Q&A with (from left to right): Jim Chabin (moderator), Evan Jacobs (lead stereographer, Marvel), Mike May (stereo producer, Marvel), Aaron Parry (EVP and Chief Creative Officer, Stereo D) and Anshul Doshi (EVP and Head of Global Production, PFW)


MODERATOR (Jim Chabin, President, International 3D & Advanced Imaging Society):

You know most of us at 3D Society see 3D movies for a living, and within the first 5 minutes of this movie beginning I knew I was going to have a great time. We’re thrilled that we can screen it here today. A couple of facts about this movie. It was announced at CinemaCon in 2012. It was shot from July through October of 2013 at Shepperton Studios in England. It was written by director James Gunn and the co-writer was Nicole Perlman. In 32 days as of last night it has grossed $428 million at the worldwide box office. 46% of its opening weekend’s tickets were 3D. Its soundtrack is #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 this week, and it will probably be #1 at the box office again this weekend. At its current pace it will likely pass Transformers: Age of Extinction 3D as the summers biggest hit in the US and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 has already been announced for 2017. Not bad for a 3D movie.  We’re thrilled to have four members of the creative team here with us this morning.  Our first guest is a native of Lansing, Michigan and moved to California in the early 1970’s. He’s the son of noted jazz musician Dan Jacobs. He’s been nominated for two Emmy’s for his work on HBO’s From the Earth to the Moon and other television projects. He’s got acting, producing and directing credits but today we’re going to talk about visual effects and 3D. His credits include Alice in Wonderland, Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Titanic, Conan the Barbarian and Olympus Has Fallen, and at Marvel he’s been stereo supervisor since 2013 on Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and of course, Guardians of the Galaxy. Please welcome Evan Jacobs, Evan come on up. 

(Applause)

MODERATOR:

Thank you so much for taking time on a Saturday to be with us.  You mentioned you have two kids, what do they think about Guardians?

EVAN:

They’re big fans. The first five minutes are a little traumatic and then after that it’s a fun ride.


MODERATOR:

Someone gave you a camera at an earlier stage in your life and you were captivated by it and credited it with getting you interested in the movie business. Who gave you that camera and tell us that story.

EVAN:

I think for me it was that with filmmaking I wasn’t aware of it as a job. I didn’t have any family or connections inside the industry. It was sort of something that happened somewhat organically. I was like a lot of people in my line of work, I saw Star Wars and was blown away by the movie, very excited about it and a family friend of ours said, “here’s a dual-8 little brownie camera back with shooting film” and he said “here you go have fun with it.” So I made my sets out of Legos and use stop motion animation and was captivated by visual effects very early. So, I was doing very rudimentary stuff, but I was seven or eight years old and playing around with it. You’d shoot it and send it off to the local drug store and get it back in a couple of weeks, and that was sort of the beginning of my fascination with it. Then it was just this veracious appetite of anything I could get my hands on in terms of information, sort of the pre-internet days it was difficult to get a hold of this stuff.

MODERATOR:

You have worked in theater—South Coast Rep and Beverly Hills Playhouse. As a director, producer and working with actors and being one yourself at one point, I’m fascinated with what you think 3D, or what can be done with 3D, that somehow brings an immediacy that you see in the theater when the audience is responding. Do you see a connection?

EVAN:

Well, yeah, I mean that’s one of the things that I sometimes say as a joke is that people talk about 3D as some sort of new technology, but the truth is that theater is essentially 3D as well, right? And 3D, in a theater environment, live theater environment your eye can go anywhere, you can look around the stage and you have to direct the viewer’s attention to what you want to using all these visual cues like lighting, sound, movement, things like that. Same thing is true in the 3D, when you’re designing a 3D film now. So for me it’s a natural extension of this older art form, or classic art form. So, to me it was a natural extension of 2D filmmaking, and it’s one of the things that I’ve grown to really, really like about 3D.


MODERATOR:

It was interesting, we were talking before the screening and you were talking about a concept from this movie that was the ‘proscenium’, and it was a theater term as far as how to immerse the audience for the 3D.

