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NAB: New Disney Short Signals Potential for 3D, High Dynamic Range, High Frame Rates

"Make Believe," helmed by Disney's Howard Lukk, was lensed with a "trifocal" camera system being developed by Disney, Arri and research organization Fraunhofer.

Signaling a step toward the potential for "computational cinematography," Disney is producing an inventive short titled Make Believe that will debut in an unfinished form at the NAB Show, which begins April 5 in Las Vegas.

The short -- lensed last summer in Berlin -- was a test for a concept "trifocal" camera system that Germany's research organization Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute is developing in association with Walt Disney Animation Studios Research and camera maker ARRI. The camera and the current version of the short will be on display at Fraunhofer's NAB exhibition booth.

Directed by Disney vp production technology Howard Lukk, Make Believe tells the story of a 10-year-old girl who goes her own way by taking an interest in science -- and learns to believe in herself. The short was lensed by Torsten Schimmer, and Deluxe's EFILM is handling postproduction.

The trifocal camera system uses a camera rig that holds three cameras: a main camera, the popular Arri Alexa; and two small satellite cameras. During postproduction, depth maps can be estimated from the recorded material, which enable the generation of stereo content. Deluxe's StereoD is creating the 3D version of Make Believe. Once completed, the short -- which will additionally offer immersive Dolby Atmos sound -- will be screened in Los Angeles and at various industry events around the world.

"I see this system as a baby step toward computational cinematography by using multiple camera arrays to capture images," Lukk told The Hollywood Reporter. "We can do 3D, high frame rates and high dynamic range."

He sees many possibilities for the technology. "It has the potential to maybe replace greenscreen, but that’s a further out," he said. "I was also able to use this rig on a Steadcam. If we can get this to a lightweight package, we could collect 3D without a big bulky rig."

Overall, this sort of system could push more creative decisions into postproduction. "The director of photography is still the creator of the image, but more will be done in postproduction," Lukk said, underscoring the work on Gravity and Oscar winning cinematographer Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki.

E-mail: Carolyn.Giardina@THR.com
Twitter: @CGinLA