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August 2014
Issue: November 1, 2010

Prepping for a 3D stereo job

By: Marc Loftus

For the team at Sway Studio in Culver City, stereo 3D is more than a business, it’s also a hobby that a number of their creatives are passionate about. Take for example VFX supervisor Aaron Powell: he shoots his own stereo 3D content and is working on a gallery showing of his work. He even picked up a consumer 3D stereo camera on his way back from Taipei, Taiwan, recently, and is already thinking about how he can use the $250 Aiptek3D 720p HD unit to previs future concepts. “Stereo is more than just work I do here,” says Powell. “It’s a hobby.”

Sway put its passion, resources and troubleshooting techniques to work recently on a :60 3D stereo spot for Scion. Enter the Machine played in theaters prior to the film Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D and promotes the newly revamped Scion tC. The commercial was a collaboration between agency Attik, production company Blueyed Pictures, design studio Imaginary Forces and Sway, which handled the post. What made the project a challenge, says Powell, was the combination of live action, shot 2D and converted to 3D, and scale of the 3D animation that the project called for.

The spot opens with live-action tCs driving through a tunnel. As they enter a futuristic city, the cars become photoreal animated vehicles that are presented with challenges that impede their travel. Luckily, their new “sportiness” helps them to overcome such roadblocks. A closing camera pull-out shows the large city’s buildings, which form the words “The Machine.”

To shoot the cars in all their detail, the production company used a Russian Arm gyro-stabilized camera crane. A 3D rig was not practical, notes Powell, because of its weight and size, so Sway has to convert the 2D footage to 3D using a combination of Nuke and Flame. 

“The good news is that we went into it knowing that they were going to shoot this in 2D,” says Powell. “We went out on location and fully surveyed everything that we would have to go through to dimensionalize it.” Using laser surveyors, they were able to collect measurements, which helped in building the 3D. “We re-applied all of the footage back on to it so that it matched perfectly.”