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FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions (with answers!) about 3D-stereoscopic productions.

How much more expensive is a 3D production compared with 2D? The shorter the production the higher the relative cost. After all, there are two sets of cameras and two batches of content to be processed. The larger the project, the higher the usual production costs and the lower the specific 3D costs in relation. A straight forward feature or documentary will cost about 15-20% more. However, if advanced CGI and compositing are added, it will be closer to 40-50% more.

Why do we need a stereographer? If it is your first 3D production, it is essential to grasp at least the fundamentals of the technique as early as possible. This goes for all the creative staff involved in the production. The stereographer can help you with this. Getting the basic idea and using common vocabulary will certainly improve the over-all result. The sooner you start thinking 3D, the better your movie will be.

Why must I be careful with objects popping out of the screen? There are a number of reasons. The main one is that 3D is a tool that is used to support the story. Throwing in 3D effects can disturb the audience and bring them out of the drama. Of course, if the production is designed for fairground use and is advertised as a "pop out production" it is OK because that is what the audience has paid for. There is also the element of the muscles converging the eyeballs to percieve an object in front of the screen, while at the same time the eyes are focused on the screen plane. Our brain is a fantastic device and it can handle this, but we should not impose too much stress on the brain. One of the main reasons for having a painful 3D experience is if you frequently cut between a negative parallax (in front of the screen) and a positive parallax (beyond the screen). If you do this, the small "angulation muscles" will start aching. Toeing in and toeing out is like entering a fitness class. At first it will be painful, but frequent exercising will improve your ability. However, the eyes can not keep up the speed in a straight cut and during the time that elapses between the changing of the convergence plane and the eyes adjusting to it, the brain will suffer from trying to fuse the frames that are displayed. The result will be a headache and a loss of the 3D effect.

Why do we need to know the size of the largest screen our film will be projected on? As we watch an object in the distance, the optical axes of our eyes are parallel. The typical axial distance is 65mm. So, an object shot that it is in the far distance has to be projected onto the screen with a parallax of 65mm.  We humans can easily toe in on a near object (negative parallax) but it is impossible to toe out (positive parallax) more than 1-2 degrees. If you plan to project your footage on a 9 m wide screen, you need to optimise your parallaxes for this. However if the footage is shown on an 18 m wide screen, your objects that are placed in the far distance will have projected interaxial distance on the screen by 130mm. The audience can not diverge their eyes that much but the brain still tries hard to achieve the impossible. The result is eyestrain, a headache and discomfort. Going the other way around, optimising for a large screen and projecting it onto a smaller one, is OK. You will loose some of the depth, but that is better than feeling sick.

What happens when I view my film on a 50" LCD TV if it was optimised for an 18m screen? As mentioned above, it is perfectly OK to watch but the depth values will shrink. If you can predict that your film is going to be shown on both huge screens and small TVs, you should consider planning the shoot and mastering for both cases, especially if the content requires extensive depth effects in some parts.

With all the automated new hardware- and software that is being released, will it be easier easy to make 3D?! It is not the existence of two shots that makes 3D. It is not their content. It is the relationship between the two. The way the shots are matched makes the 3D effect. There is so much to it. The more you learn, the more you realise how little you know. Developing the 3D storytelling art can be compared to the way cinematography once developed. The exiting journey has just begun.