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MTBS Interviews Abe Perlstein

There have been a lot of exciting high profile 3D festivals and conferences in the past two years. 3DX finishes this weekend, the 3D Entertainment Summit is just around the bend, and now, it’s time for something a little different.

Independent S-3D photographer and enthusiast Abe Perlstein joins us to talk about his career, and his "underground" festival happening this Monday, November 24th in Paso Robles, California.



Abe Perlstein


1. Abe! Welcome to MTBS. Tell us about yourself. How were you first introduced to stereoscopic 3D photography?

My first introduction to stereoscopic 3D photography was a gift of a Bakelite-style View-Master Viewer and set of reels my mom and dad gave me when I was about ten years old. I’ve cherished that viewer and ten or fifteen reels for forty years now. My favorite from that group is the 1968 title, Land of the Giants.

I started in as a professional 2-D photographer in 1977 shooting bands and portraits. From 1980 to 2000 I was a Hollywood-based motion picture, television, and music industry stills photographer.

In 1991, a notice tacked up onto my bulletin board for over ten years advertising monthly meetings of the Stereo Club of Southern California finally motivated me to check out the scene. I was an amateur audiophile at the time and wondered what a group of stereo enthusiasts meeting in a room would be like. I fully expected a bunch of hi-fi geeks admiring each other’s stereos.

There not only weren’t any stereos in the room, but a very odd looking twin-lensed projector captured my attention along with a large silver screen. A wild assortment of mostly older men were talking about stereo photography. The images projected that night were beyond impressive. From then on, stereo photography became my primary artistic expression.


2. I visited your personal gallery, and much of your work is just breathtaking. You have a gift for picking scenery that complements the stereoscopic 3D experience. What do you look for when taking pictures? Are there criteria that you try to meet when selecting your image choices?

Thank you for your kind words. Abes3Dworld is a mix of a handful of scanned 35mm slide pairs shot with single or twin-camera rigs along with a crop of single-digital-camera rock-and-roll stereo views.

When seeking out stereo photography, the majority of this work to date has been self-assigned. I seek scenes that are first and foremost compelling in flat 2-D composition, then greatly enhanced by stereo depth. I enjoy imparting specific moods and/or telling a story. Primarily, I shoot a mix of documentary and fine art portraiture. My favorite subjects include hyperstereo landscapes and aerial perspectives, figurative portraits in natural environments, wildflowers, macro studies of various objects, architecture, and wildlife shot with some degree of hyperstereo imaging.


3. Your gallery is in both anaglyph (red/blue) and side by side or cross-eyed formats. When you capture your images, what type of display media are you thinking of?

The red/cyan anaglyphs are largely posted to benefit visitors who desire instant gratification versus the slight learning curve that comes with mastering the much more color-accurate cross or convergent-viewing format. However, I believe anaglyph will command a sizable portion of the market for the foreseeable future due to its ease of distribution. On the other hand, as an artist, and because color accuracy is paramount, I visualize a time in the not-so-distant future when the majority of my stereo photography (and videography) will find a home on circular polarized stereo, glasses-free, or electronic shutter-glass field-sequential 3-D screens.

For theatrical settings, high-definition circular polarized projection is my favorite as of the moment. I’m also a big fan of passive multi-view transparency viewer technology and binocular photography books with built-in lenses such as the ongoing series published by Chronicle Books.


4. We met at the Stereoscopic Displays & Applications Conference. During a phone conversation, we talked about video games and their relationship to stereoscopic 3D. Among the things we discussed, you had a personal fascination with head mounted displays and what they can do for the physically challenged. What did you have in mind? Please elaborate?

Immersive goggles, head-mounted displays, and the gamut of other stereo viewing devices have the ability to afford stress relief and transport us mortal regular humans from the constraints of our often limited realities. This especially goes for those of us whom are physically challenged and/or bed-ridden.


5. What types of experiences would be best captured for this purpose? Do you see this as an important niche market for the S-3D industry?

