SPECIAL AWESOME - stereoscopic resource

We at SPECIAL AWESOME are keeping this blog up to date with all the exciting news coming in the world of 3D with special attention to small screens, mobile, consumer devices, and of course - AUTOSTEREOSCOPIC (glasses free). Please dig deep, so much is happening that articles of monumental importance quickly fall down the list into obscurity. Interested in Apple 3D? The latest on touch-screen 3D hand-held devices? Intel 3D? Nokia 3D? ESPN? It's all here and more.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

LIVE 3D demonstration at Maker Faire

LIVE 3D demonstration at Maker Faire

SPECIAL AWESOME were invited to O'reilly media's maker Faire to speak about 3D and to demonstrate the stop motion and motion control techniques which were used to create "Coraline". We were very lucky to have (stereoscopic cinematographer) Peter Williams - comomoco.com - and (animator) Justin Kohn - mechanicalspirits.com - both Coarline alumni and both of them working at the speed of light so the audience could actually SEE something (watching animation being made is like watching paint dry...).

Colin Miller - SPECIAL AWESOME founder and senior visual effects artist showed reels and spoke about the history and techniques of stereoscopic 3D. Colin's presentation script is included below - unedited - but full of ineteresting tidbits and a good overview of where 3D has been and where it is going. Enjoy!


(thanks to everyone who made this possible: Dale Dogherty, Louise Glasgow, Kate Rowe, Arne Frager)


Hi I am Colin Miller. I am here with my company SPECIAL AWESOME. We are a 3D film production company.

The core of our group have known each other and worked together for years BUT we really started working seriously on 3d as an extension of our experience working together on a little movie called Coraline. When Coraline was wrapping, I felt that what we had learned was really unique, and we ought to apply it to the growing world of 3d film production - thus special awesome was born... since we started, we've included all sorts of other friends we've known over the years - many did 3d before, and all have done high end animation. live action, and special effects work for high end commercials and feature films. 3d itself is a really great discipline because it presents all sorts of new technical and creative challenges which keep us learning, and that is what makes working in film and television production interesting.

Today we are really lucky to have some amazing professionals from the film biz with us - everyone is special AND awesome which BTW is the #1 requirement for being a part of or working with our company: INTRODUCE OUR GUESTS.

PW - directed for nike coca cola and turner networks, and cinematographer on Coraline and mokeybone, ALSO the inventor and maker of the como fully protable motion control camera system, Peter can go anywhere and shoot computer controlled stereoscopic 3D at iMax quality on battery power - see comomoco.com

JK - world class stop motion animator - has done everything: nightmare, james, Coraline, life aquatic, ALSO a maker of Channelled Alien Mechanical Spirits, animatable sculptures which are better seen than described LOOK- see mechanicalspirits.com


although there is a current wave of 3d film making actually its not new - actually has been around since 1833 when the first stereo photos were made

by 1915 3d techniques were being used to create stereoscopic films

1st stereo art actually came about in the renaissance when painters started trying to understand the world of optics light and perspective around 1600

lots of famous films were made in the first golden age of 3D in the 30's This was the same time as the view-master - technically a stereoscope

by 40's 3D was getting mainstream with a a consumer 3d camera and stereo-viewers, lots of home made stereo-pairs exist from this era - ebay collectors

1950 1st big boom of films: house of wax creature from the black lagoon dial m for murder - vincent price alfred hitchcock

there were also lots of ridiculous 3-sploitation films (I'd really like to see some of these) - catwomen of the moon - top banana with phil silvers, and one called "The French Line"

starring Jane Russell (for those of you not familiar she was a voluptuous movie star of the 50's for whom howard hughes invented the underwire bra) in revealing costumes playing up her sex appeal, "It'll knock both of your eyes out!"

1969 saw the release of the softcore sex comedy The Stewardesses. The film cost $100,000 to produce earned $27 million becoming the most

profitable 3-Dimensional film to date, and in purely relative terms, one of the most profitable films ever. over 100 million in current dollars

3D legend Chris Condon, and Director Ed Meyer, are set to remake The Stewardesses, next year

you can see what 3d film makers were thinking about in this era...

its funny because when I tell people I do 3D I often hear "wow - you could..." - believe me its NOT an original idea

another revival in the 80's some real gimmick films like: jaws 3d friday the 13th pt 3

2003 the current era - digital techniques have paved the way for a renaissance (digital production and projection) a lot of the films you've seen or heard about recently -

beowulf bolt bloody valentine monsters vs aliens u2 and of course Coraline


I've got a somewhat dry definition here which I like because its so accurate: stereoscopic imaging consists of creating a 3-D illusion starting from a pair of 2-D images.