EVAN:

Yes, one of the things that is interesting about 3D conversion, is because the filmmakers don’t have that immediate feedback of looking at stereo everyday while they are shooting the film, you can often have filmmakers that end up shooting a 2D movie, and then in post production you get the film and you use all your tricks in your bag of tricks to do your best to immerse the audience in it. This film, because James Gunn had 3D on his mind right from the beginning, he really shot what I would call an open-proscenium movie. So there’s not a lot of foreground objects in the front of the film. There’s sometimes framing on the edge of the frame, things like that. He’s not shooting through things that much. There’s not big out of focus things in the foreground and stuff like that so your eye is allowed into the frame, which was a huge benefit for us because we were able to create lots of depth and give your eye a very comfortable 3D experience because of it. It’s just a different style of cinematography to be honest. You often don’t see that because people have grown accustomed to and you might not even notice it in a 2D movie, but there’s always stuff in the foreground. This movie doesn’t really have that. It’s really open framing and allows your eye in, which was hugely beneficially for us.


MODERATOR:

I noticed in Transformers: Age of Extinction, and all of us have watched the evolution of 3D, but even in the latest Transformers there are a couple of 3D moments where debris is coming at you something happening, into your face. I didn’t notice a lot of that here.

EVAN:

Well, that’s not really true, it’s just that what we’ve done. We’ve got some big epic 3D moments, like 180 pixels deep, crazy deep. There are a few others, knives and things coming at you and Rocket blasting through things, but we picked those moments carefully, we scripted them, we designed them with those in mind. The tone of the movie certainly supports a certain amount of gimmicky 3D, if you will. So we went for those moments; they’re there. Kicking the grass—[Rocket] kicks the grass and it comes right at you. We wanted those to be punctuated. A metaphor that I use when designing 3D is the score—the musical score for a film. If it’s loud all the way through then it just becomes the same and you don’t really notice any peaks and valleys. So what you want are these moments where you kind of build from a lull into a big crescendo and then let it relax again. We tried to do that with this film, find those moments, space them out throughout the film and then allow your eye to rest so that you could feel them when they happened.

MODERATOR:

Let’s bring up our next guest. He graduated from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo with a degree in Computer Science.  He worked as a software engineer, but join Sony Pictures Imageworks where he worked on Ghost Rider, Monster House, The Polar Express and Spider Man 3, and at Marvel as a Stereo Producer you’ve seen his work in The Avengers, Thor, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and of course, Guardians. Please welcome Mike May.

(Applause)

MODERATOR:

Well first of all, when you were a student at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, was this a part of your dream? Was that something you ever thought about or aspired to?

MIKE:

It was. I essentially stayed on the exhibition side of movies for as long as I can remember. When I went to school in San Luis Obispo, I went for computer science because the first movie that really grabbed me was Terminator 2. And that was really a special moment in visual effects. That was right around the same time that Jurassic Park came out. That was quite a turning point in visual effects, and so I fell in love with it and I wanted to use my computer science background to write tools that artists could use in the industry. But when I graduated, the big dot-com thing was happening so I put that dream aside and went up to the bay area and was part of the dot-com bubble before it burst, and once that burst I said, “you know what, I love movies, I’m going to move to LA and see what happens.” And I ended up really liking it.

 

MODERATOR:

Did it sound reminiscent to you when people were saying that the 3D bubble was going to burst early on?

MIKE:

A little bit, and there’s still kind of that fear as with TV technology now, the manufactures are moving toward 4K and 3D’s not really the big selling point anymore. But I know that the studios are really dedicated to creating the content, which is amazing for us and as you can see we get these amazing opportunities to do something really cool.

 

MODERATOR:

So for both of you. You both are in the Marvel family. What would you say is different, what are the new things about this movie and this experience that were special to you?

EVAN:

I think one big thing that was different about this movie from other Marvel films, from a stereo perspective, was that James Gunn was so enthusiastic about 3D. So he had designed the movie with 3D in mind. The visual effects team had it in mind all the way through as well, so they could design the shots to be stereo friendly, if you will. But also, he was deeply involved. He would come to the reviews. He would give notes. He was pushing all the time to make it better, make it the 3D experience the premiere experience. So, certainly he’s proud of the 2D movie, but I think that he said publicly that 3D was the way to see it, that that was what his intention was. That was a little different than some of the other filmmakers that we’ve had here at Marvel, and it shows in the work. I think the film benefits tremendously from having that in mind as you’re designing. That was a big change, big step forward for the work.

