Interview in Stereo World magazine

I was interviewed about The Simple Carnival’s 3D music videos in the latest issue of Stereo World.

Scroll down to read the interview or download it as a pdf.

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Interview with Stereographer/Filmmaker Celine Tricart

I conducted an interview with Stereographer/Filmmaker Celine Tricart in the latest issue of Stereo World. Enjoy!

Stereo World coverImage2

Image3Image4Here’s a link to Celine’s book, 3D Filmmaking: Techniques and Best Practices for Stereoscopic Filmmakers.

You can find out more about Celine on Facebook, Twitter, and her web site. And don’t forget to check out her work on YouTube!

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Interview with 3D Cinematographer Franz Pagot

Below is an interview that I conducted with award-winning 3D Cinematographer Franz Pagot for Stereo World magazine. Enjoy!

Image1Image2

Here’s the video referenced in the article:

And here’s an Amazon link to Immersive 3-D. This isn’t an affiliate link, and I get nothing in return for directing you to this link. I just think it’s a good book!

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3-D Rarities Blu-Ray: Preorders Available Now

On June 16, 2015, raritiesthe 3-D Film Archive is releasing what looks to be an incredible compilation of historic 3-D short films. It’s called 3-D Rarities, and here are some of the films that will be included:

Selections include Kelley’s Plasticon Pictures, the earliest extant 3-D demonstration film from 1922 with incredible footage of Washington and New York City; New Dimensions, the first domestic full color 3-D film originally shown at the World’s Fair in 1940; Thrills for You, a promotional film for the Pennsylvania Railroad; Around is Around, a 3-D animated gem by Norman McLaren; Rocky Marciano vs. Jersey Joe Walcott, the only 3-D newsreel; Stardust in Your Eyes, a hilarious standup routine by Slick Slavin; trailer for The Maze, with fantastic production design by William Cameron Menzies; Doom Town, a controversial anti-atomic testing film mysteriously pulled from release; puppet cartoon The Adventures of Sam Space, presented in widescreen; I’ll Sell My Shirt, a burlesque comedy unseen in 3-D for over 60 years; Boo Moon, an excellent example of color stereoscopic animation…and more!

I haven’t seen all of the films that will be on this disc, but I’m salivating at the idea of having fully-restored versions of several of the films that I’ve seen. (A restored version of Norman McLaren’s Around is Around alone is worth the price of admission!)

I’ve pre-ordered my copy. Have you?

 

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Natron: Stereoscopic Open Source Compositor

I stumbled across a very interesting free, cross-platform, open source video compositor called Natron.

What does a video compositor do? Basically, it’s a tool for combining video images in complex ways. Video compositors are used extensively in special effects, commercials, and video production in general.

Natron appears to be modeled after a commercial video compositor called Nuke. I’ve not used Nuke, but apparently Natron is so similar to Nuke that the Nuke manual can be used as a reference for learning Natron.

Anyway, the reason why I’m mentioning Natron is because of this little menu in the program:

stereo

That’s right — Natron appears to support stereoscopic video.

Now, I’ve only spent a few minutes with Natron. I’ve joined the Natron Facebook group. I’ve done nothing useful with Natron so far, and don’t know when I’ll have time to do so. If you experiment with it…how are the 3D features? Please post your thoughts below.

As a side note, Natron — along with Blender and Krita — are being taught at the Paris-8 University. I’ve used Blender nearly every day for the past year and eventually hope to write about the stereoscopic software tools I’ve developed for it. Krita is a nice-looking, free Photoshop replacement that seems very promising. It’s interesting to see these powerful open source tools starting to be treated as near-equals to their commercial counterparts.

 

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A homemade polarizer switcher!

I’d been talking with a friend about how to make a linear polarizer switcher that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Normally, a polarizer switcher costs between $1,300 and $5,000. The $1,300 polarizer switchers only handle circular polarization, which is useless to me. The cheapest polarizer switcher that can handle linear polarization is around $5,000. And that’s too expensive.

The goal is to conduct my 3D for Kids events without having to set up two projectors. It’s the single biggest time sink when setting up a workshop. I spend about 45 minutes messing with the two projectors. Even when the result is the best that it can be, it’s never perfect. There’s always a bit of misalignment in one of the corners. Or there’s a hint of vertical misalignment. In an ideal world, I’d like to set up a projector, put a device in front of it, then BOOM — linear polarized 3D with perfect alignment. That’s what I was hoping to do with the StereoVision Flexaron but became occupied with other commitments before being able to follow that through.

