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Stereoscopic Displays and Applications XVII (2006)
Proceedings of the SPIE Volume 6055



Discussion Forum

Stereoscopic Digital Cinema - The Way of the Future or a 9 Day Wonder?

Moderator:   Charles Swartz, Executive Director/CEO Entertainment Technology Center at USC
Panel:Lenny Lipton, CTO, REAL D
Ray Zone, The 3-D Zone
John Rupkalvis, Stereoscopic Consultant, StereoScope International
Neil Feldman, Senior Vice President, In-Three, Inc.

Discussion Forum Speakers


Discussion Forum Transcript

Stereoscopic Digital Cinema: The Way of the Future or a 9 Day Wonder.

Panel:
CS: Charles Swartz (chairman)
RZ: Ray Zone
LL: Lenny Lipton
JR: John Rupkalvis
NF: Neil Feldman

CS:Good morning everyone. My name is Charles Swartz. I am your moderator for this panel today. Before I introduce the panelists to you and we start the discussion I have a very few slides to show you and they concern digital cinema and I know thatís been a subject for some of the conversations in this conference but I thought it may be helpful for us to just review a little bit of whatís been happening in the motion picture industry that sets the stage for this discussion. My name is Charles Swartz, Iím executive director of the entertainment technology center at USC, an organized research unit within the school of cinema and television.
So lets remind ourselves that motion pictures began in 1895 when the first motion picture was shown to an audience as opposed to zoetropes and other devices which where essentially individual. The LumiŤre brothers made this showing in Paris, the camera and the projector was one device by the way. In the first 20 years of motion pictures there was no standardization around the film itself. The gauges or the width of the film were quite varied. There were dozens of them. Whatever gauge and perforation arrangement was required for the camera negative, the very same projector was required in order to show it in the cinema. So that meant that if you shot a film in Skladanowski film for example, then you had to project it in that very same format. And it was not until 1916 when the society of motion picture engineers, it did not have the T for television, SMPE, as their very first act when they were formed created a standard for 35 millimeter four perforation film with a very, very slight difference between the camera negative and the print film, essentially very similar, and that meant that a single world wide standard was created and we are living with that standard today. We would describe it as extensible and scalable in IT terms, and within that format of 35millimeter four perforation we went from silent films to sound films to color to widescreen formats of all kinds and finally to what essentially most films are shot in today either a flat spherical form 1.85 or widescreen cinemascope aspect ratio.
Now itís worth remembering that when we talk about digital cinema the motion picture industry has a very specific meaning for that term. As this indicates the first half of the motion picture process, essentially a creatively driven process, includes the production, the post production, the final mastering or the color grading and the final sound mix, that is a process which is traditionally analog but increasingly has become digital which as everybody knows in visual effects production and editing and animation and so on. The second half of the process, the creation of the film prints and of sending them to theaters and showing them in theaters which we call here packaging distribution and exhibition is essentially an analog process with the exception of the few digital cinema trials weíve seen. It is an industrial process, one in which essentially you want no creativity, you want simply to try to match as close as possible the creative intent of the filmmakers in that final master. It is the second half which the motion picture industry calls digital cinema. This is the scope of the work in specifications and standards. Now perhaps one day film will be replaced as an acquisition medium and if that happens and prints are replaced by digital cinema then weíll redefine the term digital cinema to mean an end to end process.
So to achieve the benefits of having a digital packaging, distribution and exhibition are, and not listed in any order of priority, cost savings because you donít have to manufacture and ship prints, you simply make files. Secondly security because the files will be encrypted, third flexibility and flexibility comes in many ways since the digital cinema file will contain multiple dubbed language tracks as well as multiple subtitle language tracks it means that an exhibitor could play the film in multiple languages in multiple different auditoria and it doesnít require sending additional prints. In addition it would certainly be possible to envision a situation where the R-rated version of the film might be playing in the evening or in theater 1, the PG-13 rated version for the kids might be laying at another time or in another auditorium and even the directorís cut if theyíre all ready in time, might be playing in still a third auditorium. And audiences would have the choice of which they wanted to see.
And of course, better presentation is absolutely one of the benefits because unlike film prints thereís no fading thereís no wear, the thousandth screening is just as good as the first screening. But in order to achieve this, the motion picture industry determined that the requirements were essentially two important ones that the system be an open interoperable, extensible, scalable system and that it be adopted world wide. After all 35 millimeter prints going to any theater in the world can be played, there is a single world wide distribution standard. Except for the language and possibly censorship in some countries we have a single worldwide inventory. And thatís exactly what needs to be achieved to make digital cinema a success.
Some people ask if itís worked on for so long, why is digital cinema taking so long to implement? I think there are essentially three challenges that the motion picture industry has faced. The first is the esthetic challenge, film is a very rich and flexible medium, itís a mature technology very familiar to all the creative people who work with it from cinematographers on the set to the people doing the final color timing. Secondly there are technical challenges to producing very high quality images in the cinema setting. Thereís a situation of extreme magnification going from a very small image to an image that maybe 20 or even 30 meters wide. There are issues of compression, of color, of contrast and resolution, all that had to be worked through. And finally there are economic challenges because it is an entirely new system and supply chain and an entirely new booth infrastructure within the theater or cinema itself.
