Hooked on a Feeling

By | Movies, Reviews, Stereoscopic, VFX | No Comments

I have seen “Guardians of The Galaxy” twice now. I haven’t gone to see a movie twice in the theaters in many years.  This film had it all. I am walking around quoting Groot and Rockit. My wife has the Awesome Mix Tape Volume 1 blasting though the house. This was a terrific movie and a really great use of 3D.  Hats of to my friends at Stereo D and  Prime Focus for the work they did on this film.  This was a 2D to 3D conversion but it looked like it was natively shot.  Simply fantastic.    Only 45% of audiences have seen it in 3D.  This is one to see in 3D.  See it in 2D or 3D, but if you have the choice, yo wont be disappointed!

Review: Monsters Vs Aliens

By | Animation, Movies, Reviews, Stereoscopic | No Comments

Well, I know this film has been out for some time, But I did not see it until this past weekend.  We went to the Regal Quaker Crossing 18 in Orchard Park NY. This theater has recently upgraded its capabilities to to RealD and digital projection.  The theater was decent size and we sat about midway from the screen about 40 feet.  The screen was new and had some wrinkles in it that were a bit distracting to the purity of the picture. The amount of light being reflected from the screen was very good.  This was a lot brighter venue than most RealD theaters. I detected about a 20 % gain in brightness, which provided for a greater theatrical experience.

postermonstersvsaliens_lg-749020Now on to the movie.   Monsters Vs Aliens was a lot of fun to watch. The film was entertaining and lighthearted.  Its not going to win any Oscars, but it was very fast paced, had some funny jokes, and did not sing at me.   It was not as strong as Dreamworks last film, Kung-Fu Panda, but  this was a very solid entry into the kid friendly animated landscape.  I was a bit disappointed that a film about monsters  only featured 5 “monsters.”  There should had been more secondary characters.  In the film there is a huge secret facility. Its massive. You can see down tunnels and holding ares that look like they are going for miles, and yet its holding just 5 creatures.

bob3dNow on to the 3D.  A lot has been said already about this film and how its the first time a movie has been made in “Tru 3D”  Dreamworks created all sorts of new tech to control the depth and film in virtual 3D spaces as the animation played back in real time.   The 3D stereo  moments and the film overall was very well done.  Your eyes will be overjoyed with the underused eye poking and very careful control of the screen plane.  I was really impressed on how well and consistently the Dreamworks team kept the visual depth going without  berating the viewer’s eyes with gimmicks. I was really impressed how well the character Bob held up in 3D.  Shiny objects with lots of reflection refraction and transparency tend to fall apart in 3D because of how each eye see a different highlight.

linkroach3dHowever, Monsters Vs Aliens was not without its problems.   First of all,  the sequence in which Susan was running through San Francisco as Ginormica.  The whole sense of scale was way off. She did not look giant at all. She looked like she was normal sized, and she was walking though a miniature set.  The Dreamworks crew was trying to get a sense of scale here, but they set it up so that Ginormica looked nice, but this gave too much perspective parallax to the buildings and gave them a sense that they were not massive.   By contrast when Susan starts to grow  and breaks though the church at the beginning of the film, this was a great example of scale.   She feels huge.

Now Dreamworks plans on releasing all future films in 3D, or what they call Tru 3D.   I hope that they will take 3D a bit more seriously in the “Design” of a film.  Its great to see “MvA” in 3D, but it really wasn’t designed to use 3D, it was designed to be shown in 3D.  The key difference is how did the film embrace the medium and integrate it into its story telling?  “Coraline” was a great example where the 3D helped to differentiate the real world with the fantasy world.  In “Coraline,” the drab real world was flatter and the world of the witch  was brighter and deeper in 3D. It was made to augment the story. Same with the “Polar Express.”  The 3D version of that film is better because the 3D helped to make it feel more dreamlike.  I suspect that Jim Cameron’s “Avatar” will do the same, due to what I have read about the film taking you into a new planet and otherly world environments though the main character’s avatars.   This is what was lacking in Monsters, the feeling that the 3D was apart of this world.  Maybe they could have made Susan’s regular life feel flatter and once she gained super powers it becomes deeper.  Or more depth in the aliens ship. Etc

I really enjoyed Monsters Vs Aliens.  Dreamworks has really stepped up and created a great 3D film.  I hope they will embrace some of the home 3D options and release this film in a true 3D Blu-Ray format.  I am so tired of 3D films only getting released in anaglyph for home.