MIKE:

Obviously, I do agree; and I think with 3D here at Marvel, it has been an evolution from the first Thor all the way until now. We learned a lot along the way and it’s been a journey. It’s been a partnership with our stereo conversion vendors, which is amazing and they are here to join us today. We’ve only been learning and we’ve only been pushing and continue to grow, and that also is reflected on the screen.

MODERATOR:

Well that’s a perfect segue to invite up our next guest. Our next guest has a big passion for music, and music’s a big part of this movie, I love it.  He has college degrees in composition and vocal performance, music theory, film and music graduate work at USC, his background includes executive production roles at Paramount Studios and today he serves as EVP and Chief Create Officer of Deluxe3D Stereo D. He oversees the creative vision of the company and leads the teams responsible for conversion services on Captain America, Titanic, Jurassic Park, The Avengers, Star Trek: Into Darkness and many, many more. Please welcome Aaron Parry.

(Applause)

MODERATOR:

You have worked on a lot of movies. How is this one different?

AARON:

I think it was, to sort of echo what these two guys have said, it was really a movie where 3D was so amazingly embraced from the very beginning. It was really exciting for us to participate on a film that really stretched out beyond what people had come to know as the Marvel style of movie. 3D enhances a great story. 3D enhances those moments that are risk-taking. From the very first screening, yes, I was dancing, that was great; but also you definitely knew that this was going to be an amazing opportunity to explore 3D, and there was such an amazing movie behind it as well to support it.


MODERATOR:

I think it is interesting with ticket sales in North America, we expect this 17-35 [years old], male demographic for a movie, but something like 50% of ticket sales for this movie were women!  And I think it was great to listen to the audience during this movie because there was a laughter at some great, witty humor, the music was terrific and the stories were great, and it was interesting ‘cause I know we’ve got some young people--because I met a bunch of them. John Stores kids are here and they loved it. The older, more diverse crowd also enjoyed it. So I think it’s a triumph in that respect. We talk about 3D and business questions always come up at these Q&As about how the financial part of 3D business is, and we wanted to get someone today who not only is on the creative side but also has 3D business expertise. So we’re thrilled that we’re going to get help with that from an incredible perspective, our guest has both an accounting and law degree, he served as a financial analyst for media for KPMG in India, and also in a company specializing in voice recognition technology, so he understands high tech in media. Today he’s based in London he’s EVP and Head of Global Production of Prime Focus World, responsible for all aspects of PFW’s pipeline. Please welcome Anshul Doshi.

(Applause)

MODERATOR:

Aside from producing a significant amount of conversion work for this film along with Aaron’s team at Stereo D, Prime Focus has expanded in the last couple months, acquiring some of the biggest special effects houses, Reliance and a few others. It’s been a great year for 3D, some big numbers. How do the studios look at the financial business of 3D right now?

ANSHUL:

From our perspective, 3D definitely gives value back to the producers and the studio because, as you just said 40% of the collections came from 3D, 3D ticket prices are above the 2D ticket prices. Internationally both Russia and China are showing that 3D works very well internationally, especially on Noah. It was released in 3D only internationally, it was not released in 3D in America. It did about $43 million from 3D from all the international markets in which it was released, so it’s definitely giving [the studios] a lot of value back from the movie by giving 3D as an option, as a choice to the consumers to view. So financially it makes complete sense. I still believe there is creative reservation of going 3D by some filmmakers. Guardians is a great example where you see that the filmmaker has not had a reservation and he’s come on board with 3D right from the start. It both helps financially, because it’s being promoted correctly, it’s being promoted as a 3D film, therefore you get the full benefit of converting it to 3D and you get the full benefit of it being made for 3D, which allows Evan and the teams, Aaron and the teams at Prime Focus to work on it.

MODERATOR:

I think it’s interesting to know, by the way, that 3D in our industry certainly is a relatively new reiteration of an old technology, but our panel includes an actor-director-producer, a computer software expert, a music expert, and an accountant-lawyer all working on this movie. I think it’s a fascinating background that you all bring to this and help make a movie that did 46% of its ticket sales in 3D in the U.S. and upwards of 60% in China and Russia. But I want to ask, because Evan you mentioned this, but when do you and Mike come into the process at Marvel. When do you have your first meeting with the team and who’s in the team?

