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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Michael Jackson's THIS IS IT Concert May Not Be In 3D - But Could Be 3D On Disc! Interview: Todd Cogan, Producer

Jim here. Just got off the phone with Todd Cogan, 3D Producer and Stereographer of Michael Jackson's THIS IS IT concert movie that opens tonight at midnight at various locations and wide tomorrow. Todd has a very impressive background in 3D to say the least (one that I am very envious of) and has done extensive work with PACE (Vince) and Lightstorm (Jim Cameron).

What an exciting movie and what an exciting concert it would have been. While Todd could not confirm or deny that there will be screenings of THIS IS IT in 3D, he did say that Sony has all the stereoscopic 3D assets in hand to make it so. Perhaps this is something that they will do in the future for a re-release of the concert film - 'cause this thing is going to open BIG.

They used a 33' by 88' LED screen to show the 3D elements to the would be audience during their rehearsals at The Forum and The Staples Center - he believes that this is the world's first LED screen of this size to be used for 3D.

Had the 3D elements been used intact, there would have been several 4 to 5 minute segments all in 3D. As it turns out, these bits were edited to make the whole piece stand together in a cohesive fashion - hence no 3D as people would be taking their glasses off and on again and again (I suppose they could have converted the whole thing to 3D afterward - no issue there, except for time). I was sad to hear that, but again - these assets still exist and could be used in the future.

Sony will decide on how to release the concert on disc - there is a chance that these 3D elements will be an added feature on these.

There were two main 3D segments: EARTH SONG - focused on conservation (had a race horse scene) and the intro to THRILLER. The latter had a 100' graveyard set built! There was also a haunted mansion.

One of the big things that Michael Jackson insisted on throughout the show was in his own words: "The butterflies will be in your face right"? Apparently he was very interested in bringing the audience into the show through 3D and was a firm believer in the technology. You got to hand it to the King of Pop - he was on top of the tech. He had butterflies, birds, dandelions, bats from a crypt, etc all appearing in coordination with the music and action in a fantastical concert experience. He wanted them floating right out over the audience.

The movie is just under 2 hours long apparently and will be released mainly on 35mm film (to suit the worldwide audience I would imagine). On a technical side, Todd and PACE used a beamsplitter (just like as it sounds - splits light entering the camera for stereo), F23, steadicam, and mainly lived of their 50' techno. There were a lot of effects in a short period of time. In fact, Todd was anticipated making tweaks as the shows progressed due to that time constraint. The team was only a week and a half away from delivering the finished work when Jackson passed away. Michael did however get to see all of this work and had approved it - that was good to hear.

It was great talking to someone so passionate about 3D and who has his hands dirty with so many different projects. He has a couple of secret current projects he is working on that he could not talk about, but you could hear in his voice that he is excited. Can't wait to see the concert and enjoy what millions of others will - and break some concert movie records at the same time!! Hopefully we will see the 3D elements of this concert at some point! Thanks for the chat Todd.

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