Special treat for you today. In the cinema space, we have been hearing a lot from the S-3D cinema equipment makers like Real D and Dolby Laboratories. Now it’s the content makers’ turn. Joining us is Aaron Parry, an Executive Producer and partner with Main Street Pictures, a leading movie production company.
He talks about the efforts and challenges that content makers need to go through to make S-3D successful, and shares his opinions on gaming too!
You are presently working as an Executive Producer for Paramount Pictures on specific projects, and you are also a partner in “Main Street Pictures”. Tell us about some of the movies you have done. Also, which projects are you most proud of and why?
Most recently I was an Executive Producer, and completed Nickelodoen’s CGI Feature Barnyard. I was also the Line-Producer on the The Sponge Bob Squarepants Movie. Over my career I have had the opportunity to work on many great feature films. Most memorable would be working on Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant and participating in this film that had unparalleled synergy between the Director and the entire crew.
I think you are going to take a pragmatic approach on S-3D, but I know there is a lot of excitement at your end as well. At what point did your production company get interested in stereoscopic 3D filmmaking and why?
As our production company is relatively new it was important for us to focus on areas of the industry that held a great deal of promise. Family entertainment is an area we are all very passionate about as well as realizing it continues to be highly in demand. 3D in our opinion is an exciting and captivating way to tell stories and deliver entertainment for the whole family.
When audiences see movies on the big screen, there is a romantic fantasy that going from idea to project approval is a simple path. Can you explain the thought process that gets a script from point A, an idea, to point B, actual production of the movie?
I would have to say that the simplest path for a project to make its way to the big screen is when you encounter an idea and creator who has a project with a point of view that is incredibly poignant and accessible. Once that is in place it is really about the “business” side of the film business supporting the viability of bring that idea to the market. If the two are in sync… a film gets made.
In the movie industry, what S-3D possibilities excite you the most? What types of content are best suited for this technology? Are there selections of content that do not lend themselves to the benefits of S-3D?
What excites me the most about 3D feature films is the fact that it will have a profound impact on the movie going experience and how stories are actually told on the big screen and some day the little screen in your living room. The 3D industry is testing a broad range of content with a great deal of success. As much as 3D has its “gag” qualities we are finding it also holds a great deal of subtlety and sophistication. Ultimately I personally feel all genres have stories to be told in 3D.
Creating and showing a 2D movie on the big screen is easy to understand. While seeing a 3D movie on the big screen is easy to comprehend, why is 3D content creation a whole new can of worms? Do filmmaking rules need to be rewritten somehow? Can you elaborate?
More than anything 2D film making rules will evolve as opposed to being rewritten for 3D. Some new rules may also be created for 3D storytelling. If there is any fact about 3D film experiences and tastes, it is that they are as varied and not more varied than 2D cinematic choices. Some rules that may change may be those related to traditional lens choices. For 2D, a director may choose a longer lens to focus attention on a character in some shots whereas in 3D, the lens choice may change and other design elements may be used instead to add focus and attention.
Let’s talk about the movie director. Once he or she is working in the S-3D art space, what aspects of the movie production need to be adjusted for the best results?
What we are trying to do is take the complete opposite approach and find ways to conform 3D film making to traditional 2D practices. Obviously there are scheduling and technical implications in respect to 3D, but they should not impede or intimidate a potential director from working in 3D. Making on-set feedback available to the director for 3D is important as well as making sure the editorial process is creatively efficient as it would be on a standard 2D production.
Is there a risk that a good 3D movie production will make a poor 2D movie result, and is the reverse an equal possibility?
In most cases one will definitely always be creatively in the lead unless you fully commit to produce two entire versions of your film. There are filmmakers trying to incorporate techniques like depth of field into 3D as opposed to playing everything in focus. There is a bit of wait and see on this subject. I do feel it will be much harder to take a 3D experience and make it a satisfying 2D experience as opposed to the other way around.
Let’s talk about the movie business. Beowulf had a good release in November, but you see 2009 as being a special year for S-3D cinema. Why?
There are several major motion pictures conceived in 3D due to be released in spring of 2009. Beowulf is definitely leading the way in showing the movie going public what a well-crafted 3D experience is like. I am sure it will fuel the 3D feature film movement. It is beautifully done.
Let’s talk about the business advantages of S-3D. What are the key reasons for it to be attractive to the movie industry?
First of all it brings an exclusive event back to the cinema and is being well received by the movie going public. It is also well documented that 3D screens do see an incremental increase in revenue over their 2D equivalent. It will be interesting to watch as the number of 3D screens increases if the incremental difference remains steady or has a reduction. The other advantage is audiences are always hungry for experiences that will tell a story in a new and compelling way and awakens their imagination.
If S-3D is to 2D what color was to black and white, why is S-3D occasionally considered a phase or a fad rather than a technology here to stay?
