Tales From The Industry XXXI – An Extra Dimension

I went off into an extra dimension yesterday. Well, in a manner of speaking. No, this was not anything to do with my string theory work!

I was being filmed in 3D.

3d_cameraThere’s a bit of a 3D revolution going on. There have been a lot of 3D movies out lately. Some are better than others, and a great deal more are to come very soon, as you probably know. Many major filmmakers that you probably regard as “serious” filmmakers have 3D films in the works. There’ll be 3D TV channels appearing soon in the UK and probably elsewhere, and they’ve been selling the TVs already, both there and in the USA (and I imagine, in other places).

There are lots of questions you’ve no doubt asked yourself: Is the technology here to stay? Is it just a gimmick? Is it just a ploy to combat piracy? Is it a new aspect of the visual form that creative filmmakers can genuinely use to enhance the story-telling? Has that happened yet? And so on and so forth…

I’ve been asking myself those questions too. I did not expect, however, to be part of the revolution (if that is what it is) and be filmed in 3D, so soon, for a TV show. My understanding is that it’ll be available for you to see soon (in those places where you can get 3D TV) but I am not at liberty to discuss that program just yet, so I’ll tell you as soon as I can. Suffice to say it will appear on a major channel – this 3D business is not an inexpensive enterprise. (There’s the usual caveat that if they decide not to use my bits for whatever reason, I might not be in the finished product*.)

cvj_with_3d_cameraI got to look at the 3D camera setup. I had a nice chat with the DP (director of photography) about it. I was expecting a binocular arrangement to get the two separate views, and I was wrong. They simply have two cameras mounted at 90 degrees to each other with a splitting half-mirror in between. (Click on the main picture above – no, not the one with me… further above – to see the setup more closely. Sorry I neglected to get a shot from the front) This way, they can adjust the separation between the two cameras from zero upward. They need this variability because they need to balance the separation of the cameras with the distance to the thing being imaged, avoiding distortions that will appear if there is too much separation when the object is too close, for example. There are issues of depth of field to take into account when doing this, parallax, as well as perspective distortion that you get when the camera-object distance is small. It is easy to get quite horribly distorted 3D if these things are not balanced (try looking at your finger and track it as you bring it very close to your face, for example) and so they spend a lot of time setting the cameras before shooting begins. I’d brought along some props to do some demonstrations of ideas, but in the end I did not use them since they were small objects, and close-ups in 3D are difficult and mostly problematic. So if you’re a filmmaker (or just someone interested in the process of filmmaking) watching much of the material that’s coming out and wondering why all the live-action 3D work are mostly composed of wide and medium shots but no real closeups, now you know.

It is all a rather clunky business, so far. There will be a generation of less fiddly cameras coming out soon, I understand, so much of the time-consuming adjusting (over and above the usual amount of such adjusting) will be reduced somewhat.

Anyway, it was certainly an interesting (and busy) day yesterday.


*Or the show could be pulled, as happened with the primetime show I did some filming for that I was going to tell you more about …and now apparently can’t… That’s way less likely in this case though… but fingers crossed for luck.

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5 Responses to Tales From The Industry XXXI – An Extra Dimension

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Hi! New blog post: Tales From The Industry XXXI - An Extra Dimension -- Topsy.com

  2. Claver says:

    Dr Clifford,

    I have just been reading some commentary related to this paper: hep-th/0703280 ‘A Realistic World from Intersecting D6-Branes’.

    I thought about the phenomenological aspects and it occurred to me that perhaps we can suppose that ‘in the present cosmological epoch’ string theory, in general, is indeeed a falsifiable theory. Rather than that we presume that the theory ia correct, we can assume that it is wrong if there are no stringy-phenomena that can be detected.

    In that way, perhaps, it’s best to archive string theory and address phenomena that are detected in this present epoch.

  3. Belizean says:


    Thank you for the enlightening insight into the operation of an actual 3D camera! I too expected a binocular set up, and I incorrectly (it turns out) informed my physics class that that’s how 3D cameras appear. A monocular camera with a beam splitter makes a lot of sense, given the high cost of lenses.

  4. Clifford says:


    You’re welcome…

    Also, it’s not only the lenses issue… sometimes the physical distance you need between the two optical elements to get the required 3D is actually smaller than the actual size you could get with two cameras side by side even with perfect miniaturization of the support electronics…


  5. Pingback: Tales from the Industry XXXVI – 3D at the Fun Fair at Asymptotia