EVAN:

It was kind of a unique situation on this film. You want to get on it as early as possible, certainly. On this film, we were already working on Captain America: The Winter Solider so that was keeping a lot of our attention while this film was making its way through post production. The first time we really had to get involved was the very first trailer. There was an initial trailer that we worked on while we were still doing Captain America. So the team had to jump into this film while we were doing another film. It was all the same teams involved, and that was probably four or five months out. Once we finished Captain America we immediately jumped on to this full time. From then we had something like 14 weeks from the time we delivered the last frame of film from the day we officially rolled onto the show.


MODERATOR:

At what point did you start to talk to the director, James, and have that first conversation that was “ok, here’s how I see this in 3D”?

EVAN:

Those are the first meetings we had. Right when we finally officially joined the show, we sat down with the visual effects supervisor, sat down with James, the director, sat down with the editors, and all of whom had various 3D experiences through their previous films. James is very passionate about 3D and really liked it, but he hadn’t made a 3D movie. So this was an educational process for everybody. In terms of what was possible, there were some concerns early on from the editors for example, “well we aren’t done with the movie yet, how can you start converting it?” But that’s part of the art of modern 3D-converted films anyway is that somehow creating, navigating this incredibly creative process while not really having the final material available—for a long time! So you’re working on temps, a lot of depth scripting based on what you see in previs, and waiting for shots to roll in from visual effects.

MODERATOR:

So you’re working on depth scripting without a finished product.

EVAN:

Absolutely.


MODERATOR:

So Mike, in those earliest conversations are there discussions about “this would be cool,” or “what about this?”

MIKE:

Absolutely, there are. Right around when you start having the first few friends and family screenings. We do jump in, we start breaking down the movie to see what it is, get an idea for what makes sense, moments, and depth budget.

MODERATOR:

Anshul, you’ve got a big group in London, LA, India, and Vancouver. So you have four different facilities, are all of them working on this?

ANSHUL:

Yes. Towards the end we have almost all the facilities working on it. We hub every show from one facility, so this movie was hubbed out of our London facility. We had Richard Baker, who was our stereographer and Matt Bristowe, who was the Producer, and Val Andino, also a producer on the film, come down here for the screening they did in January, when we all saw the film for the first time together. From there we also made out a plan for execution. I think there towards the end of the film, you need almost as much crew as you’ve got globally in order to take it across the finish line.


MODERATOR:

You’ve got Prime Focus and you’ve got Stereo D and you’ve got multiple locations where they are working, and yet you want everything to be perfect and seamless and have the same feel. How is it working with these companies in order to make sure you are all in the same place?

MIKE:

Well it’s great in how we work together because at each facility they are doing a conform of the movie, or at least of the sequences that they have. They are looking at things in context to make sure they are balanced together nicely. Everything is sent to us and based on the ever-changing editorial cut, we are also doing our conform and we are watching it, scrubbing it, doing our own convergence adjustments, pretty much every day at that point towards the end. So, if anything pops up we send it back to be adjusted.

EVAN:

We shared a lot of information. Once our teams are on board we have a very open relationship, so it was not uncommon for teams from Stereo D to see Prime Focus’s work or for Prime Focus’s guys to see Stereo D’s work, so that everybody can be on the same page in terms of the aesthetic of the movie, and the characters look the same. Marvel is a little bit unique in that because we have this slate of film sort of set out for a long time—and Mike and the team provide a tremendous amount of continuity from show to show. We have an infrastructure set up here at Marvel so we hub all the shots here. Everything comes through the facility we see it all in the same screening room. We see it here on the lot at Disney.

MODERATOR:

So this is Burbank. This is where it’s all coming.

EVAN:

Right across the quad here, we’re watching the stuff every day as it’s coming in. Because we have this global relationship with the LA partner in Stereo D and then Prime Focus out of London, we kind of had a 24-hour cycle happening. We could come in in the morning, we could look at all the Prime Focus stuff because it’s come in overnight, and then late in the day we’d get the stuff from Stereo D and we’d do the same thing. It was really important on this film because we didn’t have a lot of time. The visual effects continued to evolve throughout the film, right to the end. It was very challenging. We had temps to work on some of that stuff but it was, the filmmakers were finalizing the movie for quite a while.


