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Saturday, September 28, 2013

TIS3DC 2013: Jean Pierre-Jeunet Skype Interview & Demetri Portelli and Ben Gervais Workshop

Hello everyone, Tim here, and I've got my next post from the Toronto International Stereoscopic 3D Conference (TIS3DC) that covers the Skype interview with Writer, Director, Producer Jean Pierre-Jeanet on The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet and the workshop with his Stereographer Demetri Portelli and 3D Production Systems Engineer Ben Gervais. At the end of this post is a repost of the trailer from our earlier post. Again news on North American distribution on the film will hopefully be coming soon.

First, the 12-minute preview we got of the film, which had unfinished color and needed some additional work, was amazing! This movie looks like it truly is a treat for fans of Jean Pierre-Jeunet. It is going to be a simply magical movie. The young lead actor playing T.S. Spivet (Kyle Catlett) was there in person for the Skype interview as a surprise for Pierre-Jeunet, and his performance in the film is quite incredible. This young man has the potential to be a big star. And although Kyle has seen 3D before, this is his favorite film yet.

Pierre-Jeunet had a stereo view-master growing up, and believes that all his previous films could have been 3D. He thought in 3D for Spivet, from the script and conception all the way through his storyboards. In his storyboards he used shadows as a means to show the 3D and did all he could to show the depth of each shot. He worked hard to avoid bad 3D with Demetri. He had all kinds of specific notes for the 3D in blue coloring to make it easier for the 3D team to know what he was thinking. Pierre-Jeunet simply had to say "3D is not for lazy people." No truer statement has ever been said. As well as Demetri's later statement: "It's important to explore the full depth."

"When I see the film in 3D… WOW! I feel pity that people have to see it in 2D." - Jean Pierre-Jeunet
The movie was shot using the first ARRI ALEXA M on the Cameron | Pace rigs, and Pierre-Jeunet thought that the ARRI RAW is fantastic. He boastfully claimed "film is dead" and that he loves digital, especially because you don't have to reload the camera every 12-minutes. He only died twice because of some of the waiting on 3D: it's not easy and heavy to shoot 3D. Ben Gervais and his team did all they could to make it easier by constructing the 3D Production System on the back of a truck so that they could quickly move around. They did a full week of tests to see what would work in 3D, and Pierre-Jeunet said that "3D is experimental" and that "3D will be free when we don't need glasses." However, what Pierre-Jeunet loved was that 3D uses short lenses, and it's Pierre-Jeunet's style to shoot with short lenses. It was a match made in heaven.

 

They edited the film in 2D, but checked the 3D constantly, and found that they didn't have to change much to make the edit work in 3D. Ben and his team put together every shot on set for Demetri and Pierre-Jeunet to view what had been shot. This was a wonderful way for them to make sure that the 3D worked in each scene, not just for one shot, but all the shots in the scene. It created a great work-flow that helped ensure that they got what they wanted/needed. From talking with Ben it feels as though this is a method that will filter into more productions, which makes me happy to hear.

Without the pre-editing on set there could have been unwanted surprises in post, and for this Pierre-Jeunet was thankful. On a personal note, I spoke with Ben separately and have to say this is an intelligent and hard-working individual, he also worked on Hugo, Pacific Rim, 47 Ronin, and the coming X-Men: Days of Future Past. His pre-editing technique has been used on each of those sets, and it's clearly an important element that makes digital filmmaking trumping film.

Now when it comes to conversion Pierre-Jeunet stressed that he doesn't like 2D to 3D conversion, and mentioned that his favorite 3D films thus far have been Avatar, Hugo, and Life of Pie. He shot for 3D and luckily it came out working great in 2D. Demetri mentioned the importance of trust between the director and the stereographer. Interestingly it was Demetri who sought out Pierre-Jeunet while working on Hugo about how great his style was built for 3D. Demetri emphasized that he learned from the master filmmaker to work with his style to work in 3D. "3D should ebb and flow like music" and it's this philosophy that makes Demetri's stereography so brilliant. He mentioned that "it's good to try lens flares in 3D," and emphasized the importance of being careful. Demetri loved the ARRI RAW for the night shoots because it contained little to no gain, which was great to help with the depth cues. He says that in SPIVET there are good depth cues at night.
During the workshop that Demetri and Ben did on Day 4, they shared a lot of inside information about all the projects they've worked on, including more details from SPIVET. They showed the trailer for 47 Ronin, and as well spoke about that film.

Demetri and Ben are a team, and Demetri mentioned that when he was brought on to one project he asked if he could bring a team, which meant Ben and a few others. The emphasis on the stereo team was an important one. The stereographer needs to be focused on the creative aspect of stereography, while Ben and his team dealt with the technical. It's another unit for a production, but an important one. One on one with them you got the sense of who to ask which question, and the answers were almost always shared by both. Demetri understands so much about the creative use that when he didn't have to worry about the technical, and Ben took care to make the work-flow streamlined, it allowed for both to present the director and director of photography options to make their vision what they want it to be.

They spoke about working on Hugo and working for Scorsese, and some of the challenges they encountered and how they overcame them. What's fascinating is the cables that had to be carried behind the Steadicam operator. They worked with the ARRI ALEXA on that shoot, and it's the preferred camera of these guys. They didn't have negative feelings towards the RED Epic, but they preferred the ALEXA, and I can't help but agree from my experience. The emphasis on data and work-flow in the conference had to deal with higher resolutions, and higher frame rates, and Ben mentioned that the Pablo (download brochure) has it's work cut out dealing with those higher resolutions and frame rates. Even at 24 fps the tools we use in Post-Production are at their limits; it takes a lot for current machines to playback at full resolution and frame rate. This is good and bad. Naturally, you want your post-production tools to handle the work-flow at it's best quality, but at the same time it keeps what you're working on at a low enough resolution for preview so that pirating can't happen. Still when the mobile tools of a production team and post-production team enables them to work at the fullest resolution and the max number of frames for a frame rate, then filmmaking will be at it's finest hour on a tech level.

That brings us back to story. The most important facet of the movie-going experience. Demetri implied that all his stereo techniques are for a single purpose: to aid the story and character development. It can be seen in Hugo, and from the preview of The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet it looks as though the stereography is used in the same way. Yesterday Jeremy Zimmer expressed his opinion that technology has hurt the story-telling, but that there's about to be a shift back towards an emphasis on good story-telling. From what Demetri said, and the why Pierre-Jeunet has talked about his love for the stereo format, the 3D in films are working in unison with the concept of great story-telling. Do the big franchises that the studios put out need better stories? Sure, but at least the individuals on the technology level understand how to use the tools to work in symmetry with the story.

A huge thanks has to be given to Demetri Portelli and Ben Gervais for attending the conference, and as well Jean Pierre-Jeunet for appearing via Skype. Don't forget that in the future he'll be able to do that in 3D! More posts coming soon on the TIS3DC from me…

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