I tried doing some research on how to build a homemade polarizer swticher but came up empty-handed. It seems that nobody has ever attempted to make one, or at least nobody has documented how to make a DIY polarizer switcher online…until now!

I’d remarked to my friend that, when the shutter glasses are turned off, they almost seem to act like linear polarized glasses. (I noticed that I could see reflections off of my hardwood floor with one eye but not the other when the shutter glasses glasses were turned off.) My friend doesn’t own any active 3D glasses, so my comment inadvertently gave him the key in figuring out how to hack them.

Long story short: active 3D shutter glasses — at least the kind I have — have a linear polarizer followed by a LCD followed by another linear polarizer. My friend’s idea was to peel the inner linear polarizer off of the glasses and…it worked!

He used a pen knife to lift the corner of the polarizer, then used tweezers to fully remove the polarizer from the LCD. There were still a few bits of adhesive left on the LCD (which he tried to clean up with isopropyl alcohol), but those bits aren’t noticeable when the glasses are put as close to the projector lens as they are for this project.

Polarizer 0

polarizer 1

Note that the polarizers on the front of the glasses are at a 45 degree angle from the angle that most linear polarized glasses are positioned. That’s why the glasses are being held by the microphone clip at a 45 degree angle. I used my DIY filter stand (Page 1 Page 2 Page 3) to hold the glasses.

Note that these are DLP-Link glasses and the optical sensor is facing toward the projector instead of toward the screen. It doesn’t seem to cause a problem — the glasses are able to pick up the proper sync without facing the screen. Obviously, you must charge and turn on the glasses for the polarizer switcher to work.

Polarizer 2

The key to making this work is to get the entire frame from the projector into the glasses. So far, I haven’t seen any problem with the glasses absorbing the heat. The metal stand absorbs a LOT of heat, but the plastic glasses seem to be at room temperature when I move them away from playing a video at full brightness. I’ve watched full-length movies and the glasses don’t heat up at all.

Polarizer 3

There’s no vertical misalignment whatsoever — it looks the same as projecting a movie with DLP-Link, except the viewer has to wear linear polarized glasses.

Polarizer 4.

So…a $40 pair of shutter glasses can be hacked to do pretty much the same thing as a $5,000 polarizer switcher. Sure, I wouldn’t recommend this method if you’re running a commercial theater or an amusement park attraction, but for home viewing and presentations…it looks like it’s going to work out just fine. The result on the screen looks better than two properly aligned projectors. Plus, there’s the added bonus of keeping the projectionist’s blood pressure low.

Now…who wants to buy my StereoVision Flexaron? :)

Update #1: See Ron Labbe’s successful homemade polarizer switcher  for more details on how to build this project!

Update #2: I made two additional polarizer switchers and made a 3D video of the process:

 

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Wim Wenders and the “Natural Depth Method”

I stumbled across this great interview with Wim Wenders about his approach to 3D filmmaking. In the interview, Wenders mentions Alain Derobe‘s “Natural Depth Method,” which intrigued me. So I did a bit of digging and found this pretty fascinating technical paper:

stereoscopic user bookThe Stereoscopic User Book

One interesting thing about this method is that it uses an on-set monitor with predetermined vertical lines superimposed over the screen. The vertical lines represent the maximum negative/positive parallax for the final projection size. The user views the image as anaglyph, and then ensures that the differences between the left and right images don’t exceed the space between the vertical lines.

It’s similar to the approach that filmmaker Stephen Gibson describes in Ray Zone’s book, 3-DIY: Stereoscopic Moviemaking on an Indie Budget. Gibson uses a small strip of paper that’s cut to the width of the maximum parallax for a final projection size, then holds the strip up to the computer monitor to make sure the maximum negative/positive parallax for a particular image doesn’t exceed what’s acceptable for the final projection size. However, having the lines superimposed over the screen is a different twist to that idea.

 

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The StereoVision Flexaron (Part 2)

Hurricane Arthur cut my vacation short, so I ended up having the time to scan in the StereoVision Flexaron manual as well as the Principles of Quality 3D Motion Picture Projection book sooner than expected. Click the appropriate cover to download a water-damaged PDF.

 Flexaron_III_Projection_System_Manual          Principles_of_Quality_3D_Motion_Picture_Projection

If you haven’t read it yet, please check out The StereoVision Flexaron (Part 1) for some background information on what this is.

I have yet to finish fixing my Flexaron and to see how well it will work with a digital projector. Stay tuned!

