CBC crosses Canada’s 3D finish line first with ‘Queen Elizabeth in 3D’

CBC is set to make Canadian TV history tonight with the premiere of the first Canadian-made 3D TV broadcast, the documentary Queen Elizabeth in 3D.
September 20, 2010

CBC is set to make Canadian TV history tonight with the premiere of the first Canadian-made 3D TV broadcast, the documentary Queen Elizabeth in 3D.

There had been a race among Canadian broadcasters to make it to air first with a 3D Canadian program, says Mark Starowicz, the CBC’s executive director of documentary programming and executive producer on the 3D doc.

‘We’ve all been racing and looking over our shoulders, afraid that someone might overtake us. Unless something happens between now and Monday, we’ve set a record,’ he said in an interview the week before the premiere.

The first 3D Canadian television transmission called for a significant subject. ‘If you’re going to set the record and somebody’s going to say the first pictures transmitted in 3D in Canadian television history were [fill in the blank], you don’t want it to be Donald Duck. The Queen seemed appropriate,’ he says.

The CBC also had the rights to Royal Review, a 3D color newsreel of the Queen’s Coronation from 1953 (the same footage was used in a recent Channel 4 program, called The Queen in 3D), and the producers knew there would be multiple Canadian appearances made by the Queen in the summer of 2010. Queen Elizabeth in 3D blends together Royal Review and footage shot with the Queen in three locations in Canada, at Buckingham Palace, and some 2D footage that the National Film Board of Canada had from a 1950s Toronto visit by the Queen.

‘We’d play the original film, which was quite the find and we had the Queen coming [to Canada], so we thought it’d make a perfect bookend. A royal visit has a lot of pageantry, which makes it ideal for 3D,’ says Starowicz.

Director Liam O’Rinn led a crew that was new to shooting in 3D. ‘The biggest learning curve for us, coming from a documentary background, is that normally when you go out to shoot, you can shoot whatever you want,’ says O’Rinn. ‘With 3D you have to scout your locations and storyboard the shot you want and the rigs [for 3D] are massive, slow and hard to move.’

O’Rinn found working with the Queen to be easy on the scheduling front since, ‘You pretty much know every move that she makes in public.’ On the flip side, since every move Her Majesty takes is so choreographed, sometimes the crew found themselves in the way. For example, the crew went to shoot at a garden party held at Buckingham Palace and the carefully orchestrated event saw the Queen having brief chats with carefully selected guests at the party. ‘We want to be down the line shooting at Her Majesty but you can’t block her for a second,’ says O’Rinn. ‘You can’t slow her down. At the same time you want to be close enough so you get a nice close shot.’

To make way for the Queen, moving the crew, made up of a stereographer, camera operator, data wrangler, DOP and director, as well as the 3D rig, proved to be an ordeal. ‘On top of this, we were all wearing suits, ties, shirts and it was 30 degrees,’ he adds. ‘But it was a great buzz. When we got the shot [it] was worth it.’

With 3D televisions not at a point of mass adoption, the CBC teamed up with Canadian Post to distribute 3D glasses for viewers to see the Queen in three dimensions.

Queen Elizabeth in 3D premieres on September 20 on CBC and repeats on the 22nd and 25th on CBC News Network.

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.