MODERATOR:

It comes out July 21, when do you guys know, “this is the date it’s got to be out of our hands, guys”?

EVAN:

The stock answer to that question would be six weeks before release, but we were well beyond that on this film. It was tight. Which was one of the reasons we had another vendor involved so that we could, we had two big sequences being delivered from visual effects vendors, Framestore and MPC separately, so we kind of separated those two sequences into two different vendors so that they wouldn’t get pounded with all that material right at the end.

MODERATOR:

How many shots were in this movie?

EVAN:

2,300 cuts roughly.

MODERATOR:

And how many in Captain America?

EVAN:

Almost 3,400.

MODERATOR:

So, fewer.

EVAN:

About a thousand shots less, but same running length.

MODERATOR:

Why?

EVAN:

It’s just a different kind of style. The Captain America filmmakers wanted to make this very aggressive, percussive cutting style. It was a different editor, different directors, and that’s the kind of movie they wanted to make. This film benefitted tremendously from having a little bit more, giving the cut a little more breathing room. The 3D benefitted from it, tremendously.  But it added some interesting challenges.  On Captain America the average shot length was 40 frames or so, so the shots were pretty forgiving. You didn’t have a lot of time to study the stereo. That’s bad from a stereo immersion standpoint, but it’s kind of good from a stereo conversion finishing standpoint; it makes it a little bit easier.  With this film, there’s a shot in The Kiln where they sit there and it’s like a minute long. They just sit there and talk! We had to do quite a few versions of that shot to get everybody in the right place, get all the edges right and everything else. It was a complicated shot. So, different challenges but ultimately I think the film benefits tremendously. The audience gets less eye strain; more immersed, more eye candy there, so it was great for us.


MODERATOR:

All of you work with the directors when you’re in this process, at one point or another. Alfonso Cuarón said that when he wrote Gravity, 3D was in the title when he wrote it. Ang Lee told our audience at an event that he always saw Life of Pi in 3D and told that to Fox and overcame their resistance. Marty Scorsese talked about Hugo and said that I saw this as a 3D movie, obviously James Cameron and Avatar. Here’s what James Gunn was asked in this case, “did 3D affect the way you shot the film?” His answer was, “100% I wanted to make a big-budget 3D movie from the beginning. Guardians is shot in such a way that it is great in 3D. Being set in space also really lends itself to that. So being able to take full advantage of that, with 3D, was something that was exciting to me. I was influenced by 2001: A Space Odyssey and I could see it in 3D.” What kind of ideas does a director who may not have directed a movie in 3D before, but has his heart in it in this way, how does it affect your creative process?

EVAN:

A lot of the decisions that we make, we make visually.  So, we’re looking at the film in 2D and watching it and making decisions about how deep things should be or where we’re going to go with the scene creatively based on what we see visually; but James is thinking about other things. One of the examples is the IMAX version of this film. One of the ways we wanted to differentiate this film is that we gave IMAX exclusive extra content. We essentially had a variable aspect ratio in the IMAX release. The film was a 2.40 film it was shot 2.40, but the image capturing was all 1.77, so in the IMAX version we changed the aspect ratio to 1.85 and then back. The screen actually gets taller and image actually reveals more image at the top and bottom of the frame. So, we did that for about 45 minutes of the movie. James actually picked those 45 minutes himself. He sat with his editor and picked those moments. But in some cases he picked moments that were different from the moments we would have picked. We thought visually that the exterior of Morag seemed like an obvious place to do it. As Star Lord is walking up to the temple at the very beginning of the movie we would be open, and then once he got inside we were in constricted space and we’ll be closed. But James said, “No, do it in the dance sequence! Do it when the music starts; then open it up.” It was a story choice, not a visual choice. It was fascinating that we would make those types of judgments sometimes. He’s a filmmaker that’s focused on the storytelling of the film. Certainly we have fun, over-the-top 3D moments in this movie, but he sometimes would say, “you can scale that back, we don’t need that.” We don’t need to go for the joke, or go for the gimmick every time, because we have those.

MODERATOR:

Mike, when you’re working with a director and a team like Marvel on something like this, but you know going in that you have someone who is interested in seeing this as a 3D movie, does it affect the way you present ideas?

