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November 2014
Issue: September 1, 2010

Feel Good Stereo 3D

By: Randi Altman
Many new feature films — 3D and live action — are being released in stereo 3D these days, and one of the most important ways to ensure this growth continues is to make sure the experience leaves the audience wanting to come back as opposed to wanting to toss their popcorn. Because once someone walks out queasy, it’s unlikely they’ll be back.

Dennis Berardi of Toronto’s Mr. X has two stereo 3D films under his belt, and in this new and evolving world, that’s a lot. He says audience comfort level was first and foremost on the mind of the filmmakers he worked with on Resident Evil: Afterlife (as VFX supervisor) and Tron: Legacy (as one of several studios). He’s currently working as VFX supe on Three Musketeers 3D.

“Half the battle of stereoscopic work is making sure you aren’t breaking some of the fundamental rules, which make the audience experience really uncomfortable. We spend a lot of times looking at bad 3D in terms of our internal takes and sometimes we can’t put our finger on why it’s so uncomfortable, so we push something back and make it easier on the eyes and it plays better.”

He says a lot of it is trial and error. “What we did with [director] Paul W.S. Anderson on Afterlife was we generally blocked everything on the left eye in monoscopic to make sure we were on the right page with our story points. Once I had a basic and creative blocking approved on the 2D level I would then do a layout in 3D and get that approved as well, and once we had that we’d then start to move into final lighting, final comp.”

He likens it to a minefield. “You don’t want to get too far along before making these decisions in terms of dimensionality of a shot. We were certainly surprised when we saw some of the shots on the big screen, it was a bit of a reality check, so we made sure we were getting layouts approved on the big screen with the director having input on the dimensional aspect of every shot. That added a whole level and decision and creative cycle back and forth approvals that we don’t usually have in a traditional cycle.”

Did they do a lot of throwing stuff at the screen in Resident Evil: Afterlife? “We weren’t very aggressive with the 3D because we didn’t want to make it uncomfortable for the audience, but there are some shots where we just went for it and threw an ax at them and you have people ducking. We had planes coming through frames.”

He sums up by saying the 3D experience in Afterlife is really big, “like a ride.”
For more on Berardi and his work on Afterlife, see our “VFX for Films” feature on page 26.