Fly me to the Moon: A 3D evaluation

By | 3D, Animation, Cameras, Movies, Reviews, Stereoscopic, Tech, VFX | 12 Comments

This is not a review. If you want a review of this film then read Rotten Tomatoes. I think the whopping 17% is a good barometer for where this film stands. Just because its 3D is NO EXCUSE for bad story telling. If I was to hold it by its technical accomplishments I’d personally rate it much lower, and here is why…

I am going to show you some examples of the bad 3D I saw in the film, and how it could have been corrected easily in the composite. I got all the source anaglyphic images from the sites official website here. The originals are really this bad. You may say “thats not too bad,” maybe for a few seconds on a monitor. Maybe in small doses. This is a major film release by nWave, one of my favorite production companies for stereo 3D films. When FMTTM is projected on a large screen at a theater, or worse at IMAX, and multiplied across many shots for 89 minutes, the 3D cannot compete with our brains comfortably. This produces headaches, motion sickness, and nausea.

Example #1

12The first example of this is here. This family of maggots (who doesn’t want to cuddle on of these) is sleeping on the bed. Examining the anaglyph to the right, we can see a very large amount of horizontal parallax. This much parallax will push the image out into positive Z space or depth. The edges of the bed break frame and vibrate spatially as our brains try to resolve the screen plane conflict. I do not detect any vertical parallax, or toe-in keystone distortion. Over all the shot has decent composition, it just lacks a cohesive 3D inter-ocular that would be correct for this type of shot. Now put on your red/cyan glasses and check this out!

12_fixedI have taken the first image into Adobe Photoshop and simply slid the red channel over about 20 pixels to the left to rest the correct screen plane for this image. I then cropped the image to clip off any missing channel information. Note that now, 90% or more of the image is behind the screen, creating a window into a 3D world. The definition on the characters is much more dimensional, it reads much better, and the edges of the image are no longer fighting your eyes/brain to resolve the breaking frame conflict. Ghosting has been minimized without the use of further color correction or manipulation.

Example #2

9The moon shot seen here is fairly decent, but it lacks a few things important considerations. For one there is no z depth beyond the screen plane. Evey thing exists in positive depth space and breaks the frame. Note how the sign they are sitting on and the leaves at the side of frame fight for ocular dominance. The moon looks flat and should at least be slightly tucked into the screen. Objects seen at great distances should have a parallax of 65 mm at its furthest point on the projected screen. This is your eyes in a parallel configuration. To have no parallax is to say the moon is at the screen plane and everything else in the foreground is popping off into the audience. This is wrong.

9_fixedAgain, I used Photoshop to slide the red channel. You can see the color fringing on the moon setting it back behind the screen. In fact because everything was in positive space, this slight shift sent everything back into the screen, making it much more pleasant to view. If I access to the full layers, I would had made more individual adjustments here to keep the depth a bit more dynamic, but you must be careful, objects seen at infinity will ALWAYS BE 65mm SEPARATION ON THE SCREEN. No matter if its the moon or a tree 100 yards from the viewer. Human depth perception falls off after 100 feet or so. Other depth cues like size, color and atmosphere are what gives it depth at that distances not parallax.

Example #3

6This image represent the very worst that FMTTM has to offer. This frame is a complete mess. We are almost exclusively off into positive depth space, every element is breaking frame, and worst of all, the cameras are toed in so much that its creating keystoning which invites vertical parallax. With a wide shot like this its imperative to keep things from not breaking frame. Let the viewer soak in all the great details. An Apollo capsule like this with all its details would had made such a great 3D shot. Its totally ruined by the volatile stereo. This shot is so harsh, that its difficult to view for more than a few seconds. your brain will fight and fight to resolve the discrepancies but this can only produce severe eyestrain.

6_fixedI had a real hard time fixing this shot. Due to the large amount of keystoning and toe-in adjusting this was a battle with many competing factors. Too make the foreground comfortable, the background got pushed beyond what I would call a safe zone for far or negative screen parallax as I talked about in example #2. This also exacerbated the vertical mismatching on the rear window. Now this brings me to the biggest issue here, and I have a new image for that…

rgb_issuesOn you right you’ll see a breakdown of the three color channels that makeup the original anaglyph. The red channel is from the left eye, and green and blue are from the right. Now there are allot of artifacts and strange rendering issues in the left eye. There are shadows on the astronaut closet to camera that are only in one eye. There are strange artifacts all over the set in that same eye. It almost looks to me that they used some sort of optical flow with a z-buffer to construct the left eye? I am not sure, but that pipe screen left over the middle astronaut looks very mangled in the red channel. These kinds of issues can’t be fixed in post, and should had been re-rendered, and addressed at the layout level. This shot looked bad in the trailer, on the website, and in the finished film. Someone should had caught this.