Until recently, repeatable exhibition quality of 3D was not possible. Today we not only have several options for great projection thanks to companies like Real-D and now Dolby. Bad experiences in exhibition have always been in the way of 3D taking hold.
There are three groups at work here. The movie theater hardware manufacturers, the content makers, and the home cinema 3D hardware manufacturers. Do all these market segments compliment each other, or is there some unspoken competition in the wind?
No competition at the end of the day. With corporations running the bulk of Hollywood, the goal will always be to find more ways to get content to prospective audiences. Whether it is in the theater, in the home, or on the internet.
When you do see movie studios putting out S-3D only releases? What are the criteria needed to accomplish that?
Once 3D screen counts are sufficient enough I am sure we will begin to see 3D only releases. Perhaps even in 2009 or 2010. I would assume it would become possible in the 2,500 to 3,000 screen range.
At present, studios are putting out both 2D and 3D releases of the same film. What additional challenges does this put on the production company?
Our goal is to provide directors ways in which the regular daily film responsibilities do not get doubled when producing a 2D and 3D film simultaneously. It is a combination of 3D talent, production management, and technology to pull it off seamlessly.
There is additional legwork to get S-3D results on the big screen. Can you put a number on how much more money studios should expect to spend on their productions? Can you give an example? Where does most of this money go?
This “number” has been highly debated within the industry around town and at the end of the day the specific financial structure of each picture and company needs to be considered. What I can say is that it is very important not to forget ancillary cost that will be incurred while producing a 3D version of a project. This seems to be the error most often made when budgeting for 3D. One area to clear up is cost of converting a 90 minute feature will range from 14 to 18 million with all ancillary production costs. This cost will ultimately come down as production techniques continue to improve.
We spoke earlier about ticket sales for 3D and 2D movies, and that 3D sold significantly more. Is there a risk that these additional production costs will erode the financial benefit of S-3D, or in the grand scheme of things, is this additional expense a drop in the bucket?
The natural progression would hopefully be, as production experience grows in producing 3D the cost to do so would decrease. Technology will hopefully reduce the amount of direct labor costs and the length of time it takes to artistically interact and make choices in 3D. A few filmmakers are already leading in this area.
The scenarios we have talked about so far refer to 2D/3D joint releases. What about movies made in S-3D from scratch? How do you envision that financial model? What are the big consideration to take into account?
At the end of the day it is actually easier to model. Every production expense is directly applied to the 3D production. As for big considerations, one major one will be the number of masters required from the filmmaker for distribution. It is a costly and complex area of 3D production that is constantly evolving.
Let’s talk about the movie theaters and the S-3D hardware manufacturers. In addition to more S-3D movie theaters, what improvements do the content makers want to see?
Light, light, light. Oh and better cancellation.
I caught your presentation at 3D Biz-Ex, and my ears perked up when you acknowledged the importance of the video game industry to S-3D in movie theaters. Can you elaborate more on what you meant by this?
PC gaming could be the fast route to getting 3D content into the home. I think it may take the other game platforms a bit longer to fully support 3D.
What advantages do video game developers have over movie studios when it comes to S-3D adoption?
3D is inherent to the nature of the product and production. This is similar to an animated feature produced and rendered for 3D. I think it is just a leap that requires fewer steps.
There is a strong link between Hollywood and video game developers. With Beowulf and the rapid S-3D growth in the movie industry, do you think video game developers are running the risk of losing a competitive advantage and/or revenue by not acting fast enough?
Gaming already leads Hollywood in revenue I believe or is at least very close. It really is about 10’s of millions of households having 3D capable televisions or monitors being in place before 3D financially makes proper business sense for gaming companies. I think that number is a few years way.
I know you are under NDA so you can’t reveal the new movies you are working on. However, over the next five years, in terms of percentage, how many will be 2D/3D, and how many will be just 2D?
I think everyone would be happy if 10% to 15% of all movies released from Hollywood were 3D or had 3D versions. It could very well be much more but the returns on 3D exhibition will truly guide those decisions.
I normally ask a genie question at the end where you can have anything you want to move the industry forward, with the exception of selling more tickets than James Cameron’s Titanic. However, because you answered this question already, I have something different for you. A two part question. If you could watch any movie in breathtaking 3D, what would it be and why? AND, what video game would you like to play in perfect 3D, and why?
Video game would be Halo. It has great cinematics and rendering. As for the film, many films come to mind and all would be great choices. I think I will leave it up to the directors and studios to figure out which creatively make sense for 3D. I would love to see any number of Spielberg’s pictures in 3D. The production design and storytelling is already immersive and 3D would only enhance the experience.
If our readers could walk away with a single message from this interview, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid, 3D is here to stay.
Thanks Aaron! No one is afraid about S-3D’s future here, I assure you!
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