The Science and Future of 3D Films, With Legend3D Founder Dr. Barry Sandrew

In this three part article for Forbes Magazine, Mark Hughes explores the details and challenges of 3d films with Dr. Barry Sandrew whose company helped add dimension (at least in a spatial sense) to Alice in Wonderland, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Green Lantern, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Conan the Barbarian, Priest, and The Smurfs.

Part 1

…An interesting thing to understand about 3D movies is that when you watch a 3D film, you are not experiencing “true” 3D at all. As Dr. Sandrew explains, “If we attempt to focus on a blurry object in the foreground [in a 3D film], our brains have the expectation that our eyes will resolve it into focus and that it will become sharp and clear as it is in real life. Of course, that does not happen in a 3D movie, nor should it.”

His point about why it shouldn’t happen is important, because as he puts it, “If there is a foreground element in a shot that is blurry, it exists that way because the director wants the audience to focus its attention elsewhere.” He goes on to note that since shifting our gaze won’t make blurry objects sharper and clearer, “it then immediately forces us to re-direct our attention toward what the director originally intended, and eventually, we learn how to correctly experience the film in 3D.” In this way, he notes, 3D serves the film director’s desire to direct audiences’ attention to different parts of the storytelling process.

— | Read The Full Article Part 1

Part II

…“Worldwide, the performance of 3D movies has been extremely strong during the past two years,” Dr. Sandrew stated. “Despite that fact, it?s not uncommon to have one commentator looking at the box office numbers as proof 3D is ?fading’, while another, relying upon the same data, interprets it as proof that 3D is ?hot? and ?on the rise.?”

“The reality of what has been happening,” he said, “though not without a few negative instances, is positive growth for 3D worldwide. According to, six of the top 10 highest grossing movies of all time are 3D films that were released since Avatar in 2009. That represents $8.361 billion of gross revenue over the past two years or 63% of the total gross from the top 10 films of all time. If 3D didn’t add anything to the movie-going experience, would 40% to 60% of $8.361 billion worth of moviegoers make the choice to pay a premium price to see the 3D version of a movie? I don’t think so.”

— | Read The Full Article Part II

Part III

…“When it comes to 3D, everyone is still in a learning phase,” Dr. Sandrew stated. “Some directors who understand the medium are aided by truly knowledgeable stereographers at every stage of their productions, and then there are other directors, who also have a sensitivity toward 3D that prefer to use a stereographer only in a post production mode. In any visual effects-heavy film, the mastery of the director and cinematographer/stereographer is key to the creation of good or exceptional visuals, and this reliance on both technical and creative expertise is not any different in 3D. 3D offers the filmmaker an unprecedented ability to influence the memory, emotions and even primitive survival instincts of the audience in a manner that is impossible in 2D. When employed correctly and strategically, and when the appropriate knowledge base is leveraged, 3D can be a very powerful creative medium for the director.”

— | Read The Full Article Part III

The Conjuring Arts Research Center, A Research Library for Magic

Nestled in a hidden location in midtown Manhattan, the Counjuring Arts Research Center is ground zero for illusionists and historians alike. The Center provides a range of services, publishes scholarly journals, and teaches hospital-bound kids magic through its Hocus Pocus program. It is perhaps best known as home to one of the largest known collections of historic books, letters, and other media, which the center makes available online.

Bill Kalush, the center’s founder and director, explains how he built the collection piece-by-piece and shows us some of its highlights.

Check out their official site

Making of “Holy Flying Circus” – a Monty Python Zoetrope

Using 3d Studio Max and Adobe After Effects, Jim Le Favre and his team put together an amazingly elaborate Zoetrope (or Phonotrope as he calls it) title sequence as a visual tip of the hat to Terry Gilliam’s iconic Flying Circus animations.