MIKE:

Absolutely. With a director like James, we had the opportunity to have the conversation with him and kind of following along with what Evan said, he had very clear thoughts on what he thought the 3D moments would be. But because he hadn’t shot in 3D or yet done a 3D movie before, he didn’t come in saying, “In this shot I need it to be 60 pixels deep,” he just kind of said, “Yeah, this is what you need to go for.” Then it was a collaboration that what we got to do together to land on what would make the most sense. I think that was kind of a breath of fresh air, because he didn’t have any pre-conceived notions on specifics, he just had a sensibility for what he wanted.


MODERATOR:

Anshul, you work at the studio level with a lot of executives who three or four years ago were looking at 3D as this odd thing that they were going to do in the hopes of financial success and all of that. How was working with them today different now that we’ve got a director who’s embraced 3D?

ANSHUL:

At the studio exec level, I believe everyone’s embraced 3D now as a creative art form, as a part of the process and not just as “we need to get this film out in 3D because of pressure from finance, because of pressure from distribution.” I think at the beginning there was a lot of pressure from distribution and from finance to get it out, and there are some studio execs that felt they were pushed where they didn’t want to go. But today I believe they’re all looking at it as an art form and looking at is as a continual part of the entire process of visual effects, of post production, and therefore engaging with it correctly, right from the beginning and bringing on the right amount of talent that is required to ensure that you’re finishing the film properly. They are now getting on board with stereographers on the show from the start, and ensuring that someone like Evan is actually meeting with the director. They’re discussing 3D with the director, discussing the 3D vision of the film right from the start to ensure that the, they are doing willingly and to ensure it plays through creatively with the storytelling of the film.


MODERATOR:

So as a part of their business plan, not just a creative script, but as a business plan for a movie and a budget of the 3D, cost of 3D and cost of doing conversion in 3D is a far more predictable, manageable, unsurprising kind of number, as an aspect of the overall budget?

ANSHUL:

Yes, I think that is now getting established, just as visual effects is part of the budget, they’ve got this thing, they know how to manage it, they know what they need to manage it, and I think we always maintain on these big films that the 3D number itself is not that big considering the overall budget of the film. It’s all about giving the viewers another choice out there, and creatively you’re giving them one more choice.

MODERATOR:

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was shot [in 3D], some original content was shot. Transformers: Age of Extinction [as well]. So we’ve got some notable films where people are still shooting [in 3D], but a fair and certainly all the Marvel are seen as conversion. Is there a sense, Evan and Mike, that we’re at a point where everything you want to do can be done without necessarily shooting anything [in 3D]?

MIKE:

Absolutely.

EVAN:

I would say native acquisition for stereo is certainly has its benefits, but it has also weaknesses. One of the things that is interesting with this film is that we had 2,300 shots and about 200 of them were non-VFX, so almost everything was a visual effects shot, and quite a few of them were all-CG. So we have some native-rendered 3D material in this film. For instance, the Thanos shots were all rendered in 3D. They were rendered in stereo by the visual effects vendor.  In those situations the shots benefited from being rendered in 3D, they would have looked fine converted, but they also came with them the stereo rendered artifacts that come from that approach. The polarization that comes from shiny surfaces, for example, is something that some people feel consider to be like “that’s authentic 3D,” and other people feel like “oh, it’s a visual artifact and it looks wrong,” so then you’ve got to mitigate that. It’s a stylistic choice. I think for me, I definitely prefer conversion from an artistic standpoint because it allows me a lot more control over the frame. I’m not stuck in a linear physics-based space. I can move things around, I can shorten up the background, I can fill up the characters. I can do things that in a linear space are much more complicated to do.

MIKE:

I was just going to add to that, on the production side it also affords the filmmaker the opportunity to keep using the toolset that they are familiar with, and also just move very, very fast; because these movies are huge and they have a lot to accomplish quickly.


MODERATOR:

Anshul, is part of that from a studio standpoint or an organizational standpoint, is part of that financial is it just logistic, is it that the creative team says just what Evan was saying which is, “I’d like to have more flexibility than what I’m going to get if I get two streams of data?”