Imagine the boon to patients laid up in hospitals, rehab centers, as well as the general population who may soon be able to safely experience the thrill of jumping out of airplanes, climbing the tallest mountains, diving on spectacular coral reefs, hang gliding, exploring underground cave systems, commanding a 200 mph racing car, or any number of extreme sport perspectives.

My dream is to put cameras in the many places that afford us dynamic perspectives of alternate realities. This also goes for exploring fantasy animated environments. I see this as much more than a niche market, but moreover as the driving force in establishing 3-D for the masses, largely through personal on-demand viewing experiences.




6. "The 3D Indie Film Expo". What is it and what can we expect to see?

With all the attention given to the meteoric rise of commercial studio-supported 3-D animated and live-action feature films in the national and international marketplace, now is the time to throw also the spotlight on the do-it-yourself 3-D film community producing great work that has, until recently, had little to no exposure to the general public.

The 3-D Indie Expo will showcase visionary works across a broad spectrum of subjects including Tom Koester’s revealing documentary study of "The Towers of Simon Rodia" (also known as the Watts Towers), Tom Reiderer’s "Up Denali in 3-D" adventure film, Santiago Caicedo’s brilliant animated/live-action fantasy, "Moving Still," Isaiah Saxon and Sean Hellfritsch’s "Wanderlust" music video for Bjork, Eric Deren’s thrill-packed "Skydiving in 3-D," John Hart’s ingenius study of liquids captured through dramatically lit high-speed macro stereography in "Liquid Magic," Takashi Sekitani’s phenomenal hyperstereo spectacular of bombs bursting air in "Fireworks Symphony" are just a few of the short films scheduled for this Monday.


7. "Underground 3D movement" - the festival website mentions this regularly. What do you mean by this? What to you constitutes an underground movement? Can you describe the culture for us?

While a few shorts at the Expo were supported by commercial concerns, the majority of work we are presenting was produced by self-funded film makers with a passion for 3-D storytelling. One of my favorite terms was coined by 3-D film historian, author, comics publisher, and emerging 3-D film maker, Ray Zone.

The "Desktop 3-D Revolution" encompasses a growing legion of 3-D film makers configuring their own camera systems from off-the-shelf components and producing exceptional results. While millions of dollars are earmarked toward professional-grade camera systems for the Hollywood community, those systems are largely out of reach for the emerging film maker. As a result, more and more "underground" 3-D film makers are cobbling together twin HD camera rigs at a fraction of the cost of the big boys, while the results of their labors are equally or more impressive. At the end of the day, content is king, even if the camera system that captured the action is of "pro-sumer" status.


8. Why do you think stereoscopic 3D has an appeal to this culture? What does it offer that captures their interest?

I’m certainly not the first person who said this, but, hey, the world isn’t flat. Why look at it that way?!?


9. Why did you start this festival? How did you come up with the idea?

Having been a member of the Stereo Club of Southern California since 1991, I’ve watched the transformation of this very talented and visionary grouping of stereo media folk grow from largely a hobbyist and enthusiast group of stereo photographers to a force for dimensional change on the world stage.

John Hart, my Co-Producer, has been experimenting with 3-D film making since the 1950’s and has been Chair of the SCSC Movie Division organizing 3-D movie competitions since 1982. Submissions come in from all over the world. The bulk of these films are astounding, especially when considering the majority are shot on miniscule budgets. The rise of affordable digital cameras, editing gear, and projectors has enabled the SCSC, other stereo societies across the U.S. and abroad, and larger stereo imaging societies such as the National Stereoscopic Association and International Stereoscopic Union to provide a platform for showcasing the works of 3-D film makers on a regular basis. These gatherings have been wonderful for those inside the 3-D community, but, are for the most part off the radar of the general public and Hollywood industry professionals. And while a new crop of primarilly commercially-oriented 3-D film festivals and conferences are seemingly popping up every other week, the do-it-yourself community was still lacking the high-profile public venue they so justly deserve for presenting their work.