So in the year 2000 our center created a digital cinema laboratory which is a test bed with the goals that are stated as you can read on the screen.
And between 2000 and 2002 with the help of a technical advisory board and many organizations helping us including, I see Charles Fenimore in the audience, NIST was a big help in that regard. Tests and demonstrations were undertaken. And then in 2002 the seven motion picture studios formed a consortium with the purpose of seeing if they could agree on technical specifications. The purpose was to create a document of voluntary specifications for an open architecture that would establish a high level of technical performance, reliability and quality control. They did finally reach agreement on that thru a series of tests that were done in the digital cinema laboratory and last summer, July of 2005 announced their specification which is now moving through SMPTE as a standard.
And in highlights these are the key characteristics of it, if your not familiar with it, the compression scheme is JPEG2000, the image structure as far as resolution has three profiles, so called 2K profile, 4K profile and a third profile, which weíll talk about this morning, and that is 2K at 48 frames per second which was put into the spec both for stereoscopic as well as for directors who wish to use the higher frame rate for the believed benefits that higher frame rate provides. It is a 12 bit system that uses a device independent color scheme so that the file can be transcoded into what ever format the display technology requires. And itís all wrapped in an MXF wrapper. If youíre interested the spec can be downloaded at www.DCIMovies.com. It is moving thru SMPTE as I have said and there has been much input from many organizations.
So with that as the background Iíd like to ask our panelists to introduce themselves, we are missing one panelist, Walt Husak from Dolby labs was not able to attend. So once our panelists introduce themselves and you can put the face with the name, Iíll pose the question of the day and weíll launch into our discussion. So letís start at this end with Ray.
RZ:Hello everybody Iím Ray Zone, Iím a film historian and producer of stereoscopic motion pictures. My book came out last year, 3-D Filmmakers: Conversations with Creators of Stereoscopic Motion Pictures. Iím a big fan of digital cinema because of the possibilities for 3D it presents.
LL:Iím Lenny Lipton. You may know me in my association with StereoGraphics, which I founded. Last year StereoGraphics was sold to REAL D. And REAL D is currently launching the stereoscopic digital cinema. And some of you may have seen Chicken Little. As the chairman of the board of REAL D said to me, Lenny, itís 25 years and itís a chicken.
JR:John Rupkalvis here. I have my own company, Stereocope International. A huge company, consists of 3 people, me, myself, and I. And primarily I do consulting work in all aspects, really, of the filmmaking and video processes everything from the initial concept development all the way thru seeing something on the screen, advising my clients in all steps of the process, depending on the techniques then procedures that are available at any one particular time.
NF:My nameís Neil Feldman, Iím senior vice president of a new startup company called In-Three. Weíve been under everybodyís radar for many years now but weíre surfacing. And weíre based in Westlake Village down outside of Los Angeles.
CS:Ok, thank you all, so what Iíd like to do is pose the question of this panel to each of our 4 panelists, ask them to take a few minutes, maximum 5, to give their answer, all ask a few questions and then weíll throw it open to discussion from everyone. So the question of the day is, as stated in the program: Is stereoscopic digital cinema the way of the future or a 9 day wonder? Now I donít know why 9 days is so significant but thatís the questionÖ So lets start with Ray and work our way down the panel, so which is it?
RZ:Itís the future, the 9 days of stereoscopic cinema, the 9 day wonder has lasted about a century and thatís a very long period to get the technical ducks in a row. But now those ducks are all in a row and we have a system, a platform which eliminates crosstalk, which is the major difficulty in any stereoscopic display. Without crosstalk, accommodation and convergence are no problem and the platform is transparent now, so that a creative filmmaker who wants to use the audience space as a parameter of the narrative in stereoscopic story telling can do so. Weíre at the point now where the technology will allow the creation of a new visual grammar for narrative motion pictures. Itís very exciting and the time really has come, thereís no reason why films should not be 3D anymore, given the flexibility, the ease of use, and the transparency of digital cinema, so itís a very exciting time for 3D and stereoscopic filmmaking. Weíre at the dawn of a new age for stereoscopic story telling and weíre going to see the creation of this new grammar on the screen and depth, the z axis is going to be used both behind the screen and in front of the screen as an aspect of story telling in a very new way. There will be, I predict, instituted in schools of cinema and television, courses in stereoscopic motion picture production as well as all aspects of stereoscopic imagery. So Iím quite excited, Iím absolutely thrilled to still be alive at this time in history, which is a bit of surprise, since I never thought Iíd live this long, but Iím sure glad I did and itís a real pleasure for me to know people like Lenny, John and Neil as well as other people involved in the creation of stereoscopic moving images. So my answer is definitely 3D motion pictures have no reason now not to be a permanent part of the cinema landscape.
