Training 3-D crews reaches critical level

While there are now a wide variety of cameras, rigs and image-processing software available to produce high-quality 3-D content, getting the necessary crews to operate them is not so easy.

If Steve Schklair, founder and CEO of 3Ality Digital, a Burbank, CA-based company that is at the forefront of much of the live and movie set-based production to date, had his way, hundreds of younger people should be learning the craft.

“In the beginning, there was a hardware shortage, but now that we have the tools, there’s definitely a trained personnel shortage,” Schklair said. “We’re training as many people as we can, as fast as we can, but unfortunately, or fortunately, we start to work with experienced people from the film and television business but they often have to stop to do their ‘day’ jobs in 2-D for several months. So, we run into a fair amount of that.”

Schklair said the Internet has helped point people in the right direction to get the proper training. He’s also seeing crews that he trained share their talents with others in a “viral” sense. His company also offers pointers on its website.

“When experienced people help other people, the labor pool gets expanded by a factor of five,” he said. “That’s how we’ll get the crews we need. I believe it’s going to take a couple of years before we’re caught up and have the people we need around the world, but it will only get better with time.”

Virtually all of the major mobile production companies that have been involved in early live sports broadcasts are working to get their staff better educated as well.

“We’re doing what we can, and we’ll assist in any way we can, buy ultimately it’s going to be up to the producers of live events that are buying the equipment to train their own staffs if they want to offer 3-D services to their clients,” Schklair said. “In the end, we could never train as many people as are, and will be, needed, so equipment owners have to do their part as well.”

Schklair suggested attending the weeklong Sony 3-D Workshops at the Sony Pictures Entertainment lot in Culver City, CA. It’s free to anyone with minimal production qualifications and is based on materials developed by 3Ality and its staff. Online sites like, and are also good places to start.

“It’s good theoretical training, but then if camera operators want to start working in the medium, they could come to us for the real detailed, nuts and bolts training,” he said. “But it’s not so much camera operators that we need most; it’s the 3-D engineering technicians who operate the image processing software or the guys that build the rigs on site that are most in demand right now.”

The company offers a stereographer's training course that covers the aesthetics of 3-D and how to create shots that don't hurt viewers’ eyes. This course is tailored to DPs and independent cinematographers creating their own productions. Many DPs have expressed dismay at losing control of their vision with 3-D, but Schklair predicts that stand-alone stereographers are going to go away “very quickly” as directors of photography and camera operators learn to take more control of how the 3-D images are created.

“It’s all about telling a story through interpretations of pictures,” Schklair said. “There’s a difference between news camera operators, who try to capture the moment, and interpreting the moment, which is based on a script. If 3-D is a tool to tell a story visually, the camera operators are going to want to control that because it’s part of their tool box. I’m already seeing this start to happen around the world.”

PODCAST: In an exclusive interview, Steve Schklair, founder and CEO of 3Ality Digital, spoke at length about the need for training and other issues of importance to the universal acceptance of 3-D production. Listen here.