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Sky's new 3d channel - the details....

The next issue of The Producer magazine, which goes out free with Televisual next week, features an interview with Brian Lenz, Sky’s director of product design and TV product development, in which he reveals full details of Sky’s forthcoming 3d channel.

“We’re looking to have between six and eight hours a week of programming content to start and, as we get a library of content, that will grow,” says Lenz. He adds that 3d will be an ‘appointment to view’ proposition: “It’s not about trying to fill six hours of programming an evening, it’s about providing a couple of great shows per week."

The channel will kick off on Saturday with the screening in 3d of the Barclays Premier League clash between Manchester United and Chelsea, including live mixing between camera positions, slow-mo 3d replays and 3d graphics. While there will be next to no viewers with 3d TV sets at home at this point, over a thousand pubs and clubs in the UK and Ireland have already signed up to the channel.

As well as sports, over time, movies, entertainment, natural history and music will all be available in 3d on the channel. The broadcaster is announcing a wider schedule for the channel in the autumn. One thing that’s not on the list of potential things to be broadcast is 2d programming that’s been converted to 3d. The channel will have a minimum of 90% native 3d footage and any remaining 2d-originated footage must have been captured in HD.

See the Spring 2010 issue of The Producer magazine for further details

Posted 30 March 2010 by Jake Bickerton

Mesmerising art-inspired animations

Experimental animation director Max Hattler has just completed two strangely enticing animation loops inspired by paintings by French “outsider artist” Augustin Lesage (see artwork below).

Hattler, whose recent work includes distinctive tour graphics for Basement Jaxx and an intricate and eye-catching stop-frame animation called Aanaatt, directed the films, which were made by a team of student animators and cg artists at The Animation Workshop – Centre for Animation in Viborg, Denmark.

The hypnotic, mesmerising loops are both heavily influenced by Lesage’s A Symbolic Composition of the Spiritual World paintings, from 1923-25. They are being showcased at the Lumen Eclipse “public media art gallery” in Cambridge, Massachusetts in a Hattler solo show that runs from 1 April to 30 June.



1923 aka Heaven (by Max Hattler) from Max Hattler on Vimeo.

1925 aka Hell (by Max Hattler) from Max Hattler on Vimeo.

Posted 23 March 2010 by Jake Bickerton

Stereo 3d: Do you speak-a my language?

Linguists would have had a field day at The Foundry’s stereo 3d Nuke Masterclass at Vue, Leicester Square today, observing the fascinating alien language used when referencing the how’s and why’s of all things stereo 3d.



The phrases being banded around in the packed cinema, perhaps predictably full of mid-20s to 30-something males, were beyond comprehension to all but the relatively few DoPs, camera operators, techie geeks, vfx artists and producers who’ve already tried to tackle a full-scale stereo 3d project from acquisition through post to delivery.


Try these for size... “disparity field”, “interaxial separation”, “monoscopic depth cues” and “interocular distance”. Not to mention the ‘basic’ stuff such as “positive and negative parallax” and “convergence points”. This stuff isn’t for the faint hearted.


The Foundry’s Simon Robinson started off proceedings by trying to explain a lot of these terms, with the aid of some handy diagrams. Personally, I was still pretty confused despite his valiant efforts, but he was preaching to the converted, with many audience members already fairly well versed in stereo 3d geek speak.


The first proper talk of the day was by Andy Miln, director of stereo 3d specialist, Inition 3d, about how best to shoot in stereo 3d. His detailed examples elicited loads of complex questions from the 3d-educated audience, addressing the finer details of using different cameras, mirror rigs (which apparently reduce those aforementioned “interaxial separations”), doing focus pulls and things like that.


Then Framestore’s Theodor Groeneboom, who worked on Avatar, took us through using Nuke to do stereo 3d post production. He made the point that it doesn’t matter how well prepared you are on the shoot and how many times you’ve tried to eliminate potential problems, a tonne of post production cleaning up work WILL be required to bash the stereo effect into shape and make it all comfortable to watch.


The main culprits requiring post work are colour mismatches and vertical misalignments between the left and right eyes and unmatched lens reflections. All are fixable using quite fiddly post techniques, but the message (and this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise) is that stereo 3d is heavily demanding of time and effort in both production and post.


After a morning spent at this Masterclass, the best advice for doing stereo 3d would be to surround yourself with people who've had proper, in depth prior experience of stereo production.

Not only will they help ensure everything runs much more smoothly and many stumbling blocks are avoided, they'll also provide a much needed translation services for mere mortals who don’t yet know their interaxial from their interocular or their disparity field from their monoscopic depth cues.

Posted 12 March 2010 by Jake Bickerton

Ok Go - this too shall pass

Not content with notching up over 50 million YouTube views for their one-shot 'treadmill' video for 2007 single Here It Goes Again, OK Go have made two outstanding one-shot promos for their current single This Too Shall Pass.

The first attempt, made by California's Bonfire Films and released last month, saw the band perform a well-timed single-take live version of the track as an ever-expanding marching band, and was suitably impressive.

But the second one, which went up on YouTube at the start of March, is truly phenomenal...

Built around an incredibly complex series of Rube Goldberg Machines, constructed by LA's Syyn Labs, it's a more rough and ready but even more extraordinary take on the type of thing made famous in the Honda Cog spot and the ace kid's game Mousetrap.

"The requirements were it had to be interesting, not overbuilt or too technology-heavy, and easy to follow," says Syyn Labs.

"The machine also had to be built on a shoestring budget, synchronise with beats and lyrics in the music and end on time over a three and a half minute song, play a part of the song, and be filmed in one shot. To make things more challenging still, the space chosen was divided into two floors and the machine would use both."

