In-Depth Perception

2011 and 2012 give every appearance of being watershed years for 3D production. In the cinema market, it’s estimated that 50% of the 40,000 digital screens available worldwide are currently equipped to show 3D productions, while a new standard for active-shutter glasses will positively impact the home-viewing market.

And it can’t be denied that the image-capture tools for 3D production have been developing by leaps and bounds. In this competitive landscape, two companies lead the pack. Both 3ality Technica and the Cameron | Pace Group (CPG) offer a number of flexible technologies, plus support staff that streamline stereoscopic production. Put succinctly, 3D isn’t for the fainthearted; it requires careful preparation and skills that come from hands-on experience with such parameters as convergence—the angle between the two image-capturing cameras—and interaxial separation between the camera lenses. Fold into the equation the use of zoom lenses, where the plane of interest and depth of field will be changing continuously during a shot, and we begin to see that the services of such firms as 3ality Technica and CPG can be invaluable.

As will be appreciated, 3D production normally requires that separate images seen from two perspectives be secured from the scene being shot, one for each eye, to enhance the illusion of depth perception. (Of course, these images can be constructed digitally using CGI techniques, but here we’ll refer to live shoots for movies and sporting and musical events.) The cameras can be mounted side by side—great for long shots, but because the lenses can’t be squeezed together closer than a couple of inches, not so good for close-ups—and one above the other, using a central beamsplitter mirror to direct the image to a pair of sensors arrayed at right angles along the same visual axis. Both 3ality and CPG offer these types of camera-rig formats.

On location for Step Up 4, which was shot with RED EPICs in a 3ality Technica 3D rig.


Formed in 2000, 3ality Technica combines an experienced 3D production and technology development company with development offices in Burbank and Munich, plus Element Technica, a Los Angeles firm well versed in the design and manufacture of motorized stereoscopic 3D systems.

"3ality Digital’s product line has become synonymous with precision components, speed of use, accuracy and advanced image processing," says 3ality Technica CEO Steve Schklair. "With the acquisition of Element Technica, "[we] gained an in-house manufacturing and design capability, and the opportunity to further expand our R&D infrastructure."

3ality has been involved with a number of notable 3D productions, including Jack the Giant Killer, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Prometheus, Oz: The Great and Powerful, The Great Gatsby and U2 3D; its systems are used regularly by such companies as BSkyB in the UK for 3D sporting broadcasts, as well as by AEG Network Live for concert events. The firm also offers a comprehensive educational program for filmmakers, broadcasters and cinematographers.

Primary jewels in the company’s crown are two recently unveiled 3D software tools that are designed to offer "better picture and better economy, which are both critical for any new technology to succeed," Schklair offers.