An intimate live show by Sheryl Crow was captured in New York City on Wednesday by All Mobile Video’s new 53ft Epic 3-D production truck, in both 2-D and 3-D, for a future edition on the PBS series “Soundstage.” The production is one of the first 2-D/3-D events captured with a single truck and represents a model of how to produce events more economically than using two separate trucks.
The concert, promoting songs from Crow’s new “100 Miles from Memphis” release, will be broadcast on PBS in 2-D in January, with the 3-D footage archived for future use such as Blu-ray distribution or carriage on a 3-D network.
The show was recorded live to tape with 13 Sony HDC-1500R HD cameras and some box-style units, all with Canon HD lenses. Ten were used in five pairs mounted on 3Ality Digital camera rigs. Two beam-splitter rigs were operated on tracking dollies to give a nice effect without having to zoom as often. Another side-by-side rig was mounted at the back of the Roseland Ballroom venue for wide shots of the stage. The 2-D production made use of all 13 HD camera views, including one mounted on a boom and two used handheld. None of the 3-D rigs were operated from the shoulder.
The truck features Sony’s new MVS-8000X production switcher, SRW-5800 HDCAM SR recording decks and several prototype Luma 3-D production monitors (production models will be available this fall). The one switcher was used for both the 2-D and 3-D shows, which were taped as ISO records. There’s also a Pesa 480 x 480 router and Studer Vista 8 digital audio console. The Epic 3-D truck also includes a converge area in the middle of the truck, where one technician per camera rig had to tweak the left and right signal to make sure it looked good in 3-D, before the director included it into the final show. A separate 61ft “B” unit is being built to house convergence operators, in order to handle larger productions.
HD Ready, an Illinois-based post-production company (which has posted several other 3-D events, including a recent Kenny Cheney concert), produced the Crow show under the supervision of Joe Thomas, a director by trade and a founder of HD Ready. He directed the Crow concert from the truck, carefully instructing camera operators on how to best frame their shots, and seemed excited about the concept of practically producing two shows simultaneously.
“We used some of the left-eye camera on the 3-D rigs for our 2-D show, and everything went very smoothly,” Thomas said. “Contrary to what others are saying, I don't think you need to stay on shots longer with 3-D; you just have to make sure all of your camera views complement each other, which takes more work and a lot of time. Proper framing is very important. Luckily, we were not broadcasting a live show, so we could control things a lot more.”
He said that many of the things directors might want to get rid of in a 2-D shot, such as microphone stands and lighting trusses, they should keep in 3-D to make it interesting to watch because they add depth to the shot.
Prior to the show airing on PBS, the show will be post produced at HD Ready using a Quantel Pablo system to boost the 3-D effects and fix any uncomfortable viewing issues. “In post we’re adding another layer of work that has to be done, because 3-D done wrong looks terrible.”
Set up for the production occurred a day before, with slightly more time required when compared to preparations for a typical 2-D HD show. Eric Duke, president of AMV, said the other advantage of the Roseland Ballroom is that the venue is intimate and rather wide, allowing them to move the cameras closer to the stage and place them in ideal positions, without having to kill existing seating as some 3-D productions have had to do. Duke called the Roseland Ballroom “very 3-D friendly.”
“There’s no question that losing house seats is a major issue we have to resolve when doing 3-D projects, because some venues are not willing to give up revenue-generating, premium seats,” he said. “With this show, we could set up the seating the way we needed to support our 3-D shots. That makes a big difference.”
The stage was outfitted with extra truss pieces and lighting to support the 3-D production, while a circular truss was installed in the ceiling that provided a point of reference for viewers by shooting through the truss in some shots.
Everyone involved with the production agrees that 3-D imagery puts viewers “at the concert” in ways 2-D viewers just can't experience. “It gives you that added sense of realism and depth that fans who can't make the shows really appreciate,” said Jason Goodman, stereographer for the production and CEO of 21st Century 3D (in New York).
While it began in the mid-’70s, “Soundstage” was reborn in 2001 thanks to a new partnership between WTTW National Productions and HD Ready. Thomas’ original vision was to combine the one-hour musical performances of the original show with state-of-the-art HD video equipment and innovative Dolby 5.1 audio. The majority of the concerts are recorded before intimate studio audiences at WTTW’s Grainger Studio in Chicago, but “Soundstage” occasionally hits the road.
Thomas said 3-D continues that same concept of keeping the series fresh, and the technology is now becoming more accepted by major artists like Sheryl Crow, so he anticipates more concerts to come in the near future.