My Bloody Valentine 3D was shot in fully optimized 3-D using the new HD 4K format, which can record 4,000 pixel images at 30 frames per second, as opposed to the 2,000 pixels used by standard HD. The filmmakers used two state-of the-art digital cameras: the Red One and the Silicon Imaging SI-2K Digital Cinema Camera. Both are far smaller and lighter than conventional 2-D or 3-D cameras and more intuitive to operate.
The equipment and techniques used on the shoot were revolutionary even for veteran 3-D stereographer Max Penner. “Earlier 3-D cameras had much bigger motors and were much more cumbersome to use,” says the film’s stereographer.
Another difference is that the new equipment uses neither tape nor film. Instead, digital images are stored on compact flash cards and later downloaded to a computer hard drive. The filmmakers were at the forefront of this cutting-edge technology, which Penner says created an on-set rhythm reminiscent of a 35mm film shoot. “It’s not like a tape that’s running for hours. You have to load the camera in four or eight-minute intervals. That familiar workflow puts the crew at ease.”
One of the biggest benefits of the new digital format was it allowed live on-set playback of dailies in 3-D, providing far greater creative control of the image. “In the past, we wouldn’t see how anything looked in 3D until a month after shooting,” Penner says. “On this project, what we were seeing on the monitor was what the audience was going to get in the theater.
“All the 3-D you see in the film was done on the set,” Penner continues. “We were able to dimensionalize the picture on the set in the same manner a focus puller makes his mark or a camera operator composes his schedule. The technology enabled us to look at the situation and judge what we needed right then and there.”
All 3-D photography creates a three-dimensional illusion by recording a pair of 2-D images with two cameras or lenses set slightly apart. By providing each of the viewer’s eyes with a slightly different image of the same scene, 3-D produces an illusion of depth and volume.
“With the new cameras, we were able to adjust the distance between the two lenses, or interaxial convergence point, automatically,” says Penner. “You can’t shoot with parallel cameras and move or change focus length without adjusting the interaxial. That’s what caused a lot of eyestrain in older 3-D movies.
“So if we’re going from opening shot where we see whole room to a close up on someone’s face, we might start out at two inches and end up at a half-inch, gradually decreasing the interaxial spacing as we move in. We were able to automate and repeat that move the same way every time, which gave us the ability control the 3-D camera settings with much more accuracy and consistency.”