Market for 3D content explodes
Filmmakers use four words to sum up the shooting style for 3-D movies: close, wide, fluid and omnipresent. The market has another word to describe the technology: explosive.
Every major film, documentary, television show and sporting event will be shot in 3-D within the next few years, says Bill White, president and owner of the 3D Camera Co. in Toronto, which supplies specialized equipment and expertise for the format. Even advertising agencies have begun to experiment with 3-D.
“This represents the next great revolution in entertainment,” he says.
The groundwork for the leap to 3-D was set in 2005. That’s when Digital Cinema Initiatives LLC, composed of the major Hollywood studios, set the standards for digital cinema, paving the way for theatres to begin investing in digital projectors and other equipment. Once the digital distribution system was in place, 3-D programming could be delivered.
Writer and director James Cameron’s Avatar broke new ground last year, turning 3-D into an overnight phenomenon. This long weekend, there are three new major 3-D releases in cinemas: Walt Disney Co.’s Alice in Wonderland, DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc.’s How to Train Your Dragon and Warner Bros.’s Clash of the Titans .
A week ago, the MSG Network broadcast the first NHL hockey game in 3-D, showcasing the New York Islanders and New York Rangers from Madison Square Garden.
ESPN Inc. is launching a 3-D channel with a minimum of 85 live sportscasts this year, which will include FIFA World Cup soccer matches this summer. Rogers Communications Inc. and Bell TV also plan to launch 3-D channels this year.
National retailers have just begun carrying 3-D TV sets. Best Buy Co. Inc. is advertising a 55-inch, high-definition, 3-D television for $3,700. Two sets of 3-D viewing glasses run an additional $450, and a 3-D processing Blu-ray disc player adds another $400. Future Shop Ltd. is advertising a 46-inch, high-definition, 3-D TV for $3,300.
At least 50 3-D feature films are in the pipeline today, says Lowell Schrieder, director of marketing and communications at William F. White International, a provider of motion picture, television and theatrical production equipment. The technology shift is a huge opportunity for the film industry, which is developing everything from new 3-D software to bigger and better rigs for handling 3-D cameras.
“It is happening as we speak. 3-D is becoming huge,” says Mr. White, who is also the former head of William F. White International. 3D Camera Co. worked with a Brazilian network this year on a test run to bring February’s Carnival to viewers in 3-D. The project was successful and the programming will be ready for the market for next year’s event, he said.
One of the firm’s major projects has been The Magic Journey to Africa , written and directed by Jordi Llompart, which will arrive in North America in early May. Four years in production, the European film was shot in stereoscopic 3-D, combining real images shot in deserts and savannas with computer generated imagery.
Making 3-D films requires new skills and methods compared with traditional filmmaking. In the 3-D format, two images are recorded from two perspectives, to mirror the experience of human sight and give the illusion of depth. Those images have to be kept in sync, matching the way our eyes see, or the viewer will quickly feel nauseous. That also means no zooming in and out or jumping rapidly between images.
The industry is working with universities today to try to prepare the next generation of filmmakers for the shift. Filmmakers and York University in Toronto received a government commitment for more than $1.4-million in February to fund the 3D Film Innovation Consortium, a two-year academic-industry partnership that will expand capacity for 3-D film production in the area.
3D Camera Co. also lends some of its expensive equipment to student filmmakers to help seed the technology. The effort can mean the difference between success and failure, says Corey Peck, who founded Epik Productions with two university friends recently. It costs about $25,000 to make a single minute of 3-D film today, but that amount should come down quickly as the technology is more widely adopted, he says.
Epik is part of a loose conglomerate of independent 3-D production companies working together to further the format. As fourth-year students in Ryerson University’s radio and television arts program, Mr. Peck, Jon Shelson and Ross Hayes Citrullo shot a short 3-D music “video” using loan equipment from 3D Camera Co. Titled . moneen. Live At The Mod Club , the program was shown this month at the Canadian Music Week festival.
When the team shot the show, it seemed that it would be hard for anyone to play back the recording. But in just the last month the display technology is starting to catch up, Mr. Citrullo says. “Soon, anyone will be able to watch it, anywhere.”
With the market for live 3-D events such as music just emerging, the three young filmmakers think they have as good a chance as any industry veteran to make a mark. The firm is building relationships with the music industry in the hope of winning funding from recording labels to shoot more concerts.
“We’ve done a concert film and now we’re almost forced to sit on it for a while. There are distribution limitations, so we have to wait for [things] to catch up,” Mr. Shelson said.