CS:OK, Lenny, why donít you give us your answer, is it the way of the future?
LL:Well Iím... You know, youíll be able to tell in a few years, historical hindsight will provide the definitive answer, but right now I can tell you Iím having a very good time. In my life as an inventor Iíve been guided by these principles, I realize, in retrospect, with regard to stereoscopic imaging technology and designing these systems, the first rule is to "do no harm". And when I came on the scene I realize there were many stereoscopic display devices that did not pay attention to that. The next maxim is "make it beautiful" - the image has to be beautiful. Although StereoGraphics Corporation made itís mark by selling professional systems to people who were doing a job of work, none of them would have accepted our products if the images werenít beautiful. And finally itís got to be simple. Simple in many different ways, simple to use. Simplicity is important, and the theatrical system that my colleagues and I designed, that Josh Greer and Matt Cowan helped put together is simple. The kid at the candy counter can work it. It isnít any harder to project a stereoscopic digital movie than it is to switch between spherical and scope. Thatís very, very important. I think that digital cinema will be readily accepted and easy for the kid at the candy counter to work because heís computer literate and these projectors are computers. If youíve seen Chicken Little and obviously Iím prejudiced but to my eyes itís the best stereoscopic projection Iíve ever seen. The images are very good and itís a real product, itís a real product because itís repeatable. Weíve had no failures, no breakdowns in 85 theaters. We have, in the United States, there are theaters in Mexico, Canada, in Germany and Australia and in England. By the end of this year there will be hundreds and hundreds of theaters and possibly as many as a half a dozen movies. The acceptance of the stereoscopic cinema I hope follows a pattern of other modalities in the cinema. When the cinema started off, allegedly silent and in monochrome, but really, people were coloring in with stencils or with tinting and toning and the movies were never silent, people always played music along with the movies. Movies were in wide screen from the beginning. But once a modality is accepted and itís here, itís hard to go back. And once sound connected, it connected, it took a couple of years of chaos, the film industry adapted to that and the same thing was true for wide screen. There were economic forces, historical forces at work. The cinema right now has had several very difficult years. IMAX showed the way with Polar Express and did terrific at the box office, and that alerted the people in the industry to the fact that 3D might really have legs, there might be something to it and our invention and our product which allows a conventional cinema to be turned into a stereoscopic cinema and a good quality cinema, I think, bodes well. I agree with everything Ray said, so Iím looking forward to an exciting few years. I think thatís good for the rest of us in the stereoscopic business of inventing because it may mean more funds at the university level, it may mean more interest in industry, it may bode well for a future stereoscopic television. So I think the futureís bright and Iíll do everything I can to brighten it up.
CS:Thank you. John?
JR:I agree also with everything that Lenny and Ray both said. That said I should point out that I tend to be naturally optimistic with a bit of caution put in. When weíre looking at this weíre actually looking at trying to make a prediction based upon what we know now and there will be many, many things coming up that may affect the outcome. When you make a prediction about anything there are four points you have to keep in mind. The first one has already been introduced, and that of course is the history. We want to look at the cycle of stereoscopic imagery has gone thru in the industry over the years of the ups and downs. It is perhaps all to easy to say that because of this cycle that it will repeat, that history will repeat, it often does. But not always, there are some exceptions. One of the excerptions occurs when there is a very distinct change in the technology that is available and this is something that is also pointed out that we are right now on the cusp of, itís pointed out that is also itís gradual, itís not something thatís occurred overnight, itís been happening for a long time, itís evolving, but it is happening and weíre going to be seeing even more changes. The third item after history and technology is the art form itself. No matter how good the technology may be it is absolutely useless without content. And therefore the evolving of the content will also be a very important determining factor. And the forth item is that of marketing which is an area that is perhaps often underrated but may possibly be the decisive factor in determining whether or not that the stereoscopic cinema will become a permanent fixture.
CS:Ok, Thanks. And Neil, is it the future?
NF:Of course itís the future, but youíd expect me to say that. But I think that what I want to do is bring to you what the real stakeholders have to say about it. There are three stakeholders, and this is how you can judge whether or not itís the future or not. The three stakeholders and Charles mentioned them, are first the creative people in Hollywood and around the world who are creating high quality content.
The second are the studios who are acting as distributors and financing and managing this whole incredible industry. And the third piece are the theater owners. Now in digital cinema all three stakeholders have to have a stake in this for it to happen. And Iíd like to start by talking about the creative community because thatís where it began. None of you will be surprised that George Lucas was a major force in seeing digital and all of its techniques both acquisition, editing and now distribution. In late April about a month after a show we did in ShoWest for all the theater owners, George Lucas, the day after he finished the edit on Revenge of the Sith invited 65 of his friends up to the ranch to discuss everyoneís experience, these were top digital folks, their experience using digital for the past year.