Example #4

1For my last example I present to you a perfect shot of why depth of field should never be used in stereo 3D. I can’t even attempt to fix this, so I am just going to let you see the original image, un-retouched. Whats good about it? Well the idea is good. Bugs are floating in positive depth space, and there parallax is appropriate for this effect. Now the background has two big issues.  One is its a flat 2D image with ZERO depth. This may work in 2D but it does not in 3D. At the very least this should had been in stereo and out of focus, at least then I could only complain about the depth of field.

Ok, now here’s the fun part. Go ahead and click on that image, look at it full size with your glasses. stare at it for at least a minute. Its bothersome isn’t it? I’m going to tell you why. Your brain and eyes wander through the image focusing at different depths. This is what we do naturally every day. and our focus darts around. If you present a 3D image to the brain your tricking us into a false reality, it looks real, you see depth, your senses are on high. If you don’t allow the brain to focus on the background like in this image, you have a big problem. In 2D you can trick the brain because its 2D, on a sub consciences level, the flattening allows filmic techniques like this to be powerful tricks in the cinematic language. In 3D its not the case. DOF (depth of field) does not work. It should never be used in this way for a 3D film. “But” you say… “I want to direct the viewer focus to here.” Well then, you need to find another way, like have something coming to the screen talking or demanding that you look at it. In an image such as the one above, your eyes will focus on the bugs, and the background will go blurry, just like real life when you focus on something right in front of you, and when your gaze drifts to the back, the foreground will drift into blur. Your eyes and brain will create rack focus for you as you gaze through the imagery, and it will be a joy to behold.  Now, I will concede that a well done image can use some DOF. This opinion is not absolute.  If you do use it, it must be well done and not over used or it all falls apart.

To conclude, I have great respect for nWave and all the artists who worked on this film. I own many of their films and I will buy this one when it comes to HQFS DVD. Getting a film done is such a huge task. I am a very critical person when it comes to 3D. I want it to grow and flourish, but it has to live by the rules of human factors and optical considerations. Digital 3D is just that Digital. Its made 3D more accessible, but it still has to be done with care and consideration to the viewer. I had great hopes for this film. I am deeply disappointed in its lackluster showcase of what great 3D can do.


REVIEW: Journey to the Center of BAD 3D

By | 3D, Movies, Reviews, Stereoscopic, Tech | One Comment

I was going to do a full review of this film.  Now, I can’t get myself to do that. This film was so monumentally bad, so devoid of anything redeemable, that it would be just unfair to all the good people who worked so hard on this movie.  Nobody sets out to make a bad film.  Everyone has great intentions and many compromises are made along the way.  Studios, directors, producers, all are fighting for creative control. I did not like the film and I cannot recommend it.  However the 3D fan boys are saying, “this is just a feel good fun ride, check your brain at the door.”

Not good enough. For years, comic book movies have been regulated to this thought process. Now in 2008 we have films like Iron Man, Hulk, Hellboy 2, and Dark Knight.  These films all show comic book films can be great films. There is no reason, that a film based on a great classic novel with a journey to the core of our planet, can’t be a great film that thrills, entertains, has great performances with solid acting and compelling characters. None at all, and shame on the people who think they had to re-invent a classic and didn’t trust this fantastic story. To Embrace this film just because its in 3D, is a disservice to the 3D movement. That’s a fan-boy mentality and it will not work here. This film fails as a story, fails at 3D, and fails to win me over. I love 3D, but I cannot accept this. Sure its making money at the box office, but imagine how much better it could do, if it was a better film.

Now we get to the 3D. This film was as I feared. The 3D in this film was GIMMICKY. No one wants to have their eyes poked at in real life. Its uncomfortable. No one wants this in there movies, its unbearable. Journey 3D does this no less than 22 times. Characters spit on you, jab you with a yo-yo, tape measures, pointy antennae, birds, and more spit. Ugh! The 3D also violates the frame in almost every single shot, and there is shallow depth of field that just do not work in 3D.


The use of the Cameron Pace Fusion cameras leaves me with little hope for Avatar. Both of Cameron’s 3D IMAX documentaries and now this have used The PACE cameras and the way they do 3D is headache inducing and un-natural. I experienced this first hand on Spy-Kids 3D which used the same camera. I fought hard in each composite to recompose the 3D space to feel natural on our shots. Now back to Journey 3D. I had to see this film at a Real D cinema and I love the fact that Real D seems to be catalyst for major changes in digital cinema. They are getting theaters to install Digital systems with 3D capabilities En Masse. Bravo! BUT can I ask Real D a favor? Can you fix your projectors brightness issues? When you have a film like Journey 3D in which half the film takes place in a dark cave, projection on one digital projector, polarizing the light, reflecting off the screen and going through another polarized filter (glasses on your head) You loose almost 80% of the light you started out with. In IMAX 3D, this isn’t an issue as you have TWO IMAX projectors and you get allot of light. In Real-D you get a very murky image. Double whammy if your film is dark to begin with.