The Mill New York did the grade on the promo and also worked on "online touches, helping synergise the fun".

Posted 10 March 2010 by Jake Bickerton

Stereo 3d at home

All things stereo 3d had a major boost this week with the announcement that the first 3d TVs will be in the shops by the end of this month. Samsung is first out the blocks with a model expected to cost around £2k.

Naturally, with a price tag that high and nigh on zero content to watch, it's going to be for enthusiasts only. But perhaps not for long as, it seems, everyone is getting in on the act. Panasonic will have its first 3d TVs out shortly after Samsung, followed by Sony, which promises sets in the shops in June and aims to sell 2.5m 3d TVs worldwide by March next year.

This seems a most ambitious figure but anyone who's seen Avatar couldn't fail but notice the long list of stereo 3d releases coming up this year in the endless trailers, which will all eventually make it on to 3d Blu-ray discs.

Added to this, Sony is releasing an upgrade to make it possible for the PlayStation 3 to play 3d games, which will do a great deal to further boost the market.

The TV sets still require viewers to wear glasses, which may – beside the price – put some people off, but the success of Avatar demonstrates most people are happy enough to watch something of considerable length while donning glasses.

So, you can expect stereo 3d to be even bigger than ever at NAB next month and more and more facilities gearing up for what looks like it's going to be far more than a fad after all.

Posted 10 March 2010 by Jake Bickerton

Stunning shots on inexpensive kit

These beautiful images were captured for an episode of the BBC's Natural World natural history strand. The episode, The Wild Places of Essex, was shot on the Red One camera, posted in Final Cut and graded in FCP's Color, producing results with comparable detail and colour reproduction as the most expensive top-end acquisition and post kit.

Bristol post house Inc. worked on the episode, produced by AGB Films and shot by BAFTA nominated cameraman Robin Cox.

The doc, first shown on the BBC last month, explores the "unexpected landscapes and natural history of Essex, revealing far more than white stilettos and boy racers". It has since been entered into the single doc category of the BAFTAs and also entered for five Craft awards.

Posted 10 March 2010 by Jake Bickerton

MPC simplifies Canon SD/7D editing

MPC has added a new service to its Data Lab to make it easier to work with HD video from Canon's increasingly popular digital still cameras, the EOS 5D Mark II and EOS 7D Mark II.

Both cameras shoot high quality HD video but the footage doesn't include timecode or metadata information so things soon get complicated when it comes to conforming edit-decision-lists.

To address the problem, MPC creates new masters by renaming the Canon clips and striping them with continuous timecode and "intelligent reel ID", meaning all source footage is uniquely identifiable. The clips are then "transcoded to the native format of the required editing platform", be it .mxf files for Avid, ProRes QuickTimes for Final Cut or whatever.

Following the edit, the edit-decision-lists are "guaranteed to give a trouble-free conform," says MPC.

The process of prepping Canon 5D and 7D footage is reasonably speedy, and considerably faster than real-time. MPC processed over 21 hours of footage for a recent UNICEF campaign for RSA Films in less than six hours "from receipt of the drive to delivery to the edit house".

Posted 10 March 2010 by Jake Bickerton

UK Screen's Report launch event

UK Screen is doing its bit to raise the profile of the facilities sector with a 100-page document surveying the financial impact of the sector – which includes post production, studios, outside broadcast and camera hire companies – on the UK economy. The survey, based on extensive analysis of the sector from 2006-08, was launched at an event at NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) if front of an audience of mainly suits.

UK Screen's report goes into great detail about the different trends and challenges in each of the key areas within the sector. The headline figures coming out of it are worth emphasising here though as they really bring home the sheer size and scale of a sector that many underestimate in terms of its value and the number of people it employs. There are 1,300 companies in the facilities sector employing 25,000 people, and with a combined turnover of £2.2bn. The challenge is now to ensure those that matter in government and elsewhere are made aware of this.

Back to the launch event... UK Screen CEO Gaynor Davenport kicked things off with a three and a half minute reel showcasing the film, ads and TV work of the sector, before Jonathan Olsberg of strategic consultancy Olsberg|SPI (which produced the report along with economic development and research consultancy TBR) took over to talk about how there’s a need to challenge the argument that the facilities sector has merely a supporting role as a service provider.

He added that he doesn’t think there’s enough awareness of the sector or its activities.
The launch of the report, he said, was the start of a journey to change all this.

Andrew Graves, the md of TBR, was next, commenting that, “As someone outside looking in, the capabilities of the sector are awe inspiring”. He believes the report should not only inform policy-making but assist facilities in decision-making and in searching out market opportunities. He pointed out that the turnover of the facilities sector is larger than the whole of the UK independent TV production sector and two-thirds of the UK’s film sector.

Olsberg|SPI's Libbie McQuillan was next on the podium and raised the issue of the lack of a terms of trade for companies within the facilities sector, and that IP from vfx/graphics isn’t shared with post production houses.

Colin Brown, The UK Film Council's British Film Commissioner (who’s also on the board of UK Screen), wrapped things up by talking about the success of the UK’s facilities sector on the global stage, and, referring back to the opening showreel, said there’s a need for people to know the size and importance of the sector and for the message to get out there that: “We’re the guys who get them to look like that”.

Finally, UK Screen addressed the issue of the report being two years out of date and acknowledged that plenty has changed during the recession. Davenport said she will “capture change" to update the report, at least to some degree, with a more current picture of the sector.

Posted 10 March 2010 by Jake Bickerton
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