ANSHUL:

I think from the studio perspective there are logistics and finance both involved. I think both logistically and financially, shooting native for some of these films is much more expensive; because then you are doing all your visual effects in stereo, and visual effects they are a big part of these films and it increases the cost to the system. I think at the end, shooting natively is a creative choice, versus converting. It is a creative choice being made by the director based on the advice that he’s getting and based on his interpretation of that advice. For example, at the time Gravity was in pre-production we had talked with Alfonso, and I think he was convinced that he had to shoot his film in stereo. Yet, the film was entirely CG, there were very little live action shots and those were even integrated with the CG. So what we did was we went through a process of testing with him, where we took some footage that he shot live and in stereo and then we took one eye of that and converted it. We took him through the process of conversion showing him how he could play with it with his creative vision and work with it in post to give him a final product that matched the live footage that he shot, but that gave him more control. And I think it’s at that point that he decided that he’s going to post convert on Gravity rather than shoot anything in stereo. So, I think it’s a creative choice. It’s made based on a lot of information that the director gets and the advice that he’s getting from people and based on his own knowledge and his own thing. At the end of the day, shooting is definitely more expensive than is, and logistically more challenging.

MODERATOR:

Walking away from this movie, I’m struck by how powerful a part of this movie the music is. It’s interesting that James Gunn said he had a rock and roll band and left college to pursue music, so I think clearly this is part of his DNA. He says, “The real thing that is the center of the movie is the walkman and the cassette tape.” I think it’s a fascinating point – is that a point of your sensibility about this movie?

EVAN:

One of the fascinating things is James’ imprint on this movie, in a very auteur sort of way—is that soundtrack. One of the things that comes up in stereo conversion a lot is looking at space, and in this one, because we don’t have a lot of the normal visual cues like doorways and stairs that would give you a sense of scale, I had to do a lot of research on what was the space, how big is it, you know? So I went back, and they had done witness cameras; almost everything shot in the movie had a behind-the-scenes camera shooting. I was fascinated as I went back and looked at this stuff to see that he was playing these songs! He knew exactly what songs he wanted to play on set while he was shooting the movie. This was not something that was done in post, he was planning it from the beginning, it was always in his vision, and so it just informs everything you do and it permeates the production, and it’s fascinating. Fascinating that he had such a clear, fully-formed idea, even thought the movie continued to evolve in a lot of ways, there are these core things that were really important to him that never changed, never wavered.


MODERATOR:

Phil McNally at Dreamworks said the only reason to do 3D is emotional. It helps the emotional delivery of the story. If someone asks, “why should we do this in 3D?” or “what is 3D going to help us do?” How do you answer that, to a new director who’s not done it before?

EVAN:

What I like about 3D in a theatrical environment in particular is that it really makes it an event. That’s one of the things that I always loved about film going back to those early days, was this communal experience of experiencing an event together with a bunch of strangers in a room. I think there’s something really special about it. What excites me about 3D is providing this huge canvas, extending that canvas out into the theater and giving the filmmaker the opportunity to really grab the audience, take them someplace new and different and interesting and immerse them in it. And that’s what we tried to do with this film. Every single shot, we just looked at it and said what’s the storytelling behind this shot, how can we make 3D improve that, enhance that, give the audience even more information than they had before.


MODERATOR:

We’ve got time for a couple questions from the audience, so if you have a question raise your hand and we’ll get a microphone to you.  Here’s the 3D scorecard, Transformers: Age of Extinction has done a billion dollars, Maleficent has as of yesterday $745 million, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes $540 million, Godzilla $507 million, How to Train Your Dragon 2 just crossed$500 million this week, and Frozen has continued to increase although it was released from last year, it is at $1.4 billion, it’s now the 4th biggest movie of all time. If you look at the top 20 movies of all time grosses, they’re populated with 3D movies. Clearly, aside from the fact that we’re making great movies and all of that, but clearly if 30-40% of your tickets are 3D tickets and they are paying 2 or 3 dollars more worldwide for that ticket, is the business of 3D pretty healthy right now?

ANSHUL:

Yes. I think it’s at the healthiest it has ever been right now. Looking at the slate that is coming up for 2015 and ‘16, the number of films in 3D I think are much more than have ever been. Warner Bros. has got three movies, Marvel’s entire slate is in 3D, Jurassic World is in 3D, Terminator is in 3D, Paramount is pushing all their content in 3D, Disney has got The Finest Hours and other films, Alice in Wonderland 2—all of that in 3D. So right now, for your tent-pole movies, 3D is definitely something that the studio execs want. The inhibitions of the past are clearly not there anymore and we see the studios are involving the filmmakers right up front. They are getting them involved upfront and in short, now that you’ve got the strongest ever 3D lineup for the next 2 years.