The idea for the 3-D Indie Film Expo came about as one of those lightbulb-above-the-head moments as I was sipping wine and munching hors d’oeurves during a 2008 San Luis Obispo International Film Festival reception in Paso Robles. I was feeling kind of bored when I found myself standing near a friendly chap who seemed to enjoy talking about films as much as I did versus many people in the room who were seemingly more interested in chatting about everything and anything except films. So, we stood there for the better part of 45-minutes as I burned his ear off about my vision for a truly independent 3-D film festival. He seemed interested. I then discovered this good-humored and film savvy man was "Buffalo" Benford Standley, seasoned event promoter and documentary film maker.

He casually mentioned he was producing the Paso Robles Digital Film Festival and perhaps we should talk more about my idea. To make a long story short, I projected my "Meet The Flockers" 3-D slide documentary on the habitats and birds of the Morro Bay National Estuary and explained that while my program was not a movie, similar subject matter in 3-D movies can be just as if not a lot more impressive. We talked a number of other times and then Benford introduced me to Sara Ivicevich, whom has worked on projects over the past five years with Benford on multi media projects that encompass music, film, and the digital revolution. That was back in April. Sara Ivicevich is now 3DIFE Supervising Producer.


10. Your lead panelist is Ray Zone. Please tell us about him, his work, and why are you excited to have him moderate the panel.

Ray, "The 3-D Desktop Revolution" Panel Moderator is a 3-D film maker, author, and speaker with an international reputation as a stereographer. Ray produced Ron Labbe’s CG IMAX 3-D short, "Mousetrapped," wrote and directed "Slow Glass," which won awards at the SCSC Movie Competition (1st Place) and the National Stereoscopic Association Convention, and is the author of "3-D Filmmakers: Conversations with Creators of Stereoscopic Motion Pictures" (Scarecrow Press, 2005) and "Stereoscopic Cinema and the Origins of 3-D Film: 1838-1952" (University Press of Kentucky, 2007). He has also brought 3-D slide shows and other presentations into libraries, schools, and as programming for a variety of special events.

Of all the people in the 3-D community, Ray is undoubtedly one of the most knowledgeable and a no brainer choice to lead this expert panel.


11. Tell us about your team. Who are you working with to make this all possible?

  • Sara Ivicevich, skilled producer, writer, editor, and heading MediArt productions, a company dedicated 100% to 3-D events and production is 3DIFE Supervising Producer. Sara was instrumental in pulling this event together in record time.
  • Eric Kurland, Stereo Club of Southern California Vice President, and the producer of a popular mobile drive-in theater event held regularly in Los Angeles. He is an expert in desktop solutions for stereoscopic motion picture projection, and author of "Homebrew Digital Movies" in the May 2008 issue of Make Technology on Your Time. He is 3DIFE Technical Supervisor in charge of formatting all content and projection, and 3DIFE panelist.
  • John Hart, retired elementary school principle, long time Stereo Club of Southern California Movie Division Chair and 3DIFE Co-Producer in acquiring screening content, and 3DIFE panelist;
  • Ray Zone, Stereo Club of Southern California Program Director, Staff Writer for the 3D News SCSC monthly newsletter, Contributing Editor for Stereo World Magazine, imerging 3-D film maker, and Moderator of "The Desktop 3D Revolution" panel discussion;
  • Shannon Benna, a multi media Producer and V.P. of MediArt Productions, an all-3-D events company, is 3DIFE Co-Producer working closely with Sara Ivicevich on a wide variety of organizational tasks, sponsorship, and web design;
  • Paul Taylor, feature film Director of Photography, Steadicam Operator, and 3-D Cinematographer working with Eric Kurland on server-related issues as well as presenting a live high-definition 3-D video demo;
  • and Tom Koester, prolific 3-D documentary film maker and 3DIFE panelist.