…Even though Owen wanted something radically new I was at pains to point out that if all the actors and sets were dressed in the detail of the time, were we to radically re-define Gilliam’s work using contemporary CGI wizadry it would no longer be honest to Gilliam’s work, something easy to excuse when you are using animation and something utterly frustrating when wanting to retain the authenticity of this kind of subject matter. It would be like Darren Boyd who played John Cleese, listening to an iPod in the film.

However one of Owen (and Lisa Marie-Hall, the art-director)’s stronger desires was that it mirrored Gilliam’s passion, craft and approach which, back in the 70′s created an utterly ground breaking new form of animation (and comedy) through necessity on minimum budget and found something through problem solving.

Well, we had the minimum budget box ticked.

That was when I realised the Phonotrope technique was ready to be used.

— Jim Le Fevre | Read The Full Article

Grip 101 – notes for new grippers

Reddit user Darth Nader posted this letter in Reddit’s Filmmaking forum which covers great basic tips for how to work a film set.


A Best Boy forwarded me this from a past Key he worked for.

I just want to make sure that everybody has the right tools on them. Blade, 3/16 allen wrench , tape measure, multi tool of some kind, adjustable wrench that goes to at least 7/8 for chez boros, small flashlight, trick line, black wrap,tape, etc.
Some general notes. Sorry if you already know these things. Read anyway please.

Grip 101:

“Tune in” to my voice and the DP’s voice. When ever you hear it pay attention.

Always have our gear as close to set as possible in an orderly workable fashion without getting in the way.

We should always have apple boxes next to set. They are our most used tool sometimes. For props, although they should have there own on a big show, and for adjusting actors’ heights and seats.

Some one should always “man the carts”. Always. There will be flag “getters” and flag “setters”. When I call for things they should show up immediately if someone is always by the gear.

Whenever you see a light going up you should automatically make sure it has leveling devices, if needed, and several stands, bags diffusions, nets and cutters of the appropriate size for the light. I should not have to tell you this. It should happen automatically.

After a scene or angle is finished filming we will sometimes sweep the set of all equipment, stage the gear and start all over again. You should get used to this.

Stands: Always put big leg of C stand forward toward weight it is holding.
Keep knuckles on the right. Righty tighty. The right hand rule. Gravity will tighten, not loosen.

Start with top riser of stands first, then work your way to next riser.

When you hit the top of a riser on big stands, drop back down an inch or two so the stand wont bend at the joint. Especially on exterior locations.

Choose the correct size stand for the job. A top chop will require a taller beefier stand etc.

When we are filming exterior situations use combi stands, high boys, mombos etc for 4x4s and greater. Not C stands. They will blow over. Often we will use two stands on a 4×4 to avoid the wind winging the frame away from the light. Attach it with a frame grabber so the pin sticks out sideways. This allows the frame to tilt easily when the pin sticks out sideways rather than towards the back with a cardellini. Of course you should use whatever is readily available.

Always make sure that sand bags are on the stand, not the ground. The ground isn’t going anywhere. The stand might.

Make sure you have a bag with you before you put an implement in a stand. Bag immediately after setting.

4x4s do not belong on mini base stands. Regular base only.

All diffusions should be parallel to the face of the light.

All diffusions should be just far enough away from the light to fill the frame with the spread of the beam of the light , full frame.

All cutters should be straight and neat unless a certain angle is called for. We are perfectionists! Appearances matter. Everyone is watching! Believe me.

Choose the right sized cutters for the size of the light or diffusion. Big light, big flag. Small light, small flag.

Often the DP or I will hold a net or cutter in position and you should bring the stand knuckle to that position. Keep your cool and don’t let the C stand beat you.

When setting flags always bring the flag in from the side it will work. Put it in position outside of the light or diffusion then slowly bring it into the light as directed. Siders from either side. Toppers should start from above the light then be brought down when possible. Bottom chops should come up from the bottom. The reason for this is the DP is looking at the light. You should not eclipse any light while he is looking at it. This is the professional way to set cutters.

