Now that everyone’s more or less up to speed on HD, the advent of 3D television and film has come along as a curveball for non-fiction producers. The Realscreen Summit recently hosted a helpful primer for factual producers featuring panelists from NHK, Discovery, Electric Sky and Hoff Productions. They weighed in on issues such as costs, difficulties that can arise in the production and post processes, and even the number of glasses a 3DTV set might come with.
Nagamitsu Endo, producer with NHK Enterprises America, said that since NHK’s R&D labs have been researching and shooting in 3D for decades, they have streamlined their stereoscopic shooting to the point where they only need a small crew.
Meanwhile, Michael Hoff’s Hoff Productions first began working with 3D in 2009. He admitted that at the beginning, there was some difficulty grasping how to work with the stereoscopic process, particularly when it came to editing. ‘We thought you couldn’t do quick cuts, it’ll be jarring,’ he said.
Still, now that 3D is very much top of mind for broadcasters and producers alike, the early groundwork laid by pioneering production companies is paying off. David Pounds, CEO of Electric Sky said his content distribution company was one of the first British companies to invest in HD, and now 3D. According to Pounds, documentary and non-fiction content are very much at the forefront of what will work best in stereo.
As for the costs of creating 3D content, Pounds said that in a controlled environment, shooting in 3D should come in at slightly less than one and half times the cost of shooting 2D. For the natural history genre, Pounds said producers should plan for costs twice those of regular 2D shoots.
According to Hoff, upconverting in post is also a pricey matter. He mentioned that some producers have been budgeting 30% and over of their budgets to upconversions, which can cost up to $15,000 a minute.
The cost of fixing shots in post is something that NHK’s Endo prefers to keep to a minimum. While in feature films, you have the budget and time frame for heavy post work, but TV production is a leaner process. Thus, he said, ‘we try to capture correctly on location for minimal correction.’
There are costs associated with viewing 3D as well. Of course, there are the costs of 3D-ready TVs to consider. As for those pesky glasses, John Honeycutt, chief media technology officer for Discovery Communications, said that while he believes 3D TVs will come packaged with two pairs of glasses, comparable to a game system like Xbox coming with two controllers, families that want to experience 3D viewing together might have to pay between $50 and $100 for extra pairs.
Despite all of the work involved in creating a 3D production, there are some people who just won’t see the fruits of the labor. Honeycutt offered up the fact that there is a portion of the general population that can’t see 3D. While he cited a ‘flat viewing’ figure of 12%, other studies concerning those unable to see 3D offer numbers ranging from 4% to 10%.
Higher costs and production concerns aside, there’s no denying the hunger for 3D media, and for those who can view 3D, there will be more and more stereoscopic TV content coming their way over the next couple of years. Since the Realscreen Summit, Hoff Productions has officially announced its 3D division, and Digital Rights Group has just launched a 3D division, called 3DRG. Discovery, IMAX and Sony Corporation are set to launch their 24/7 3D-dedicated channel in 2011, ESPN plans to roll out its 3D channel in time for this year’s World Cup, and BSkyB is also set to launch a 3D service soon.