    Abe Perlstein

    12. This isn’t a traditional film festival. Can you describe the atmosphere attendees can look forward to? What entertainment can we expect?

    The Paso Robles Digital Film Festival is a uncommon mix of live music and screening events. Headlining acts include The Bacon Brothers featuring actor Kevin Bacon and his brother and musician Michael Bacon; recipient of the President’s National Medal of Arts and Grammy-winning legend Ramblin’ Jack Elliott; the ‘Kyle Eastwood Band’ (featuring the son of film-star Clint Eastwood); as well as a special guest appearance by the Brubeck Institute Jazz Quintet. Also featured will be gigs with musician Jack Tempchin, (songwriter for The Eagles), legendary guitarist Norm Stephens (who played with Lefty Frizzell and Merle Haggard), Grammy Winner Louie Ortega, and many other award winning and notable music-makers. Other ‘big surprise’ musical guests are to-be-announced.

    Aside from cozy venues like the Paso Robles Inn, Level Four, Hotel Cheval, Park Ball Room, Firefly Gallery, Franklin’s Hot Springs, and others where the music and screenings will take place, the festival will feature a 2,000-seat circus-tent stage for musicians and bands, surprise guests and Festival Awards at the Martin & Weyrich Winery.

    Paso Robles, California, is located about 210-miles South of San Francisco, or 230-miles North of Los Angeles, and is historic for its natural hot-springs where the Native Americans knew of their healing power for untold centuries, then to Old West History, such as the legend of Jesse James, James Dean and the great pianist Paderewski, to 200 wineries, and 26,000-acres of award winning grapes . The town is located along U.S. Highway 101, with numerous high-quality hotels, many fine restaurants, wine-tasting venues in the center of the walking-friendly downtown area, and just south and sideways of Sundance...a wild west film festival...in cowboy wine country.

    The 3-D Indie Film Expo event is being held in the historic Park Ballroom, in downtown Paso Robles, California. The five-hour event begins with a 1-2PM social hour featuring a liquid dark chocolate fountain and various dipping items presented by artisan chocolatiers, Herrmann’s Chocolate Lab paired with a nirvana-invoking cabernet sauvignon and other vintages by award-winning Central Coast winemakers, Vina Robles.

    While folks are sipping wine paired with liquid chocolate, they’ll---parden the obvious pun--likely feel a little tipsy and in turn welcome the gypsy jazz stylings of The Tipsy Gypsies, a phenomenally talented band I believe are destined for movie soundtrack greatness.

    Attendees will further stoke their taste buds with tri-tip steak bites, bruschetta, fried/stuffed mushrooms topped with melted cheese, garlic bread, and sodas & bottled waters served throughout the event courtesy of our generous food and beverage sponsor, Mclintock’s Saloon and Dining House.

    Unique 3-D visual displays, including Tom Reiderer’s macro stereoscopic microscope with living Pacific Ocean tide pool creatures rear-projected in real time on a polarized screen, and Eric Kurland’s video phantogram display will be placed about the Ballroom and go far in satisfying everyone’s deep space appetites.

    At 2:00PM, the 3-D Indie Film Expo will begin the first hour of immersive award-winning three-dimensional documentaries, comedies, dramas, extreme sports, music videos, and innovative animated shorts by visionary American and international filmmakers realized through high-defnition stereo polarized projection. Polarized 3-D glasses will be provided.

    At 3:00PM we’ll pause for intermission and begin our second wine tasting provided by Rotta Winery featuring one of their mouthwatering ports (simply delicious when paired with Herrmann’s chocolate fountain and dipping items), along with a red and a chilled white wine.

    Then, acclaimed 2-D and 3-D Director of Photography, Paul Taylor dazzles our eyeballs with a fascinating high-definition 3-D video demonstration followed by "The Desktop 3-D Revolution" panel discussion on do-it-yourself 3-D moviemaking moderated by 3-D film historian and author, Ray Zone and featuring film makers, Eric Kurland, Tom Koester, and John Hart.