The only way this film could get worse, is if they decide to release it in 3D anaglyph like the Hannah Montana disc. Oh my god, I feel an aneurysm coming on.


For a second opinion read this review here and here.

Watch this video about the director Eric Brevig, where he talks about how Journey wasn’t using 3D as a gimmick.

In this video, we see more information about the 3D process. Its disappointing to see Jim Cameron being involved here. It seems like they are getting allot of advice on how to do this right, they must have just ignored all of it.

Hannah Montana in 3D: Never Again

By | 3D, Movies, Reviews | 5 Comments

Well I finally got around to watching this Disney concert film opus in 3D. Now, I will not debate the quality of the music, nor the show. I will not even begin to dissect the influence this girl seems to have on the tween population of girls in our country. That is not what this blog is about. This discussion is about the terrible idea that it was to put this out on DVD, in anaglyph format, and on VOD systems.

Now I know this concert film made a shit load of cash during its two week showings in 3D (Real D) theaters. I personally think that it would had made a ton of money being in 2D. I’m sure the Real D version does not have the problems I saw, but mark my words, Hannah Montana would had made allot of dough even if it was in 2D. In fact if it was in 2D it could had played in more theaters and made more. Fans of Mylee love her, and didn’t see it because it was in 3D, but flocked to it because it was a very limited engagement.

Now here is my big problem, anaglyph, red/blue glasses are terrible when used improperly. In order to have great anaglyphic 3D, you need to do a few things. For one, you need subject matter that lends itself to the process. A concert film with lots or RED and BLUE lights is a very poor choice. No attempt to desaturate the color levels were made. This caused severe ghosting, and made almost the entire film unwatchable. Also a poor bit rate will cause the colors to encode in the wrong color space. The Starz on demand VOD version of this was completely useless. I could vomit a more coherent version of this film. Who thought this was a good idea? You have to have a good encode of the data, and you have to compensate the colors to properly encode an anaglyphic movie. They should had encoded a dual stream that could had been viewed cross-eyed or free view. Then you had a mini tutorial on Starz showing people how to make their own 3D glasses out of plastic wrap and magic markers. You have got to be kidding me. Make your own glasses? I used a pair of high quality Anachrome glasses which are the very best optics and color for anaglyph, and this film was a total wash. I also watched the Blu Ray version which had better encoding, but still has blue and red stage lighting fighting with the anaglyph process.

Releasing this in 3D was nothing more than a gimmick. It was totally useless, and the only true way to watch it is in 2D. Trying to watch this in 3D will only make you swear off 3D as a gimmick, and a headache inducing nauseating experience. Bleaeeeeeach! I’m so disappointed. Not that I’m a fan of Hannah Montana, but a fan of 3D. This does not promote 3D in a positive light. This is old 3D. Not the new digital 3D everyone is talking about. They should had released this in Dual stream format or at least in the HQFS format that you can find for SpyKIds 3D, at least then you could watch it properly. 3D at home has a very long way to go.

Beowulf – a Review

By | 3D, Animation, Movies, Reviews | No Comments

I have seen Beowulf in 3D Imax at the transit road Regal 18 in Lancaster. The movie itself was less than stellar. I found myself bored at times as the characterizations were flat and uninteresting. I felt like the actors were restrained by their mocap suits and lack of real sets in the CG extravaganza. It lacked passion and fire. Ironically both were rendered nicely as CG effects. The CG was amazingly real. Too real. The realism was so real that it required more of it to convey the emotions of the acting. The most successful character was Grendel, who was the most unrealistic. his deformed caricatured tortured visage worked better as a cg character then the photo real humans did. I think this is part of that uncanny valley. Things that are too real, don’t look right, because they are not 100%.

Now the 3D part of the film was very well done. Most of the action lay behind the screen depth with very little breaking frame. There were a few eye poke moments that were uncalled for and stood out as “HEY THIS IS 3D and WE ARE GOING TO SHOW IT!” They were unnecessary and broke the illusion of the reality pulling you out of the film.

Overall I’d recommend seeing it in 3D for there is no bigger 3D spectacle than Beowulf. The film was better than most, but still lacking.Its nice to see an animated film that is not designed for children, but in a bold experiment gone wrong, its not good enough nor will audiences embrace this kind of film for it to be a sounding bell for mature animation in the states.

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