MODERATOR:

We’re maturing as a group, as an industry.

AUDIENCE QUESTION:

Do you have additional challenges with the rendering or conversion when you’re dealing with two characters that are fully CGI?

EVAN:

In reality it was actually kind of beneficial for us. One of the things we do on a film that’s this effects-heavy is that we are harvesting elements from the visual effects packages. So, the visual effects vendors are delivering the final rendered shot, but they are also delivering elements or components of that shot to aid in the conversion. So in this case with the two CG characters we are getting Z-depth passes, we’re getting alpha channels, we’re getting mats, we’re getting clean backgrounds, and we’re getting all these things that allow us to complete the conversion of those characters in a faithful way. In  a way the live action characters are actually more challenging to convert than the CG characters are. Though, Rocket had particular challenges because of the fur. Often we had to separate his whiskers, and there were little challenges with him, but all in all I think it was incredibly useful.

AARON:

It is incredibly useful when you get Z-depth. Most people have this thought that you just apply z-depth and that there’s not hand sculpting that goes back in, but sometimes what is mathematically right doesn’t look right, so there’s a lot of that going back and forth with Evan.

EVAN:

One of the big things, just as an example of what Aaron is talking about, Rocket is a peculiar character because if you look at him in a profile and he’s a raccoon, he’s got a long snout and his head sort of sloped forward. But when you treat him like that in a straight-on close up, he doesn’t look right. He looks like his head is hanging way off of his body, because he’s anthropomorphized you want his head to be over his shoulders, even though technically in a profile it’s not; it’s way out in front of his chest. So we would pretty consistently cheat that and sort of push his head back over his shoulders in the shots where he’s framed appropriately for that.  It’s one of those things that is subtle, you don’t know it until you try a few versions. It took a little while to find that solution, but it’s one of those things where, yes we got a z-depth and yes it helped, but there’s a situation where we had to deviate from what the linear conversion would have been.


MODERATOR:

James Gunn said in an interview if you look at why it is now that super hero movies are so popular, people say, well people feel so powerless and that’s why they’re so popular. No, it’s strictly technology. The technology is available to make it feel more real than ever before, that’s what makes comic book movies so popular today. Forbes just said that Marvel is the new Pixar of this age, and that’s pretty high praise for a studio that boldly seems to leverage technology fearlessly. Here you have this band of energy at Marvel that seems to be so cutting edge and fearless about trying new things. What makes Marvel so special?

EVAN:

I’m relatively new to the team, but the thing that struck me immediately was that they never give up on the film. It makes it challenging for us who have to kind of work along in post, but they‘ll keep working to make the movie better for every single day until the last possible moment. They do not stop. They never say, “The test scores are good enough, let’s put it out.” They just keep going, they never stop.

MODERATOR:

Anshul you’re in London, a lot. And we always ask our friends in London usually for a tip on what movies we ought to keep an eye on because London is such center for great movie making. People here are talking about Ridley Scott’s movie, Exodus: Gods and Kings. What’s the vibe in London about 3D and what movies people are excited about?

ANSHUL:

The vibe in London right now is great. A lot of the stages in London are full. I think everyone, especially in London, but I guess worldwide, is everyone is waiting for the next Star Wars movie, especially in London. You’ve got a huge fan base there for Star Wars. Everyone’s waiting for it. They know that it’s being shot in London and ILM is doing a chunk of visual effects in London on that film, so everyone is waiting for that.

MODERATOR:

Aaron?

AARON:

I think so. I think people are looking forward to Exodus. I’m looking forward to the next Avengers movie.

MIKE:

Avengers 2.

AARON:

Avengers 2. The first one really set some new bars for 3D and I hope that the second one will as well.

MODERATOR:

And Mike and Evan, what’s next for you guys, what are you guys working on right now?

EVAN:

Well, I’m a bit myopic, kind of focusing on the Marvel slate coming up. Avengers 2: Age of Ultron is what we’re starting to dive into next. We are very excited about that. After that will be Ant Man. After that we shall see.