Brad Bird who was the director and producer from Pixar of The Incredibles, illustrated the stakeholding of the creative community when he came, this presentation was showing the same 3 minutes of a segment from The Incredibles in three different ways. First he showed what is known as the answer print, a 35mm pristine print of this scene from The Incredibles. It was gorgeous. It was the kind of thing theyíre used to working on when they are sitting in their editing rooms and their screening rooms at the various studios. And then he said Iíd like to show you the same scene thru a digital projector, it was a Christie CP2000, 2048 pixels by 1080 and I think everyone in the audience could see right away, that image was crisp, clear, it looked better than the answer print which went beyond what DCI was hoping for, which was basically better than the release print. And speaking of the release print, that was the third version he showed, a typical, beat up release print of the movie where the colors were faded, scratched, out of focus. It was very depressing to watch and he said look, this is what weíre going to bring to the audience. Every single viewing is going to be at higher quality than the answer print. This is what we want.
Now when George Lucas saw the demo that we did for him, in case youíre not familiar with what In-Three does, we do extraordinarily high quality conversion of 2D material from any source to 3D. Thatís what we have been working on, thatís what we have been quietly showing every Hollywood studio for the past few years. And he was so wowed by that that he gave us entry into the Hollywood community. One of the demos we did was for Peter Jackson. Peter Jackson said how can we use this to get digital cinema out there quicker? We all know digital is coming but what 3D will do is act as a catalyst. Itís a catalyst because it answers the third equation which is the theater owners, the guys that are out there at the front lines.
For theater owners, the reason that digital hasnít happened, aside from the list you saw there, the major reason is, up till now, theater owners have said, whatís in it for me? This is going to be a very expensive retrofit of a system thatís not broke and Iím not going to break it. Why should I do this? And the answer came, we felt when we did our show at ShoWest last march where we showed that 2000 attendees could see 3D with a standard installation of any of the, what will be DCI compliant projectors and servers that are destined to go into all these theaters. We were in the Paris Theater which is 55 foot screen it was only illuminated to about 46 feet and we handed out shutter glasses and I should give you a caveat right here, we work closely with Boyd McNaughton of NuVision, we designed our own very lightweight shutter glasses, but our idea is we are agnostic, we like the REAL D system, we feel itís very nice that the theater owners have a choice as to how they will implement this. In both cases, either the REAL D which puts the shuttering mechanism if you will in front of the projector and allows you to use very inexpensive polarized glasses like the oneís I saw in the audience there. But the problem with the REAL D approach is you have to change the screen. And thatís a silver screen. We donít believe all the theater owners are going to be happy about that so we have been working to give them an alternative which is using very high quality but low cost shutter glasses which wouldnít require any change in screen.
In any case we did that show and weíre now here a year later to tell you that the theater owners see that they can make money. John Fithian the President of the national association of theater owners made a speech just the other day and it had gone so far the other way that he had to point out that 3D is not just digital cinema, that itís a component. But itís a very, very important component and itís why youíre going to see digital cinema take off very rapidly.
CS:Ok, thank you very much and I was just going to ask Ray to amplify slightly on the comment that Neil made just for those people that have not followed this to help us understand the two ways that digital cinema can be projected in the theaters. So Neil alluded to that. You want to just give us a couple minute tutorial?
RZ:Sure, the NuVision system uses alternating shutter glasses at a 96 hertz rate and can be used with a flat white screen. And it works very well, thereís an infrared sensor in the glasses and an emitter on the screen so that the glasses are in synch with the projection. And the REAL D system runs alternating field at a 144 hertz is what Josh told me. Itís triple flashing off the 24 FPS so it runs at a faster rate, 72 FPS per eye as apposed to 48 with NuVision. But it uses Lennyís Z-screen technology for that and projection onto a silver screen, so that you can use the passive polarizing glasses in this case circular polarizers which are a real advantage in the theater because nobody, Iím looking out here and I donít see everybody in the audience holding your head at 90 degrees straight. And REAL D is working on a combination matte white/silver screen that will be good for 2D and 3D applications equally. So those are the 2 current 3D platforms for displaying 3D images and as Neil said the advantage for the NuVision is that a flat white screen will work and with the REAL D, you do need a silver screen so it is traditional in that respect. But both work very well with the new 3D technology.
CS:OK, thank you, so I think a couple of observations as we go into our questions so that everyone understands, from the theater owners perspective, they are looking at a number of years of transition in which they will be playing both film and digital material so the screen and the booth has to work for film prints as long as film will still be distributed and it has to work for digital 2D as well as these examples of 3D, so theyíre in a bit of a juggling act and thatís why we see these systems both existing side by side.
The second thing to keep in mind is, as indicated, weíve got a number of ways from the creative point of view that content can be created for 3D movies, it might be created originally in 3D using two cameras, it might be converted from 2D to 3D, such as Neil described and animation might be itís own special case, since in animation which is all done today as CGI animation it would be possible to render out the additional eye view, or not, at some point in post production cycle. That could be planned for in the beginning or you could go back to the CGI animation movie and render out another eye view from the files that you have, so all those are being discussed and looked at.