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The StereoVision Flexaron (Part 1)

David Starkman from Reel3D recently pointed me toward a used StereoVision Flexaron, which I promptly purchased:

Flexaron 1Flexaron 2What is a Flexaron? Well, it’s a mirror box circa 1983 which allowed projectionists to use a single projector to project over/under 35mm 3D films. The projector would shine its light into this box, where there are two sets of mirrors which split out the top and bottom images from the film. Then each image is bounced off another mirror before passing through a linear polarizer.

This contraption was used to project such films as Jaws 3D and Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared Syn. In fact, the Flexaron arrived with 35mm test loops for aligning the projector so that it could project Jaws 3D and Metalstorm:

Flexaron 3

Flexaron 4Now, what good is a 1983-era StereoVision Flexaron in the year 2014? Well, I conduct 3D for Kids workshops in Western PA, where I teach kids the art and science behind 3D movies. The most nerve-wracking, time-consuming part about conducting the workshop is setting up the dual digital projector system.

If the Flexaron works as advertised, it means that I can project an over/under digital video signal through the mirror box and get pretty much the same result as I do with two projectors…but with far less setup time. It will have cost a fraction of what a polarizer switcher would have cost, and I’ll be able to use linear polarization. (I’m not aware of any polarizer switchers for sale that use linear polarization. As far as I know, they all use circular polarization.)

If the result is less than optimal, then at least I’ll have a workaround for projecting polarized video if I only have one projector available. In my book, less-than-optimal polarized projection is arguably better-looking than perfect anaglyph projection.

Flexaron 5

Flexaron 6

Flexaron 7

Flexaron 8

Flexaron 9

While there’s obvious water damage to the case, manuals, and film, the Flexaron mirror box is in decent shape. The glass and mirrors are acceptable, though there are some chips near the edge of one of the mirrors. The inner set of mirrors were dislodged from their post and needed to be reglued. As of this writing, I haven’t found the exact angle for gluing the inner mirrors. For example, I tried a 90 degree angle…

Flexaron mirrors…but it wasn’t quite right, resulting in a left and right image that did not overlap.

There’s more to the Flexaron, which I’ll provide in a future post. The two manuals that were included are really interesting; I’ll scan those in within the next couple of weeks and provide PDFs that you can download.

In the meantime, here’s a great article about Chris Condon — the founder of StereoVision (the company which produced the Flexaron).

 

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Welcome to 3d.simplecarnival.com!

Jeff BollerWelcome! I’m Jeff Boller — software developer by day, singer/songwriter/musician behind The Simple Carnival, award-winning 3D filmmaker, and 3D for Kids instructor by night. Well, not always by night. Sometimes the “by day” and “by night” labels get reversed. Anyway…

This blog is a catch-all for my experiences in working with 3D. It’s for the 3D stuff that would be too technical for those who have enjoyed my breezy 3D for Kids workshops. It’s for the 3D stuff that goes beyond what would be in a “behind the scenes” filmmaking featurette. This blog focuses on the nitty gritty stuff — the nuts and bolts of how 3D art is made, shot, programmed, and displayed. In short, this isn’t 3D for kids. This is 3D for grownups. And if you’re creating some form of 3D art, this blog is for you.

Stereoscopy is more popular than it’s ever been. We’re still riding a wave of mainstream 3D movies that has been going strong for a decade. However, there’s still quite a bit of mystery in many corners of the field. I’ve tried to absorb as much knowledge as possible through the various books, magazines, and web sites that are out there. But I’ve found that there’s a lot of stereoscopic knowledge that isn’t documented anywhere. Or maybe the knowledge is documented somewhere, but the location of the only remaining copy is inside the head of one retired guy in Southern California who used to work in Hollywood many years ago. This happens more often than you might think. There are huge chunks of stereoscopic knowledge which simply cannot be found through a search engine.

Anyway, the more I work with 3D, the more I learn how much I still don’t know. So if I ask a question where I don’t know the answer — and you do — please leave some feedback. I hope that this blog functions as a two way street in that regard.

Oh, and one more thing. If you follow this blog, I guarantee that you’re going to see me fail.

Failure is something that’s not obvious if you follow The Simple Carnival’s music or filmmaking endeavors. Or even the 3D for Kids workshops. In all of those situations, I’ll present the finished product to the world, where everything works as intended. What’s absent from that picture is the hours upon hours of trial and error that went into it. The stuff that got built and thrown away. The stuff that was bought at great expense and ended up being useless. That sort of thing.

Making short films is, to me, as much about the journey as it is about the finished result. This blog is about the journey. I hope you’ll come along for the ride. Maybe we can collectively unravel some 3D mysteries.

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