I am embarrased to say I didn’t see it coming. The re-emergence of 3D stereoscopic motion pictures, made possible by major advancements in digital production, post-production and projection technologies totally caught me off guard. I knew it was happening, but I totally under-estimated the public response, and the commercial implications it now has to our industry.
What’s obvious to me from the huge financial success of Avatar, and the focus on getting 3D into the home at this year’s CES in Las Vegas, is that for those working hard behind the scenes at making it possible , it’s been in development for some time now.
It was a natural progression, and now I watch carefully at how this latest chapter in the ongoing saga for the almighty entertainment dollar is going to play out in our industry… the battle to create content, to service the post-production, and of course distribution and delivery to an audience now primed for more.
I believe we will see the technology and expertise required in creating 3D stereo media flow from the few to the many quicker than any previous “revolution” in cinema history. We have just witnessed this happen over the past decade as the first wave of independent film makers were liberated by the likes of the Red One, bringing cinema quality production to the masses.
3D stereo will be the same, and I predict the whole shebang will play out over the next 24 months rather than 10 years. By 2012, 3D stereo acquisition and post production will be available on the street, out of the box.
There will be a huge rush to be the first to market locally and internationally the ability to service stereo productions worldwide. Camera rental facilities and post production houses will fight for market share and shout about thier unmatched experience and expertise before they even take delivery of new hardware and software. Just as with the advent of accessible digital cinema “experts” will crawl out from under every stone.
The potential pitfalls are massive. Here’s a few.
Producers – Experience tells me that the average technical competency of most producers and thier teams are still struggling to grapple with the emergence of digital cinema and the current democratization and “revolution” in this technology, the theory and operation of which are entirely outside of thier current ability and understanding. They are dependent on outside consultants, who should be experts in a very specialized field, but sadly they make do with anyone they can find who seems to have a remote idea of what’s going on. I know this when I hear producers ask me how much telecine time they need to book for thier Red One rushes.
DP’s, Directors, DIT’s, Data Wranglers – Everyone is a digital cinema “expert” and highly opinionated to boot. The combination of ignorance, ego, stubborness and hot temper makes for a sea of mis-information marketed as truth. You get a different “truth” from every “expert” you talk to. There is no formal framework to ensure competency, no formal requirements or barriers to entry and the technology (and some positions… a DIT for instance) have not existed for more than a few years, not long enough for the number of truely competent practitioners to be trained to match the demand. It’s a highly risky situation where skills are learned on the job by trial and error, and the errors can cost millions of dollars, not to mention the damage to the reputation of the tools themselves in the minds of producers who don’t know enough to realise what or who is actually at fault. I know many producers and directors who will not touch the Red One, and I am convinced the problem is not the technology, but the total lack of competency of the “experts” they have worked with.
Post-Production Facilities – Post facilities are in a hugely competitive marketplace. Anyone and everyone has access to the tools as capital outlay is no longer a barrier to entry. Competition and self-preservation are extremely strong motivating factors in over-promising, over-committing, and outright lying to potential clients about competency and the ability to deliver to ever escalating standards with ever more complex systems and technology.
Hardware and software – There is no longer enough time between alpha, beta, testing and production release stages in the development of firmware versions, codecs, and software to allow rock solid, reliable and repeatable results in post-production pipelines. This is fact, it is unchangeable and must be accepted into as a daily reality, and suitable measures put in place to problem solve on the fly, on the job and under extreme pressure. Do post-facilities employ the kind of low-level systems building and even programming and scripting expertise in-house? Typically not, and so the responsibility falls on unqualified IT and operations staff.
I am painting a bleak picture, but I believe it affords huge opportunity for the few who objectively, patiently take the correct steps to minimize exposure to the above risks, and the result will be a reputation for true expertise and excellence that surpasses any traditional marketing strategies. Those who create the technology, and / or are intimately close to those who create it, will be in prime position to profit, and creating and maintaining those relationships will be vital.