Hand signals: I will sometimes give hand signals about cutters and flags. My face represents the light face. If I hold my hand to the right side of my face it means put a right sider etc. Sometimes I’ll hold up fingers to indicate a 2×3 or 4×4 etc. One finger means a single net . Two fingers means a double net. Flat hand means a solid etc.
It is part of our responsibility to protect the lens from flares from lights that shine into the lens. We do this with cutters aptly called lensers. They can be placed near the light or near the camera depending on the situation.We will have a discussion on set about how we take care of this. You need to be able to see the lens to show you. The assistant camera man and the camera operator will usually tell us when a flare is bad enough for us to deal with.

A “sharp” cut is achieved by placing the cutter farther away from the light source creating a defined hard line.

A ” soft” cut is achieved by placing the cutter closer to the light source creating a diffused soft line.

Don’t lean flags etc against a wall that the stems might get marks on it.

Do not jam too much into a flag cart and damage the nets. Missing and damaged items leave a negative impression on those who hire us. They must pay for their replacement. It’s all about dollars and cents to the producer.

Whenever a net is asked for, bring both a single and a double of that size.

A “fill” is white. A “negative fill” is black. Obviously white adds light and black takes away light. It all has to do with the ratios the DP is looking for.

You should know the difference between a key light and a fill light. A key light is the brightest source. A fill is usually a few stops under that.

There are different angles of key and fill light. Right or left Side, right or left 3/4, and front. Our DP, seems to like a right or left 3/4 key with a slight or lesser “wrap around” or “wrap” frontal over the camera. Not much back light on this show he says.

There are different angles of back light as well. Left or right 3/4, left or right edge or rim light more toward the back and direct back light. There could also be a direct overhead.

An eye light refers to a small light near camera that is seen reflected in the eyeballs of the actor. As in all lights, these can be of various sizes shapes and diffusions.

You should know the difference between a “bounce” and a “shoot through”. You can do both with bleached muslin among other things.

White foam core provides a hard bounce source. Ultrabounce is softer. Beadboard is softer. Bleached Muslin is softer yet. White show cards are used as bounces too. Showcards can be bent into a corner or cove. Sometimes we will make a “coved card” bounce by using two strips of one inch white gaffers tape to tape the showcard into a U shape, attaching it to a C stand and bouncing a light into it.

“Camera right” and “camera left” means from the point of view of the camera. If you are facing the camera, “camera right” will be to your left and vice versa.

“Upstage” or “background” is away from the camera. “Downstage” or “foreground” is closer to the camera. Onstage and offstage should self explanatory.

All textiles are my personal gear! Not rentals. They are brand new. Keep them that way. It will be obvious if something gets damaged. Put the frame in the stands or hold it up, then put the rag in, keeping it off the ground!

When taking textiles off of frames, remove all ties except for the ones in the middle by the stands. The rag will hang folded in half for easy removal and folding and never touch the ground. You can then take the frame off the stands and drop it right there two feet to the side and strike it if it’s wrapped.

Always put tie lines on corners of frames before bringing to set and putting in stands. Leave enough line hanging so you can reach it while carrying it and after frame is standing up in the stands.

When adjusting position of frames in stands, pick the stand up by the bottom spreader to lift the stand above your knees so you can walk without tripping. It’s very embarrassing when the whole thing falls over. Very awkward.

It is easier to pull a stand on the ground than to push it. Position yourself accordingly to drag it towards you.

In wind situations be sure some one is holding the tie lines on the windward side, if not both sides , while two others are carrying frames to or around set.

Bring bull pricks ,(stakes, Ford axels ) and a sledge hammer for anchoring points during windy day EXTeriors.

Always look up when carrying large frames to set. Watch your overhead for tree branches, corners of buildings, light poles, etc. A 20×20 double net costs nearly two thousand dollars. There is a grip that I won’t hire any more because of his lackadaisical attitude after he shredded a 20x net on a gutter carrying it around the corner of a barn. Don’t join his ranks!

Always do a thorough idiot check. No lost items please.

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