film reporter

3-D gets 3ality check with new prod'n digs

The potential of 3-D as a killer app for digital cinema has sparked a lot of excitement in Hollywood and has been the subject of many announcements from technology makers in recent weeks. But another critical component is, of course, a steady flow of content.

The premiere of the "U2 3D" trailer last week at ShoWest fueled that topic, and the motion picture's producer — 3ality Digital — is out to prove that 3-D is here to stay.

Demonstrating a strong commitment to the industry, 3ality is building a dedicated 20,000-square-foot 3-D production facility in Burbank that will house parent company 3ality Digital's two units: 3ality Digital Entertainment, a feature film development and production company, and 3ality Digital System, a 3-D production, postproduction and technology development unit. Partners in 3ality Digital are Art, David and John Modell; Jon and Peter Shapiro; Steve Schklair; and Sandy Climan.

"3-D over the years has been like a carnival sideshow," Schklair says. "We built this building to legitimize this business."

The new facility will include a 24-seat, 3-D-ready digital-cinema theater equipped with a Barco 2K digital-cinema projector and Real D 3-D system in order to screen the productions the way they would be seen in theaters.

Its choices for the servers reflect the need for standards in the 3-D arena. "We'll have servers for whatever is commercially out there in the market, whether that's Dolby, QuVis, Kodak or Doremi, because we have to encode content for the theaters, and I need a way to QC (quality control) it," Schklair says.

The company also intends to offer 3-D-specific digital color timing and editorial services using proprietary technology in the theater. The bulk of the company's R&D was completed by 3ality's Munich-area hardware and software development company; the company, formerly 3D-IP, was acquired last year by 3ality. Schklair says that down the road, the company hopes to add postproduction capabilities to its Germany operations. As for the Burbank base, multiple editing and postproduction suites will be equipped with a combination of proprietary and off-the-shelf software systems.

The first release to come through 3ality's pipeline will be "U2 3D," helmed by Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington and slated to open in the fall. The concert film featuring the band U2 was shot on location in such cities as Buenos Aires and Mexico City using as many as nine Sony F950 Cine Alta digital cinematography cameras and recording to HDCAM SR format. It is in postproduction.

Many digital-cinema enthusiasts believe such alternative content as concerts and sporting events will help bring additional revenue to 3-D-equipped theaters. Schklair confirmed that 3ality has both concerts and sports projects in the plans, though he declined to name titles.

As to future developments, Schklair believes 3ality is about six months away from being able to deliver content to 3-D-equipped theaters live, via satellite or fibre. The company's Munich base is completing R&D to make this happen.