Friday, February 22, 2013

Top Gun 3D: Comparing the IMAX & Blu-ray Danger Zone Experiences

Building on the success of Raiders of the Lost Ark’s re-release last fall, Paramount celebrated the reissue of Top Gun in 3D last week with a run in IMAX 3D.  To the 3D aficionado, this presented a unique opportunity – an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up.  One of the tragedies of home video is the lack of scale in the viewing experience that you get in a theater, which makes it difficult to actually compare the theatrical experience to the home with any real accuracy.  Still, with a brand new copy of Top Gun 3D on Blu-ray in one hand and an IMAX 3D ticket in the other, here was an opportunity to compare the 3D viewing experiences, one right after the other.
Top Gun has always been an amazing picture for the big screen, with its epic aerial photography shot ‘real’ as much as humanly possible.  Having never seen the movie theatrically before (being 9 at the time the film was originally released), I hoped my first theatrical viewing was going to be AWESOME.
And it was!  The new 4K restoration looks brilliant and consistent.  It was a far better visual experience than Raiders, for me at least, which seemed to run out of resolution on the four-story IMAX screen more often than one would expect.  Top Gun’s aerial photography was as brilliant as ever, made far more so since the planes were now effectively life size.
Strangely though, the 3D was almost a non-factor.  So much of the movie looked flat – the all the important bits anyway.  Bar rooms, establishing shots – essentially those things that held on screen longer is where the pop kept landing, instead of the in-your-face F-14 combat action where I wanted it the most.
So then I went home, somewhat puzzled by what I’d just seen, and put in the Blu-ray 3D version.
What a difference!  The carrier deck comes alive with depth.  Cougar’s fighter hangs halfway into my living room.  Cockpit reversal shots have fantastic pop and depth.  If the IMAX 3D experience was a slow simmer, the Blu-ray is a full rolling boil.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher, which opened in late December 2012, hasn’t been a major hit at the domestic box office. (See more info below.) However, Cruise can boast a solid early 2013 North American opening — in limited released and on 3D, no less: This weekend, Top Gun, Tony Scott’s 1986 action flick that turned Tom Cruise into a household name worldwide, is getting a 3D-"enhanced" rerelease in North America at 300 venues. Winter storm Nemo or no, on Friday Top Gun 3D collected an estimated $533,000 according to Box Office Mojo, thus easily topping the 1981 Steven Spielberg / Harrison Ford collaboration Raiders of the Lost Ark, which debuted with $440,136 on is opening day at 267 IMAX locations last (Nemo-less) September. (Photo: Tom Cruise Top Gun 3D.)
On its first IMAX weekend out, Raiders of the Lost Ark took in $1.67m at no. 14 on the domestic box-office chart, averaging $6,269 per theater. Don’t be too surprised if Tom Cruise and Top Gun 3D manage to reach $2m by Sunday evening, thus cracking the top ten chart and averaging around $6,600 per site. Official weekend estimates will be released on Sunday morning; weekend box-office actuals will come out on Monday. (See "Tom Cruise Top Gun 3D Trailer" and "Tom Cruise in Top Gun Sequel?")

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Top Gun 3D's Miniature Plane and In-Camera Effects

Before sadly passing away in 2012, Top Gun director Tony Scott oversaw the stereo conversion of his defining 1986 film, about to be released in IMAX 3D and on Blu-ray/DVD. We talk to Legend3D founder, chief creative officer and chief technology officer Dr. Barry Sandrew about the art behind the conversion. And we also revisit the ingenious miniature and in-camera effects of the film with special photographic effects supervisor Gary Gutierrez.

Watch the trailer for the IMAX 3D and Blu-ray 3D re-release of Top Gun.

Converting Top Gun

Preparing the film
Top Gun had been shot on Super 35mm film, so the first requirement was to scan the original negative. Digital mastering expert Garrett J. Smith acted as a liaison to Legend3D during the scanning process. “In his opinion,” says Sandrew, “the film had been properly handled over the years and because it was shot Super 35, there was less wear and tear on the negative than others from that era.”
The negative was scanned by EFILM, who oversampled at 6K using ARRI scanners in High Dynamic Range mode, then recorded at 4K by Company3 who extracted as 2K files. “Company3 then trimmed the files nondestructively in preparation for Legend3D’s restoration and conversion that was performed with a working LUT provided by Company3,” says Sandrew.
Creating a depth script
The Legend team then crafted a ‘depth script’ for the film which, as Sandrew explains, was designed to follow the pulse of the story much like a music score. “Most people rarely notice the music score in a movie but when executed well, we are very much influenced by it,” he says. “Our goal is the same in stereo conversion. We want to avoid creating a situation where 3D becomes the story. In fact, the audience should be able to lose themselves in the film, forgetting that they are watching a 3D movie. However, we do want to use conversion to immerse the audience and enhance their emotional and visceral reaction to the storyline.”

