By Markus Naegele, Panasonic Broadcast Europe.
2010 witnessed the introduction of a raft of new products aimed at making 3D more accessible to broadcasters and filmmakers, and there are now a number of options available for shooting in this format. This means that it has never been easier to hit the record button to begin shooting in 3D, but this increased accessibility to 3D equipment does not necessarily mean that the results will always be good quality.
Making the difference between good and bad 3D
There are several important considerations to take into account before, during and after any content is captured in 3D. The decisions that the professional makes during each of these stages will have a direct impact on the quality of the outcome.
The first main choice facing the broadcast professional is whether or not to use a traditional camera rig system. Custom 3D rigs can be tailor-made to fit specific filming criteria and offer the scope required for dual-camera shooting for a range of circumstances, allowing the user to modify settings to produce the desired result. Unfortunately though, 3D rigs have historically been perceived as ‘high-end’ solutions that are both expensive and complicated to design, build, install and operate.
Today, an alternative exists in the form of all-in-one 3D cameras such as the Panasonic AG-3DA1 and the new AG-3DP1, that allow users to change settings much more easily and to control important variables such and distance, picture framing, parallax and luminescence. In this way, settings can be secured in the camera where the only thing that the user needs to do is adjust focus and the intended parallax on the subject being filmed.
With 3D settings being integrated within the broadcast equipment and with the complexity of a rig arrangement removed, users still benefit from full filming flexibility. After all, ease of use significantly boosts the likelihood of producing better end results in 3D.
With the preparation work in place, the shoot itself requires skill as a camera operator and an enhanced appreciation and awareness of what is being filmed. All the usual rules for good 2D filming apply, while it is also necessary to think more about the end output, paying special attention to the screen size that the content will be viewed on, type of screen (plasma, projector etc.) as well as specifics such as the angles involved in filming. Parallax for example is key to achieving the right 3D effect and an incorrect setting here will mean that the background will show through twice in the final content.
To help avoid this kind of eventuality, the Panasonic all-in-one cameras have graphics tables and setting guides to help the user shoot effectively, although this should not detract from the fact that the core skill as a camera operator remains crucial in obtaining a good 3D result.
Importantly, and as an example of how 2D filming differs from 3D, the operator should think about the complete scene being filmed, taking into consideration how the 3D effect will appear on screen for every element in the shot. The position of the convergence point will determine whether subjects come to the front or sink back into the screen.
Some professionals will know instinctively from looking through the viewfinder if the end result will be good enough while others may need to view the content afterwards to understand how the settings used affect the capture. If there is a need to film again, the flexibility and convenience of using an integrated camera such as the AG-3DA1 or the AG-3DP1 make it easy to understand how to modify the settings and re-take.
The post-capture process offers a final chance to edit the content and to correct any mistakes, although what can be done at this point in the production process is limited. With an all-in-one solution, zooming can be used to align right and left images where the trade-off is a slight loss in picture quality. In the interests of producing the best possible 3D result, it is preferable not to edit or make corrections at this stage. In the same way that prevention is better than cure, professionals who are highly disciplined in the set-up and content capture phases of filming will benefit from the time they invest when it comes to the end result.
Panasonic all-in-one 3D cameras have been designed to simplify the process of shooting 3D, making it more accessible to a wider range of stereographers. Indeed the AG-3DA1 has already been used for numerous novel 3D projects, including on the recent final mission by the space shuttle Atlantis.
Good 3D content however, is not a given. The ability to produce effective 3D effects depends on multiple factors such as the quality of the equipment used, ease of operation and the flexibility to amend key settings. Above all, it depends on a heightened awareness of filming in the third dimension and on the consequent need to take a holistic approach to the many variables that have an impact on the final result.
Markus Naegele is IT Integration Product Manager for Panasonic Broadcast Europe. Panasonic Broadcast Europe is a leader in the development of video formats and core products for broadcast and professional AV, including camera-recorders, video recorders, monitors and mixers. Panasonic’s P2 systems provide the reliability of solid-state production with immediate connectivity to existing IT infrastructures, allowing for completely tapeless workflows.