Well Iíd like to put a few questions to the panelists, first Iíll put a question to Neil just to clarify this, if In-Three were to create a feature film version of a movie, letís say Star Wars Episode 4, is it true that that could play on the shutter glass system or on the REAL D system.
NF:Yes, our system, we are absolutely agnostic, we create the second eye view, what we do is we establish the left eye as the original image, we donít touch the left eye at all, we create if you will a synthetic right camera from the original image that we are handed and it will play on the REAL D system and it will play in Anaglyph, not that we want to. You can go any way you like once you have the two left and right images.
But I have to point out that we have been very, very adamant that this has got to be the highest quality experience, we only have one shot. When we did ShoWest again we prefer others to speak for us we had George Lucas introduced, and by the way at that show, this is not a secret, George Lucas announced that he plans to dimensionalize, thatís our trademark term for what we do, all six episodes of Star Wars, commencing with the may 2007 anniversary of the original Star Wars, so weíll have one a year, if George holds true to his vision which is very nice. Itís not going to be the first feature film of ours but its one we can tell you about.
But we really want to see REAL Dís system proliferate, we wish them well, we want to see as many theaters as possible because the equation, and this is another way you can tell if this is the future or not. The equation also depends on a certain minimal amount of theaters so that all the stakeholders get their money back. And that number varies from studio to studio but generally itís probably in the range of 500 theaters. Thatís why some of the other networks that are out there have not yet financially been of interest to the major studios in quite the same way.
CS:OK, now Iíd like to put a question, and Iíll start with Ray and go down the line, based on a comment that he made earlier in his introduction regarding the grammar of film in 3Dimensions. Letís imaging we are a film maker either making a live action film with two cameras such as James Cameron is going to do or making a new animation film that is going to be created where both eye views could be created.
Now the filmmaker knows that in the next few years that only a fraction of the viewers will see that in 3D. The majority of viewers are going to see it in 2D until the systems are proliferated widely, so from a creative point of view how do you address that, in other words if there is a scene in which you are fully taking advantage from the standpoint of film grammar of the Z axis, what about the people that are never going to see it with that Z axis, do you have to do something differently? Can you juggle both of those dimensions? This is a little bit like making a movie in color that many people will see in black and white. So Iíll start with you and get your answer and go down the line.
RZ:Well, 3D or the use of the Z axis in story telling has been present in the finest films made over the past century. Citizen Kane was a masterpiece of deep focus photography. And any director who is aware of space uses the Z axis in staging. So many film noirs made in black and white and 2D exploited the physical space, the z axis in the lighting, the staging and point of view. Point of view has been used beautifully in many masterpieces of film. Itís a 3D element, in fact you might say that 2D movies, 2D cinema has co-opted 3D and exploited it on the flat screen for years.
CS:OK, Lenny, you want to grab the mic and give us your view about that.
LL:Well I think itís actually a non issue because the pattern thatís immerged is that in the REAL D theaters Chicken Little did 3 times the business that it did in 2D theaters. I think exhibitors faced with that reality will rapidly equip their theaters with 3D capability. You know money talks; the rest is a lot of BS. So I think weíll see a very rapid acceptance. When sound was introduced, very quickly silent movies were dead. When widescreen was introduced very, very quickly people were cropping the tops and bottoms off of their movies and trying to show them. So we will see the same pattern for the stereoscopic cinema. I think there will be a very rapid transition to the stereoscopic cinema because of economics. If the theaters that are showing 3D movies are doing better, itís very clear whatís going to happen next. So I donít think itís much of an issue. It will be a fugitive issue.
JR:The design of a particular film very often effects the perception, the visual perception that we have of it and certainly in the stereoscopic area there is a component that we must recognize. However I think it important to also recognize the real world the fact that 3D movies most, perhaps all 3D movies that most of us are aware of, have been exhibited also flat, primarily on TV and very often quite successfully so.
The reverse is not necessarily true. It can be for using a very dimensionalized film such as what Ray referred to. Certainly it can be the case, however in some cases, a film is deliberately designed for whatever reasons esthetics, whatever, around characteristics that are not ideal for stereoscopic translation and I think that in those cases it becomes at least more of a challenge for people like Neal to look at the footage when they are starting out with footage, correct me if Iím wrong, I believe that footage that is designed with a stereoscopic or at least a perspective type of impression, it perhaps is a little bit easier to come up with a product that is really dynamic in terms of the stereoscopic interpretation.
NF:Not exactly. What Iím going to tell you is this. The experience is a different experience and it to me is more akin to whatís happened to surround sound. My partner gets very upset with me when I say what we do is like surround sound for your eyes. Weíre not trying to make a theme park ride; we are not trying to emphasize 3D effects at all. Weíre trying to convince the audience to immerse themselves more in the experience. And so when we take movies you have seen hundreds of times. Wizard of Oz or Casablanca or what have you, itís a different experience and to me a much more satisfying experience.
