Originally featured on
Mar 17

Written by:
3/17/2010 2:05 PM  RssIcon

For more than a century, the term “low budget” was never applied to 3-D production. Making 3-D content was always tricky, complex and expensive. And like with any nascent technology, equipment costs usually take a while to become affordable, and production values improve over time.

However, highly skilled 3-D production is already being applied to a wide a variety of projects, some with limited budgets, as professionals find new cost-effective tools to get the job done. A good example is the new Panasonic AG-3DA1 handheld 3-D camcorder that costs $21,000. These tools are limited in their scope (they are not going to be used to shoot a major feature like “Avatar”), but they provide the effect audiences are coming to expect.

With each new 3-D production, technical workarounds are being developed where no practical workflow exists, to save money (and time). Indeed, there is still a lot to learn about the practicality of producing with dual cameras and lenses.

For example, writer/director Gareth Maxwell Rogers shot his dark psychological thriller “The Mortician” in 3-D on location in Louisiana. The production budget was a mere $2 million.

Cinematographer Michael McDonough, a specialist in low-budget independent production, used Element Technica’s new Quasar 3-D rig, part of a new generation of low-cost HD gear coming to the market. McDonough said an important consideration in 3-D is to avoid torquing the camera bodies once the rig is set up “as this will throw out all of your careful lens alignment.”

OFFHollywood, a New York City-based rental house, worked closely with McDonough and stereographer Keith Collea to outfit the rig with the right support gear. Tricked out, it topped out at about 105lbs — heavy enough to handle the stress of an active shoot, yet light enough to allow the team to do some tricky moves.

There was little time for critical alignments, which has traditionally been required for 3-D shoots. The gear worked on remote cranes and in the rain, all without problems. Once the rig was aligned, it stayed that way over the course of several setups, including serious jolts from riding on the process trailer.

Element Technica 3-D systems are available in three different sizes to accommodate a variety of cameras. The largest, Quasar, is designed for full-size digital cinema cameras, such as the Sony 1500 or the RED ONE equipped with prime or zoom lenses. The midsized Pulsar, available this spring, mounts box-style digital cinema cameras such as the Scarlet, Epic and the SI-2K.

The ultra-small Neutron is designed for the tiny 2/3in or 1/3in imager video cameras using C-mount lenses such as the SI-2K Mini and Iconix. All three Technica 3-D systems can convert from parallel to beam splitter and back depending on the application.

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