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They Want To Take You Higher: The High Frame Rate 3D Promo Shoot Showcases Top PGA Talent

Posted By Andrew Mahlmann, Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Updated: Monday, May 13, 2013
PGA members, back row, left to right: Leo Vezzali, David Scott Van Woert, Gregg Katano. Front row, left to right: Steve Schklair, Michael Sarna, Salvy Maleki

With the success of The Hobbit and the launch of cinema in 48 frames per second (fps), the industry is all abuzz. What is high frame rate (HFR)? What does it mean for me as a producer? Does it take more time? Is there special equipment needed? Who works in HFR?

These questions were all answered recently during an HFR 3D promo shoot hosted by GDC Technology and RED Digital Cinema. PGA member Salvy Maleki, producer and EVP at GDC, was in need of original HFR footage to use in a promo to showcase the company’s HFR Integrated Media Block (IMB), only to find that there was no content available to license. So, she took the initiative to organize a live-action, special effects shoot, shot in HFR 3D, to really show off different frame rates, comparing 24 to 48 and 60 frames per second.

"This was a dream project to produce. It was a great opportunity to work with some of the industry’s greatest innovators in 3D and cinema technology. It made the experience even more satisfying to work with fellow PGA members. Everyone jumped on the bandwagon for the opportunity to be a part of this evolution that is taking place,” Maleki explained.

Maleki contacted Brian Henderson and Ted Schilowitz at RED Digital Cinema to partner with on the shoot, and then contacted fellow PGA member Michael Sarna, CEO of Inmotion Entertainment and a renowned action director, for his expertise in action/stunt scenes. A soundstage on the RED Studios lot in Hollywood was the location for a two-day shoot in February.

What is different about an HFR 3D shoot from any other 2D or 3D shoot? According to Sarna, when shooting action sequences on traditional film at 24fps, the shutter opens and closes 24 times a second, capturing only 12 frames per second of useable footage. When shooting at 48fps or 60fps, the camera captures two to three times as much information, thus avoiding the closure of the shutter. So in shooting at these higher frame rates, a producer or DP guarantees complete capture of the action sequence. When filming digitally, quickly panning the camera (as is often required in action sequences) commonly results in warping or bowing of the image. But the higher the frame rate, the less warping is experienced.

Ted Schilowitz of RED Digital Cinema commented about the ambitious nature of the shoot and the ease of how it all went during the production days.

Stunt action sequence: Camera underneath performer pulled out and replaced by mats before fall."We shot with three 3ality TS5 rigs,” he reports, "with Angenieux zooms, one on a jib, one on a dolly and one floating on various high hats and sticks to get as much coverage as possible. We executed the shoot at a base frame rate of both 48fps and 60fps, and within those project rates shot high speed, up to 120fps. We did a lot of experimentation and learning on the set thanks to an amazing crew of experienced EPIC shooters and on-set techs that were all there to learn with us. We walked away with vast amount of footage to learn from and view on the big screen in both 3D and 4k at 48fps, 60fps and an extraction to 24fps. "The thing that was most telling,” he continues, "was that a shoot like this took no longer to execute than doing a shoot of the same sophistication with 2D cameras shooting at the normal 24fps. We never waited on camera setup any longer than working in 2D, and we had some very big stunts that could only be executed once or twice, so we had to be ready to get all the coverage we wanted at all these various frame rates. We were able to invite the crew to view the fruits of their labor right after shooting, and instantly screened the big fire gag stunt, some high falls and gunfights on a giant screen directly from the EPIC 5k files, in the nearby 4k theater.”

From an equipment perspective, HFR doesn’t require any different equipment than that of any 2D or 3D shoot, added Steve Schklair, PGA member and CEO of 3ality Technica, who supplied the stereoscopic 3D production team, equipment, cameras, lenses, software control systems and all the acquisition equipment as well as technical management of the workflow. Frame rates are a function of having the right cameras and recorders on set more than anything else. "Once a frame rate is selected,” notes Schklair, "it gets plugged into the system, no matter the speed. Switching between multiple frame rates, as in this shoot, took a few minutes longer as we had to change settings to switch back and forth between takes, but even so, the shoot went easily and was very efficient. HFR is a normal evolution of the system; it doesn’t take any extra effort from S3D equipment standpoint, and we are very supportive of it.”

HFR 3D action shot features Michael Rintoul, (stereographer, 3ality Technica), David Morizot (stunt coordinator), Chip Mefford (stunt talent, center, on fire), Dawn McElhare (right, not on fire)Sarna advises from a director’s point of view that "the main difference in working in HFR is the consideration needed for post-production. I was fortunate to have consultants all around me as I directed each scene. While I concentrated on the storytelling, Josh Wexler, our stereoscopic/VFX supervisor, helped me during each shot, pointing out considerations in the stereo space, while post-production supervisors David and Leo were on set during production, to make sure that all media was being captured correctly.”

Discussing with the post-production/visual effects team, it seems that working together is the key. David Scott Van Woert and Leo Vezzali (both PGA members as well) of Identity FX, worked alongside fellow member Gregg Katano of Hi-Ground Media to provide post-production and 3D visualization services on the promo.

"We were heavily involved from day one of preproduction and on set to help shape the processing of the data, so there was not a mountain of information at the end,” remarked Van Woert.

"HFR 3D demands integration on set between pre, production and post,” adds Katano. "With higher frame rate comes double, triple, quadruple the amount of data that we must now sift through in post, under the same time and budget constraints as 24 frames.”

"Salvy is a true filmmaker at heart, and did a fantastic job as producer in guiding this shoot, as we all discovered just how to work together,” touted Michael Sarna. According to Maleki, "This shoot probably was the most expensive five-minute promo ever shot, once you add up the overall value of talent and services. It started as a crew of 10 and quickly grew into a crew of 77, with 22 stunt guys, a fire gag, gunshots, two dollies and a crane.”

This promo will be seen at upcoming trade shows and industry events to which PGA members will be invited.

###

Photos courtesy of Michael Q. Martin
-Top: PGA members, back row, left to right: Leo Vezzali, David Scott Van Woert, Gregg Katano. Front row, left to right: Steve Schklair, Michael Sarna, Salvy Maleki
-Middle: Stunt action sequence: Camera underneath performer pulled out and replaced by mats before fall.
-Bottom: HFR 3D action shot features Michael Rintoul, (stereographer, 3ality Technica), David Morizot (stunt coordinator), Chip Mefford (stunt talent, center, on fire), Dawn McElhare (right, not on fire)


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