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From the big screen to the small: James Cameron and 3D post-production

Posted by putsimply on 3rd November 2010

It seems James (‘There’s a boat Jack’) Cameron has very publicly come out against 3D post-processing in films.

3D ain't going to improve this, let's face it

On one level Cameron’s right, of course. Let’s face it, the man has a talent for making money; I’d listen to him. And if you don’t he probably earns enough to have you killed.

Film, whether shot for the cinema or on a mobile phone is likely to be optimum when shot in 3D. However this bears very direct relevancy to a client I work with, which, as well as allowing you to shoot in 3D, works very in producing 2D to 3D upscaling on mobile phones.

For those of you not in the know, 3D films basically fall into two camps; those that are shot in 3D, and those that are ‘made’ 3D using computers later on.

Films shot in 3D are film using cameras with two lenses and an entire production chain geared towards handling original 3D material, and are widely agreed to produce the best results. In particular, the presence of a stereographer on-set helps ensure scenes are properly composed so as not to give eye-strain.

Eye-strain *is* a worry

Post-processing, on the other hand, is fraught with problems. Imagine trying to circle around an image, frame-by-frame, and then separate out layers. However, to create an accurate and natural sense of depth, you’re not simply trying to separate out, say, five ‘flat’ layers of film, but a person’s nose from his face, and his face from his hair. This is tricky.

However his arguments highlight a very interesting point; in the field in which this company is working, (ok, it’s Movidius; I’ll be a bit self-promoting). One of the issues being faced in the mobile 3D space is the current lack of original 3D material to display on 3D devices as they emerge.

One of the ways that Movidius has got around this fact, (in the same way as TV manufacturers have started doing), is to come up with a way of converting 2D videos to 3D on-the-fly.

Given the challenges faced by the stereographers on Clash of the Titans and the new Harry Potter film, you can imagine that this poses quite a formidable processing challenge.

Original 3D material is always preferable, but the point is that, as Cameron points out, in a world where not everything is shot in 3D, conversion from 2D to 3D is often the best way forward.

Personally I think that the kind of automatic post-processing that will be made available on the next generation of handsets will be terrifically popular. Just don’t try and do it on the big screen.