crittenden Livingston at NAB 2010 and told her that I wanted to put the AG-3DA1 through its paces on a real project. Panasonic agreed to loan me a prototype. So that was the genesis of putting the project together.”

3 Cities in 3D is a travel show that Dark is producing using the new camera. A jam-packed half-hour, the 3D show focuses on the natural beauty, as well as the popular tourist attractions, of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tenn. HDVP caught up with Dark the day after he had wrapped up production and was heading into post.

“I’ve been in this region before, so I knew that it had some great locations like the Ripley’s Aquarium, extreme waterslide areas and the Smoky Mountains,” he says. “There’s a theater where I could shoot some scenes of the musicals that they put on, and I was also able to shoot some spectacular 3D aerial shots. The three cities have such a variety of locations, but they’re all concentrated in one area. I knew in a short time I could create an entertaining documentary, but I could also test the limits of this new technology. For this particular shoot, I was very hands-on. For shooting 3D, you’re usually using dual-camera, beam-splitter rigs that are huge and heavy—it’s a big rig and so it’s time-consuming to shoot with. I write, direct, light and shoot, so I was able to work with a very small crew. I moved quite fast—I shot 75 locations in two weeks, which is unheard of doing 2D, let alone 3D. I was going for something completely different this time.”

HD-pro4.jpgHow did the camera work from an operator viewpoint? Was it complex to operate? How hard was it to set the convergence control, for instance? “I grabbed the camera, hooked it up to the Panasonic BT-3DL2550 3D monitor that Panasonic included with the camera, and in the first five minutes, I said to myself, ‘This ain’t your daddy’s 3D,’” recalls Dark. “What we have seen early in the evolution of 3D: You look at the proscenium–the fourth wall–let’s say that’s your TV screen. The fist flies out of the screen, into your face like you can almost touch it. That’s what I call ‘my daddy’s 3D.’ With this camera, I could easily create that effect. But then I could also look behind the proscenium behind the screen, what I call the ‘Cameron/Avatar Experience.’ Avatar worked so well because it was a nuanced, well-imagined story that let you see deep into the screen. It wasn’t a bunch of gimmicky, one-trick-pony shots like a lot of what 3D has been. With this camera, I could instantly do the traditional 3D thing, but I could also get this more sophisticated, subtle level of 3D in real time by manipulating the controls of the camera in a very instinctive manner.”

Dark was able to confirm that the AG-3DA1 delivers the goods in a simple, yet effective way. “The night after my first day of shooting, I reviewed the images I had shot on the 3D monitor and just went, ‘Wow, that looks spectacular.’ The learning curve with this camera is quick because it’s interactive. I can learn overnight what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong. This camera is clever in its design and in its simplicity. Not everyone is as lucky as Cameron to get those kinds of budgets. There are people out there now who will have access to a new way of telling stories in 3D at a reasonable cost.”

For 3 Cities in 3D, Dark shot the AG-3DA1 at 1080i 59.94 (60i). Why did he choose to shoot interlaced? “Because this was broadcast reality TV,” says Dark, “I shot at 59.94 because that’s the format that WealthTV 3D broadcasts. I wanted the signal to go through as few boxes and postprocesses as possible, so I shot the format that they broadcast in. I want to shoot my next feature film using three of these cameras at 24 fps.”

When asked about post, Dark replies, “We’re working with CineForm’s Neo3D software. If I want to do any convergence correction, we use the muxed 3D file we’ve generated to do that. We’ve decided to use Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 to edit this project. This is going to be a fun experience. There now are cost-effective ways to bring 3D content to the marketplace. The math says that the consumer wants 3D right now, and with this camera, I’m now able to produce it in a very cost-effective way. Everything I wanted to shoot, I was able to shoot with this camera in the way I wanted to shoot it.”

Panasonic’s Jan Crittenden Livingston sees the AG-3DA1 as a completely new type of 3D tool from Hd-pro5.jpganything that currently exists. “With this new technology, 3D can go so many places that it couldn’t before–underwater, at the end of a long jib arm, a lot of new places,” she says. “From the eyecup to the front of the lens, the camera is just less than 18 inches long. It weighs only 6.6 pounds. Besides the small size and light weight, there are a lot of arenas where 3D is a viable and useful format, but users haven’t gone there because the cost has been too high. In addition to entertainment, this camera will be useful in documentary, special-venue, medical-training and tourism programming–really anything where the perception of depth matters.”

Panasonic is way ahead of the curve with the AG-3DA1; there’s no other way to shoot in 3D at this point with a single, small, light, self-contained camera. It remains to be seen if the impending 3D craze will pan out to be a mainstream success, but in the meantime, if you want to easily and quickly shoot in 3D, the AG-3DA1 seems to be exactly what you need.

Visit the 3 Cities in 3D website at cinemarr.com/3citiesin3d.html. Go to pro-av.panasonic.net for more on the Panasonic AG-3DA1.