    After a short break, 60-minutes of short 3-D films from around the world will be shown, some of which are premiering in front of North American audiences for the first time.

    The day’s celebration will come to a glorious close with a 45-minute networking and social mingle period.

    Seating is limited to just 120 seats. You can learn more from the festival homepage.


    13. I understand there will be 3D hardware demonstrations too. What do attendees have to look forward to?

    We are also expecting a handful of film makers present with various home made 3-D camera rigs. Additionally, Santa Barbara-based Tom Reiderer just sent out an e-mail stating: "I’ll be there with a TrueVision 3DHD camera/display system showing three-D adventure clips and a live demo of tide-pool critters under a microscope. Come see our 1-touch WYSIWYG recording system and the tops of various mountains around the world."


    14. You’ve been involved with 3D long before it earned today’s popular interest. As an S-3D enthusiast, what do you foresee the biggest challenges our industry needs to overcome for S-3D to be successful in the consumer markets?

    The biggest challenges I see ahead are overcoming the notion that 3-D content viewed with 3-D glasses is an issue. While I am not a huge proponent of anaglyph presentations as a means to an end, they do serve a valuable purpose for ease of content distribution in a variety of media and a great way to introduce 3-D to the masses. As for polarized projection, for the time being, this technology is top dog for premium 3-D presentations worldwide. Glasses are not an issue accept to the uninitiated who associate glasses with cheesy 1950’s and 70’s-era feature films. Of course, if glasses-free presentations get a lot better than they are now, I’d be all for tossing glasses into the dust bin of history. Then again, they do sorta look cool.


    Abe Perlstein


    15. At the 3DX Film Festival, Jeffrey Katzenberg predicted all movies will be made in 3D within five to seven years. Do you agree with this? Why or why not?

    I agree for the most part. Most animated films look better in 3-D, though this is not the case with all live action films. I believe there’ll still be a place for the flatties. But, overall, I believe the majority of feature films will make the change to non-exploitive 3-D in four to seven years. As for television and internet, those are unknowns. If I had my druthers, most of broadcast television and home video would ramp up to 3-D in three or four years or less. From what I gather, the majority of "3-D Ready" HDTV owners don’t have a clue as to what these sets actually do, though, this will eventually change.

    When I was ten years old my family had a small black & white televison. Slowly, we noticed friends, family, and neighbors making the switch to color sets. I seem to remember my mom stating something along the lines of "We don’t need color television. Black & white is good enough for us." That line of thought persisted for another two or three years until we, too joined the masses embracing the color revolution. As an analogy. in much the same way 78 rpm records made way for 45’s, L.P.’s, cassettes, CD’s, MP3’s, DVD audio, and so on, 2-D will eventually give way to 3-D. It’s just the mostly likely course for a species that naturally views our universe in stereo.


    16. If I understand you correctly, the 3D Indie Film Expo is an underground movement. Do you think the underground film makers will have a role in shaping our industry’s future? How so?

    Without a doubt. The public’s current love affair with 3-D cinema will wane if content quality doesn’t keep pace with whiz-bang 3-D-for-3-D’s-sake imaging quality, and even though the public will always embrace the big budget spectacle, even when the story line is paper thin, I believe do-it-yourself film makers with creative minds and eyes and a strong sense of innovation will soon contribute a sizable percentage of feature film, television, and web-oriented content. Once the tools of production and post-production come down to an even more affordable level, all bets are off. Then the 3-D Desktop Revolution will be in full bloom.


    17. What final remarks can you share with our S-3D advocates?

    When people tell you you are ahead of your time, let them know the future is now...and it’s in 3-D!

    Thanks for joining us! Best of luck with the festival. This is the first interview I have written that made me hungry. ;=)

    MTBS members! Do you think the underground S-3D film making movement is key to driving our industry’s success? Post your thoughts in our forums.