IBC 2008 - Day oo4

Posted By David Cox on September 16, 2008 12:00 am | Permalink
Day #4 - only one short day to go.

Conventions always end up being reduced to a core set of topics and buzz words. This year's main talking point is "Stereoscopic". For those that have been out of the galaxy for the last year, this means the production and presentation of 3D experiences, with the stereo bit referring to the concept of shooting from two viewpoints just like the two eyes in your head.

The first Stereoscopic DI suite in Europe was installed at Concrete at the beginning of this year, so we have had more access than most for experimenting with this new format. Certainly it kicks up both production and post production challenges, and many of those were at least in the process of being dealt with at the show. For example, 3Ality showed an impressive 3D camera rig as well as a small unit to analyse stereoscopic material to help highlight on-set issues such as camera line-up faults.

There are plenty that "don't get it" and consider 3D to be something that gets tried out every few years but eventually disappears. My view is that it has a great chance to stay this time and the reason I think so is that there are so many angles and interested parties that are pushing it for different reasons. Of course, feature films are the obvious first-adopters as 3D helps to win back cinema audiences. For the cinema chains, installation of digital projection allows them to accept media from sources outside feature distributors, thus opening up other income streams. While they are at it, they might as well add digital 3D, especially given the stats that films shown in 3D are winning up to 4x the box office receipts compared to the same film in 2D. Other areas pushing 3D include the music industry, where a performer's core income comes from live performances now that "record" sales are so small. Recording a concert in 3D and presenting it in multiple theatres allows them to effectively "franchise" themselves. Yet another aspect is gaming, the net result of which will be more homes equipped with 3D enabled computer monitors, which in turn should lead to stereo over broadband. There is also major interest from broadcasters.

With all those differing but complimentary aspects of interest, it's hard to see 3D not sticking around.

That said, apart from feature films, there has not been a huge amount of production in the UK in 3D. It seems that producers are happy to assume that 3D won't affect them. I can imagine that when next year's theatres are full of 3D films, but with 2D commercials in front of them and with audience expectations raised to a new level, they will regret not paying attention sooner.

Of course, whether 3D stays this time actually isn't solely reliant upon technology making access easier. I was asked by a journalist earlier in the year why I thought 3D had not become the norm in the past. They were a little shocked by my answer because they were expecting me to explain that it was because film based stereo distribution was difficult - synchronised film projectors and all that. My actual answer was "I think previous 3D films have been cr*p!". This is the key point of it all; we are still happy to watch a black and white film if it's a great film, because it's the story that grabs us not the delivery format. Audiences will not adopt 3D if it becomes synonymous with uninteresting stories where stuff is thrown out of the screen at them for no apparent reason. The story is the king, not the technology that delivers it.

Wandering around the trade floor at IBC and NAB, it's easy to get swept up in the technology but forget that no matter what we do in the production chain, we are storytellers. If we all remember that with stereoscopic productions, we'll create content that audience want to engage with and 3D will be here to stay.

David Cox