Vince Pace Reveals How Martin Scorsese's 'Hugo' Is Changing the Future of 3D Filmmaking

Jaap Buitendijk

The co-chairman of the Cameron | Pace Group says the world's first "CPG Certified" 3D movie has already captured Hollywood studios' attention, surpassing even the work CPG did for James Cameron's "Avatar."

Martin Scorsese’s 3D movie, Hugo, has already garnered accolades around the world, including best film of the year by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures and a Golden Globe nomination for best dramatic film, and has been selected for consideration for achievement in visual effects for the Academy Awards.

According to Vince Pace, co-chairman of CAMERON | PACE Group, the world’s first "CPG-Certified" 3D movie has also been influential behind-the-scenes in opening the eyes of filmmakers and studio executives to what 3D done correctly can translate to on the big screen.

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"From the critics through to the studios all the way through to the DPs, we’ve won a big battle with Hugo," said Pace. "At a time when there’s been a lot of discussion about the 3D medium and is it good enough and does it enhance the storytelling, Hugo has paid off. People now realize what we’re doing and that the approach to what we’re doing is different. 3D is as good as it gets when it’s done this way. People are now coming to us asking how they can achieve what Hugo has with 3D."

CPG supplied director Scorsese, cinematographer Robert Richardson and the Hugo crew with the equipment and training that enabled them to shoot the film in 3D. In addition, the film used patented technology and a custom-built infrastructure that allowed the filmmakers to review stereo dailies that were unprecedentedly high-quality. Pace also worked on-set with the filmmakers, supervising the stereo acquisition, and then finished the effort by performing the stereo postproduction work and delivering the final stereo DI (digital intermediate).

"Hugo is the first film I've shot in 3D," said Richardson. "Before I worked with CPG, I was concerned that there would be pressure to change my method and my instincts, but CPG made 3D work for me, not the other way around."

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Pace said that in many ways, Hugo pushes 3D beyond what James Cameron and he were able to achieve with the Oscar-winning Avatar because the tools and the technology have advanced. CPG has also learned from its own experience working on Avatar and recent films like Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

“We were experimenting with Avatar,” said Pace. “We could have gone further, but we wanted to make sure we found ourselves somewhere in the middle of concentrating on a good film and focusing on 3D elements. We didn’t want to compromise the actual film by taking away from the story for the sake of 3D. We tended to play it somewhat safer in the approach. But as Jim likes to say, ‘You don’t make any mistakes when you’re first.’”

Pace said that the industry is also seeing what happens when an expert filmmaker like Scorsese can do when 3D becomes a layer to the storytelling exercise.

“Marty knew where he wanted to go and was adamant to get there,” said Pace. “Early on, we explained to Marty that he was doing exactly what he’d normally do in approaching a film. 3D was playing an opportunistic role, not changing everything he knew.”

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Pace said one of the problems 3D films have faced is that filmmakers are trying to shape their work around 3D, rather than having the 3D shaped around what the artists and DPs want to accomplish. As a result, the 3D films that have been released since Avatar have been anywhere between 40 percent to 70 percent of where 3D could be, but Pace said Hugo shows 3D filmmaking at 100 percent capacity.

“The real challenge is reversing the tide of 3D going to effects instead of perspective,” said Pace. “Hugo helps us get it back on the right track. With all of our projects, the beauty is that we’re supporting the efforts of filmmakers rather than reinventing the process.”

Pace said CPG is going to double its capacity going into next year as it works with more film and broadcast partners. The company is currently working with the BBC on its Walking With Dinosaurs franchise.

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While Hugo is an important part of CPG’s plans, Pace said the ultimate goal is to get studios to align with the path. Moving forward, individual movies and projects won’t play as important a role as the adoption of the 3D workflow by filmmakers and broadcasters.

“The good news is this isn’t a daunting path that we’re taking,” said Pace. “Most people coming into this relationship think it’s difficult, but in real terms, every good director becomes a CPG ally. Scalability is not the challenge.”