Scenes with Charlie (Kelly McGillis) and other actors were not necessarily easy to convert, owing to flyaway hairs and long tracking shots.
The depth script was far from conservative, with Legend’s conversion team – led by Tony Baldridge, stereo VFX supervisor, Cyrus Gladstone, stereographer and Adam Gering, compositing supervisor – ‘exploiting’ the new scan so that audiences would ultimately feel like they were experiencing Top Gun for the first time. “[Tony] loved the flight scenes and wanted the intensity of those moments to resonate with audience’s adrenaline,” says Sandrew. “He felt that they had to be immersed in the action. We had the freedom to set the convergence throughout the film, which allowed us to break the boundaries set by filming in 3D. Cyrus correctly pointed out that placing the jets off screen would not be distracting to the viewer if there was sufficient fluidity from shot to shot. Sometimes we would ‘Multi-Rig’ the convergence between shots to not distract from the story.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Highway to the 3Danger Zone

Released in 1986, Tony Scott’s Top Gun became a classic of 1980s pop cinema. Known for its slick production and hyper-adrenalized flight sequences, the film laid the groundwork for a particular type of modern action movie — turf that would later be explored with abandon by the likes of Michael Bay. Now, following in the footsteps ofTitanic and Beauty and the Beast, Paramount is releasing a 3D version of the film for a limited theatrical run with a Blu-ray on the way.
The company behind the Top Gun conversion is San Diego-based Legend3D. Having worked on films like Alice in Wonderland and Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Legend3D specializes in taking traditional footage and converting it into 3D after the fact (even a film like The Amazing Spider-Man, which was primarily shot in 3D, needed some post-conversion when production required traditional photography for a certain scene or shot). We spoke with the company’s founder, Barry Sandrew, about the conversion of Top Gun, how Legend3D’s process works, and what could be keeping some moviegoers from embracing the format.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Should I Shoot Native, or Convert? Post Magazine

Stereo 3D: Shoot Native, or Convert?

As first run 3D feature films move into development and pre-production most filmmakers are faced with the inevitable question: whether to shoot the film with stereo cameras; commonly called ‘native’ 3D, shoot entirely in 2D and convert to 3D, or use a hybrid approach. Unfortunately some filmmakers make their decision before thoroughly investigating the relative costs and technical considerations between filming in 3D versus conversion. This lack of information or worse, misinformation about the options can result in an unsatisfying if not expensive directorial experience.  

Preference For ‘Native’ Capture

Some directors are adamant about shooting with stereo rigs because they feel comfortable with the medium and have established stereo crews available that have a substantial track record. Indeed, films like, Hugo and Life of Pi are examples of masterfully captured ‘native’ stereo using Cameron-Pace proprietary rigs, under the supervision of Vince Pace, while Prometheus, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and The Amazing Spiderman benefited from decades of experience and expertise that Steve Schklair and his 3ality Technica team brings to ‘native’ stereo filmmaking.

2D to 3D Conversion is Often Necessary in 'Native' Shoots

What is not widely known is that each of the films mentioned above separately lensed by Cameron-Pace and 3ality Technica required 2D to 3D conversion as a post process. Indeed, even Avatar required approximately 40 shots to be converted. In the case of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Michael Bay started shooting the film with a single stereo rig provided by Cameron-Pace but in the end, Legend3D converted over half or 78 minutes of the film. In fact, Legend3D converted many of the most complex scenes in the film while working closely with both ILM and Digital Domain who contributed the visual effects. For at least part of the film there was no other option other than conversion. Michael Bay preferred to shoot close up and medium shots of his actors using anamorphic film. Consequently all those shots were scanned and subsequently converted from 2D to 3D.

Of significance is that converted shots in all of the titles mentioned above were intercut seamlessly throughout each film in a checkerboard fashion, yet it was impossible to tell whether a shot was created with stereo cameras or converted. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Insight into the conversion of Top Gun 3D - Annlee Ellingson

More than a quarter century since “Top Gun” first flew into theaters, eventually grossing more than $350 million worldwide, Maverick, Goose and Iceman are riding back into the danger zone. Tony Scott’s classic 1986 dogfighting actioner will play exclusively in IMAX 3-D for a six-day run prior to its release on Blu-ray.

As the charismatic fighter pilots at the center of the drama set in an elite Navy flight school, Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards may have felt the need for speed, but Legend3D, the digital media technology company that converted the movie to stereo, didn’t. At a presentation late Friday night, Barry Sandrew, the founder, chief creative officer and CTO of the firm, said his team started working on the conversion in August 2011, finishing a full year later on Aug. 9, 2012.
“We worked with Paramount so that we wouldn’t have a release date,” he said. “We didn’t want a release date. We wanted to take our time and actually do this right.”
Doing it right meant spending “an inordinate amount of time” on preproduction, studying the film and creating a “depth score.” Just as a music score augments the action on-screen, “3-D is supposed to enhance the film,” Sandrew said. “It’s supposed to go with the beat of the film, but it’s not supposed to be the film, and we were very careful in making sure that that wasn’t going to happen. We wanted to make it as natural as possible.”
To read the entire article by Annlee Ellingson, please click here!

Scott Hettrick - On The Feb 1 Press Glimpse Of TOP GUN 3D.

Top Gun 3D is top notch in IMAX Feb. 8 and Blu-ray Feb. 19

Converting Paramount‘s “Top Gun” for 3D was no easy feat, especially since none of the aircraft or ship sequences were digital. But the surprisingly hardest footage to convert, according to Legend3D founder Dr. Barry Sandrew, is the scenes with nothing but actors in a room. Tiny details like reflections in their eyes must be converted to show depth or else the eyes look dead, he told attendees of a special early look at 20 minutes of the IMAX 3D footage Friday night (Jan. 1, 2013) at the AMC Century City 15 in Los Angeles.

Sandrew worked with the late director Tony Scott on the 3D conversion and even invested his company’s money in the project to ensure its completion.

To read more from Scott Hettrick