Iíll give you an example, I wonít tell you who the filmmaker was, someone you know very well. We were doing a demo and he was very opinionated about which of his films would be great in this process and which he wouldnít want us to touch with a ten foot pole. For the very reasons that John brought up and of course we beg to differ but the interesting thing was there was one movie and he said Iím not so sure about that one. We said well weíve got a couple of scenes, you want to see? He says OK. And he looked at and says you know I donít know how you guys did that, he says thatís exactly the way it looked like on the set. That was our greatest compliment weíve ever gotten from anybody because thatís what weíre trying to do. Thatís what weíre trying to bring to the audience.
CS:And Neil, let me follow up with you about a question regarding movies that might shoot live action in 2D, for whatever reasons, cost or technology, they want to shoot on film, letís say, but they want to preserve the ability to convert to 3D for the theater at some later time. There is a movement and a desire we hear about in Hollywood to capture certain information on the set that the camera sees. Depth information would be an example. So if there were a way to capture key depth information on the set at the time the shot was made and attach that as meta-data or whatever to the shot, would the process of 2D to 3D conversion be faster, less expensive, more accurate, would it be helpful to the process.
NF:At the present time because we set out looking at this very differently weíve set out trying to say we can take any product that wasnít initially designed for 3D and turn it into true comfortable 3D that you will buy, you will feel is realistic. I think that the things that youíre describing will occur, once Hollywood, and once you realize how many people in Hollywood want to work in this medium, will look for other tricks if you will that will speed up the process or help us, but at this point in time we really not designed to take much of that information. Itís not how we do our work. So I canít really address that. But certainly a better sense of what the filmmaker would like to see in 3D is certainly always going to be helpful for us.
CS:I have one last question Iím going to put to the panel and then open it up. So we talked a moment ago about the home and I think we should at least give the audience the panelís views about this prospect, the fact of making movies in 3D or converting movies into 3D is going to be an added expense and a lot of the studios who are financing this are looking and saying, well is it possible that at some point in the future I would be able to send the movies to the home for 3D display as well as the 3D cinema itself. You might call that digital cinema in the home. So all just go down the line, Iíll start with Ray and give us your views about where we are in terms of display technology and the ability to deliver a stereoscopic experience when you watch the Wizard of Oz in your home.
RZ:Itís an important question because what theater owners right now are looking for is differentiation. People are staying home watching their new large screen HD TVs with the 5.1 sound systems. Thatís a huge reason why people arenít going to the movies now and theater owners are really paying attention to 3D because it provides the kind of differentiation that will bring people out of the home. Thatís why the IMAX experience has been a good model over past 2 decades, itís very illustrative, you can look at what happened with IMAX and the IMAX 3D films. It provides a differentiated cinematic experience that is a quantum leap beyond what you have in the regular cinema. So right now that differentiation is going to be important in launching digital 3D cinema with the theater owners as one of the 3 stakeholders participating. I donít believe IMAX has ever released any of their 3D films on the alternating field platform for DVD which is a viable and, itís a niche and small part of the market for 3D in the home. Because they want to maintain that differentiation. Problematic in this whole question and issue is the fact that youíve got LCD and progressive scan TVs coming out into the home market which is not friendly to alternating field technology. So those are kind of two ways to look at the issue. Right now thereís a window similar to 1952 when people were staying away from theaters to watch Milton Berle on TV. 3D was used to bring them back into the theater and digital cinema provides the same opportunity to exhibitors now to provide that kind of differentiated experience.
LL:Well somehow in this discussion the fourth stakeholder has been ignored and thatís the audience, of people at home. Itís not a technology issue, there are so many different ways to produce stereoscopic images, successful embodiments for home television, itís simply a question of will. What Ray said is to the point, right now the reason that the studios are so interested in the stereoscopic cinema is because of what we call the perfect storm. Box offices declining, the digital cinema is here, and REAL D has invented a product thatís a real simple easy to use product - combined with CGI movies which will create an ample source of stereoscopic content. Eventually of course I think weíll see people doing what Jim Cameron is doing shooting with live cameras so that the matter of conversion will become an interesting subject. But I think that we will see stereoscopic televisions, and I donít think that, I donít know what the time frame is, I think it is in the near future, and I wouldnít bet on which technology will prevail because I think that there will be several approaches that will work and will be completely satisfactory.
JR:I would like to serve comment on a comment of Neilís which, by the way, I do in general agree with but I think thereís a common misconception that 3D must be a type of gimmick where you have the "poke in the eye" type of effect all the time, that type of thing. The reality is that 3D can be very, very pleasing images which makes best use of the stage, if you will, that is available. In fact Iíve seen some beautiful examples in some of the things that Neil has shown already where you have content that extends not only behind the screen but in front of the screen, not to poke people in the eye, but rather to be naturally part of the scene, part of the action, and it comes together very, very nicely.
