Advice for shooting a 48 Hour Film Project in 3D

I was recently asked for my thoughts and advice by a Brett Inman from a team considering entering the 48 hour film project in Nashville which they have done previously, but this time they’re considering shooting in 3D. I thought our conversation on my experience might be worth sharing with a wider audience so here’s my responses to Brett’s questions.

Do you have any suggestions for work flow?

Our process has worked pretty well so far, in fact on our first 48hfp film we actually finished several hours ahead of schedule! Overall our process is to write on Friday night, film on Saturday, rough-cut Saturday night, final cut and 3d work and grading on Sunday. We shoot on an all-in-one Sony NX-3D1 Camcorder so the 3D aspect of the shoot doesn’t really add much to the shoot time.

Specifically on 3d workflow – as I use Premiere, and Premiere won’t (currently) ingest the 3d files off the camera it’s a pain but I have to split the files – so we tend to bring cards back regularly and start them processing through the Sony software to split the files into Left & Right views. I then put the files in clearly marked left and right directories, and edit the left shots only. I don’t start doing anything with the 3d until the edit is complete and we’re all locked. Once that’s done I do a simple little switch for the left & right files to create the right view. I’ve got a tutorial on my approach to editing Stereoscopic footage with Premiere Pro on my YouTube channel, so if you’ve not seen that perhaps take a look.

Once the left & right edits are created in Premiere I then take this into After Effects for 3d fixing and grading. Even though it’s an all-in-one camera and all we’re changing is convergence you’ll want to tweak convergence prior to completion – we never get every shot perfect in camera. I use my own tool the eD-3D Stereo Repair Kit, which is downloadable from Enhanced Dimensions – it is pretty helpful and I can blast through doing all the fixes for a 5 or 6 minute short in about an hour. I then add a grading layer to the whole thing and we’re ready to export.

Are there any good production tips you have that can make a 3D shoot go more smoothly?

Use an all in one 3d camera system – unless you have masses of manpower you just won’t have enough time to set a rig for every shot, plus a 3D rig is really not easy to move about like a single piece of kit. I actually took to shooting most of our second 48hfp handheld on just a basic DSLR type support rig and it worked great.

Stick to the schedule of finishing the edit early on Sunday morning – i.e. no later than 12:00 so you allow plenty of render time. Remember you are rendering two streams of video.

Capture your audio to the same file so you don’t have extra hours of ADR on top of all the extra hassle for 3D.

How many crew members do you typically have when you do 3D?

Our total team is usually around 10. I don’t have that many technical people around so it tends to be just a couple of us that are technically biased in a film sense, the rest of the team do help on a lot of things, that’s generally helping with outfits, props and any kind of random support we might need. My co-writer and Assistant Director on the films has been Rhiannon Grist, and her partner Dale Peet along with my wife Rosie have provided the consistent core of the team. As well as that my musician mate Neil Warden has been incredibly supportive for all the films supplying some stunning music, especially for “The Collection (3D)”.

If I could get a wider technical crew I’d like to have 3 individuals plus myself: a good cameraman/DOP, a pro sound guy and an experienced 3D editor. That would really make life much easier for these 48hfp shoots.

What is your approach to color grading, especially for a film that’s going to be displayed in anaglyph?

I did two things – one was kept the grading quite flat – high contrast tends to exaggerate any ghosting. I also actually set my convergence to minimise ghosting – it’s not ideal but as ghosting in anaglyph on the big screen was likely to be the biggest issue I just set convergence as best I could to minimise it. It did lead to some bizarre convergence that I’d not normally find acceptable, but it was a one-off screening and did genuinely help to minimise ghosting.

Did you have any issues with the parallax when you displayed the film on a larger screen?

Not particularly, it was a bit strong and more obviously problematic in anaglyph – but in later screenings using polarised 3d tech it looked great. There’s an odd shot here and there in “Hidden (3D)” that’s not perfect, but for a 48hfp film I was happy enough.

Did your audiences seem to respond well to your films being in 3D?

Lol, that’s an interesting one – it was varied. I think there is still a stigma in making 3D films and that it’s thought of as a gimmick which kind of bugs me. But it plays in our favour too, as quite often in a competition we’ll probably be underestimated by other teams not realising that we’re just as focused on telling a story and making as good a film as we can, we’re not reliant on 3D swinging it either way.

For the 48hfp the producers I’d say they loved it being in 3D, mainly as it gave them something to PR; they are always looking for something new to talk about so this was an interesting angle for them. I went on local radio with Sam Goldblatt, the local 48hfp producer, to talk about filming in 3d. The film’s audience at the 48 Hour Film Project screenings were mixed: a couple of people actually refused to wear the glasses in the cinema (maybe they were too cool for 3d nonsense) others were neither positive nor negative, and a small number actively showed enthusiasm.

Other audiences, generally those at 3D festivals as that’s what I tend to submit to have been very enthusiastic and both 3D shorts we filmed have been selected for other festivals. “The Collection (3D)” which we shot for the Edinburgh 48hfp in 2012, has also gone on to be shown in 2D at other festivals, so I believe it stands on it’s own two feet as a pretty good little horror short.

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