The easiest way to create depth perception in the brain is to provide the eyes of the viewer with two different images,

representing two perspectives of the same object, with a minor deviation similar to the perspectives that both eyes naturally receive in binocular vision.

a viewing system is used to cause each eye to see only the image intended for it.

SO - an easy example of this is what we refer to as anaglyph (old fashion red/blue) -> filters, for each eye and the films for each eye are corresponding tinted ---

This is the clearest way to understand a 3D or stereoscopic film - a film for each eye from a slightly different perspective with a viewing system designed to cause each eye to see the film intended for it.

current techniques are more sophisticated using polarization and color interference technologies. Real D and Dolby and iMax

What this means is that in producing a 3d one is actually making = 2 virtually identical movies - we call them the left and right eyes, and then encoding for a presentation system -

BTW - tv coming soon. NAB last month in LV - lots of very cool big 3d flat screens - cable and content providers are scrambling to catch up

so to get a 3d film a 2 camera system must usually be used - this process of making 2 virtually identical synchronized films goes all the way through the prodcution edit post etc -

most everyone with few exceptions needs to work in 3d to one extent or another & most face additional challenges because of this

lots of considerations not immediately apparent - i.e. you cant just make it in 3d - the 3d needs to flow with the rest of the elements just like the music or lighting wouldn't change radically from shot to shot, the 3d must flow in a way that makes sense too. from deep to shallow perspectives in a way that is compelling and makes sense -- this is the real challenge - to NOT make it a gimmick but have it fit into the story and actually assist in the dramatic motion of the film. there are also lots of technical challenges: you get errors simply because of optical anomalies that cant be controlled or predicted. you get things which are physically correct (exist in nature) but don't work on a screen - hold your hand up top a light - retinal rivalry, this happens in all sorts of ways - things exist in nature but look bad or hurt your brain when you see them on the screen

this is one of the many reasons that Coraline is such an amazing film - because every little thing was painstakingly finessed to make it calm and smooth and enjoyable without any visual bumps or corners or headaches - Henry was so adamant about it being a PART of the film and not a gimmick + PK and BVH incredible pros with a great vision for the film


- and speaking of these guys: we are listed as... this is true to MAKE but maybe FROM is more accurate - actually it took a huge team of hundreds and a few years. its really an appropriate subject re: make because one of the key principles was thet the entire film was entirely hand made - truly a MAKE - why? it has a real life and magic when someone puts their spirit into a tree or a sheet of raindrops - every stitch of clothing, every flower and tree and every raindrop and doorway strip of bacon and spider web .... all made by hand

this also applies to the ACTING - or a PERFORMANCE in animation - its a ridiculous technique in some ways those of us who do it know only too well but its worth it cos you get something really special. and the word performance is really important here - there is a human quality that comes through when an animator creates something from beginning to end by hand without the aid of the non-liear technique i.e. CGI to revisit every nuance and gesture and thus take the spontanaiety OUT of the performance

so the MAKE of Coraline is really relevant because it was truly MADE by hand from beginning to end

there are numerous magazine articles about all sorts of unique techniques we used for Coraline, many of which were developed specifically for this movie.

the one I would like to mention today involves motion control cameras - (most people know) animation is shot a frame at a time, . look at any live action film - the camera needs to move. so there is a problem her that needs to be solved..... mo-co uses a computer to program highly crafted camera movements that can the be shot an increment at a time so that the animator can move his puppet after each frame is shot - what was unique about Coraline was that this SAME (mo-co) system was used to create the 3d - the computer moved the camera back and forth for the right and left eye positions for each and every frame of the film. this was not only convenient but also necessary since the 3d effect depends on the distance between the right and left eyes to be proportional to the size of the objects being shot and the size they should be on screen in the finished product - thus for Coraline (miniatures) the distance was so small (a few mm) that 2 cameras could never be gotten that close to one another.

AGAIN - we are special awesome. we have (these people) here with us today

watch animation take place before your eyes and we will all be answering questions until we run out of time