Films that allow this are very, very conducive to stereoscopic imaging and to use perhaps and example of an area where this very often did not occur was in a stereoscopic film it was initially 2D but it was, shall we say, re-rendered stereoscopically and that was Chicken Little where the original artwork, beautiful backgrounds and so forth, but it was constrictive in terms of what could be done with the stereoscopic stage, the images had to be compressed to an area that was behind the screen for the most part in many of the scenes simply because the artwork was drawn with the closest objects in terms of perspective, shading, occlusion and so forth, being at the edges, in fact very often overlapping with the edges, which more or less defined the stereoscopic window.
So with this thought in mind I think that the design of the stereo product very often affects this, whether weíre talking about designing a stereoscopic product that is intended for use with essentially a two or more camera type of acquisition to a product that is intended for at least initially a 2 dimensional release and then later changing this to stereoscopic.
NF:I just want to re-iterate. Itís all about money folks. And right now the model that Hollywood understands is that the marketing of a new movie happens in the theater, and the money is made when the DVD comes out. So is it going to be in the home? Absolutely. Should it go there first? We donít think so. Because weíre trying to work with Hollywood in the way they understand this industry. Years ago, at CES, we went to several manufacturers overseas and said, could you give us monitors or systems that will run at 120Hz. They said well yea but why should we, thereís no content. Wait until Hollywood gives us something and weíll do it.
So, thatís what youíre going to see. Itís going to begin in the cinema, it is going to go in the home, it is for the home. But I want to emphasize this, and even though I am in the midst of a legal battle, the larger the screen is the more interesting the 3D effect is. And IMAX, what it has in the large screen is a very nice way of looking at 3D. What will happen in the home will be a different experience in 3D and they all will work together just very nicely.
CS:Ok, so letís go to our questions.
Question 1 (Perry Hoberman):Iíd like to thank this panel, because to have this much expertise in one place at one time is really a privilege. That said Iíd like to talk about the esthetic, ask a question about the esthetic issues for a moment. And just ask each of you, if you can to just name one moment from the history of stereoscopic cinema from the 1950s on that you see as something thatís not just a gimmick, something that could be a model for stereoscopic filmmakers of the future, just some film that you see as exemplary.
RZ:I think the IMAX 3D Film, produced by Sony Pictures Classics, Cirque du Soleil: Journey of Man had none of the "look ma, Iím in 3D" tricks in it where the 3D called attention to itself. It was simply part of rendering a lovely narrative environmentally within a visual space.
LL:Iíll be very, very brief, I have no preference.
JR:I just quick want to make one example, simply because I was so impressed with by this, a film from a long, long time ago, Kiss Me Kate in which the stereoscopic impression of may, probably most if not all of the scenes was absolutely dynamic in terms of giving the feeling that you were actually there, yet you would forget that you were watching a movie but rather felt that you were part of the staging.
NF:Iím going to pass, I think itís yet to be seen.
CS:Next question please.
Question 2 (Newton Chan):What of the notion, you build it they will come, penetrates the mind of the financier/producers and distributors? And whatís the first and foremost excuse for them to step back? Iíve been watching a lot of movies, I know there are at least like half a dozen candidates for a 3D feature. Examples are Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the Chinese Kung Fu movies, The Flying Daggers, and I could name a few more. Oh, and Chicken Little, I brought my kids to see this in 2D and 2 weeks later there promo on it form Disney pictures for 3D and the kids wanted to go to see it just go get the Chicken Little glasses. They have no idea what a 3D movie is. So the experience they wanted to see more 3D movies.
CS:OK, itís a good question. Does anyone want to answer, whatís the first objection that is raised when you talk to theater owners, maybe Iíll ask Neil that question.
NF:Very simple, how many eyeballs, when can we have them? Thatís all theyíre waiting on. All the creatives are out there, they went to ShoWest to plead with the theater owners, to rapidly deploy this system so that we can get to those eyeballs. Thatís all it takes.
CS:So we heard that in the beginning of the digital cinema too, the chicken and egg problem of thereís no content, why should we convert, thereís no conversions, why should we make content, so weíre wrestling with that again. Next question.
Question 3 (Brian Gardner):Iím from Disney and have been in the film industry for quite a while and am constantly pushing 3D. And itís been technical hurdles that have kind of killed it in the past and it looks like the technical hurdles are kind of over. Theyíre at least on the way out very rapidly. So now, Iím very much pro the esthetics pro using 3D as a story telling tool and the focus has been on technology for so long, a lot of the filmmakers no longer really remember how to tell stories using 3D and I find myself in the position of being an advocate and about to turn into an educator because thereís a lot of directors now who are asking well, how can I use this and theyíre dealing with issues of should we put 3D in a box, should we poke them in the face. The question is how do we educate the next generation and if I were direct them someplace and how?
CS:Let me ask Ray to answer that. How do you think we educate the next generation of filmmakers about the prospects and opportunities for 3D?
