This Ain’t Your Daddy’s 3D

The Panasonic AG-3DA1 is the first professional-quality, fully integrated, full HD 3D camcorder offering SD media card recording. Listing at $21,000, the single-body, twin-lens camera looks to democratize 3D production, as well as accelerate the amount of 3D content created for distribution.

The next step was for Dark to check in with his contacts at WealthTV, a cable network for which he had previously shot HD content. “I helped to launch WealthTV with high-def,” says Dark. “I had produced all of these travel shows for them a few years ago. It just so happened that they were looking for 3D content, since they were gearing up to launch WealthTV 3D. They were interested so they signed on. I had a broadcaster, I had sponsors; now I needed to talk with Panasonic to tell them what I wanted to do. I met with Jan Crittenden Livingston at NAB 2010 and told her that I wanted to put the AG-3DA1 through its paces on a real project. Panasonic agreed to loan me a prototype. So that was the genesis of putting the project together.”

3 Cities in 3D is a travel show that Dark is producing using the new camera. A jam-packed half-hour, the 3D show focuses on the natural beauty, as well as the popular tourist attractions, of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tenn. HDVP caught up with Dark the day after he had wrapped up production and was heading into post.

“I’ve been in this region before, so I knew that it had some great locations like the Ripley’s Aquarium, extreme waterslide areas and the Smoky Mountains,” he says. “There’s a theater where I could shoot some scenes of the musicals that they put on, and I was also able to shoot some spectacular 3D aerial shots. The three cities have such a variety of locations, but they’re all concentrated in one area. I knew in a short time I could create an entertaining documentary, but I could also test the limits of this new technology. For this particular shoot, I was very hands-on. For shooting 3D, you’re usually using dual-camera, beam-splitter rigs that are huge and heavy—it’s a big rig and so it’s time-consuming to shoot with. I write, direct, light and shoot, so I was able to work with a very small crew. I moved quite fast—I shot 75 locations in two weeks, which is unheard of doing 2D, let alone 3D. I was going for something completely different this time.”

How did the camera work from an operator viewpoint? Was it complex to operate? How hard was it to set the convergence control, for instance? “I grabbed the camera, hooked it up to the Panasonic BT-3DL2550 3D monitor that Panasonic included with the camera, and in the first five minutes, I said to myself, ‘This ain’t your daddy’s 3D,'” recalls Dark. “What we have seen early in the evolution of 3D: You look at the proscenium–the fourth wall–let’s say that’s your TV screen. The fist flies out of the screen, into your face like you can almost touch it. That’s what I call ‘my daddy’s 3D.’ With this camera, I could easily create that effect. But then I could also look behind the proscenium behind the screen, what I call the ‘Cameron/Avatar Experience.’ Avatar worked so well because it was a nuanced, well-imagined story that let you see deep into the screen. It wasn’t a bunch of gimmicky, one-trick-pony shots like a lot of what 3D has been. With this camera, I could instantly do the traditional 3D thing, but I could also get this more sophisticated, subtle level of 3D in real time by manipulating the controls of the camera in a very instinctive manner.”