RZ:By example by making superior product, and integrating stereoscopic production and stereography itself in schools.
CS:And I want to say that USC Cinema is working now on that prospect, to understand how to integrate this into the curriculum for filmmakers.
Question 4 (Phil McNally):Hi guys, many of you know we worked on Chicken Little. We took a pretty conservative approach to that for many reasons. As stereographers, we tend to know a lot about what our eyes are doing and whatís a problem and whatís not a problem. How much of audience out there worries about stereo windows whether itís off-screen or behind the screen. Where do you think the limitations are for the general viewer, of what they expect to see compared to what we know are problems?
CS:Iím going to ask Lenny to take that one.
LL:What Iíve learned over the years is that if I can see an artifact, I can articulate it and the untrained viewer can see it too, they canít articulate it. And so we really have to be scrupulous. There are also questions of whether or not we are in a transitional time and what exactly is the grammar of the stereoscopic cinema. It may well be that violations of conventional wisdom such as breaking the stereo frame are of no account at all once kids learn to look at the movies, they may accept things that adults find to be unpleasant.
I remember when I was a kid and cinemascope was introduced and movies were incredibly static for the first year or two. Everything was in long or medium long shots, they forgot how to cut, now if you go to see movies shot in Panavision which is essentially the same idea, theyíve gotten over that. It took a few years to get over it. So I think the same sort of thing happened when sound was introduced. Everything kind of got stopped and people forgot how to cut. You might argue right now people have gone crazy with you know, my kids really if I show them a movie that was made before 1990 itís too slow.
So I think weíre in a transitional time. People are going to figure out how to use the stereoscopic cinema. I think the essential grammar of film will be for the most part unchanged. People will learn how to use stereo to emphasize stories and tell stories. I think the theatrical cinema is about telling stories. Ultimately it will just come down to good scripts. One very, very important thing is that the crews and technicians who get to work on stereoscopic movies, who live in my neighborhood, theyíll all get to use these tools on a daily basis and theyíll become very, very good at it.
The one issue that we do not have for the stereoscopic cinema that Iíve faced with my career in scientific and engineering visualization is content. Because the content creators are brilliant and they will just get better and better at it and so we will see the stereoscopic cinema improve because the content creators will have experience, something up until now they lacked.
Q4a:[follow up question] Do you recommend a gentle start?
LL:Well itís going to be a cautious start and Chicken Little is an example.
CS:Weíll go to our last question.
Question 5 (Luis Perez-Bayas):I want to ask a question about the perception of the space. As you mentioned before, the larger the screen the better the 3D impression, the stereoscopic impression, so what about the widening of the screening at a level like IMAX Solido the only example which exists in the world itís in France and these relationships these "must see" aspect which is so huge implies a specific grammatical filmmaking skills, so how would be this part of the trip, 3D trip, included in the evolution of the widening of the screen and perhaps the spherical totally immersive screen.
CS:Let me ask Neil, as you talk to exhibitors, do you believe that if 3D digital cinema takes off that as new theaters are built itís possible larger screens could be but in because of the greater enhancement of the effect.
NF:Absolutely, I want to point out that itís vital, this is some of the things that filmmakers have yet to learn, itís vital how you are monitoring and looking at what your shooting, you have to have in mind what the size of that screen is. One of the byproducts of our approach, however, is that we can scale for different size screens we know this is important and I think it even came up in the demos the other night that some were designed for a different environment and it was causing a problem for some of us to watch. That doesnít necessarily have to be a problem if youíre conscious that the screen size is a factor. You need to put that into the equation and I think that people will, once they learn what this is about.
LL:Well with regard to screen size, I donít agree with the idea that larger screens make for better stereo images. As a matter of fact with smaller screens like screens in the home the difference between stereoscopic and a planar images has an even greater impact. Adding stereo to a small screen is of greater benefit in some ways. So thatís the comment I wanted to make.
CS:John any final comment on this question?
JR:On that particular aspect I have a slight disagreement in that I think we should also recognize in addition to the possibility of all the different sizes, we certainly even have cell phones now in Japan that are stereoscopic, but I think that itís important to recognize depth cues of all types are very important one of which is peripheral vision and peripheral vision as weíve seen in IMAX and earlier in Cinerama and so forth is a very, very dynamic contributor and if you can add that to the stereoscopic imaging, why this certainly helps.
CS:And Ray you have the last word.
RZ:Cinema represents a kind of standard of going to the movies and thatís 1.85, itís pretty much an established canvas. Itís exciting now because 3D cinema with the digital platform can go out worldwide on that canvas. Thereíll still be special venue 3D presentations on IMAX screens, cinema in the round, handhelds, all of variety of ways that people can look at stereoscopic images, but whatís exciting is that we can have wide proliferation of stereoscopic story telling on this universal canvas now.
CS:Well I want to thank all of our panelists weíve run out of time. Thank you, as a great audience. Thank you for coming today.


Transcript prepared by Dave Cook and Andrew Woods.


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