Burbank company 3ality Digital LLC has unveiled software that programs multiple cameras for the alignment required to film in 3-D. The company says the software will save time and money by eliminating some labor, although production workers aren’t happy about that.
The software, sold in IntelleCal and IntelleCam versions, is expected to become available this fall and 3ality claims the tools will make 3-D TV broadcasts cheaper to produce.
“It automates the most complex and time-consuming processes,” said Gari Ann Douglass, 3ality’s chief operating and financial officer. “It’s easier, more economical, more reliable and enables a crew to shoot 3-D on a 2-D schedule.”
Three-D production has always been more time intensive due to the labor involved in manual camera setups. IntelleCal is designed to save time by automating the alignment of a camera rig without a technician. A process that usually takes 35 to 40 minutes could take five minutes or so. If it works as touted, the software could represent a big step forward for 3-D.
“The software they are bringing forth is not just a help to individual producers, but to the entire ecosystem of 3-D,” said Doug Stanley, chief executive of Ridgeline Entertainment LLC in the Sacramento-area town of Auburn, which produces film and TV projects with a 3-D emphasis. “It brings the cost down.”
Find a balance
But how much 3ality will charge for its technology isn’t yet known. The company will have to find a balance between affordability and recovering the cost of development.
“We have invested a lot of money to develop these products, so we need to price them at a price point that makes it attractive enough,” Douglass said. “But at the same time, we have costs we need to amortize.
The new technology comes just as Santa Monica-based private equity firm Clearlake Capital Group LP has acquired controlling interest of 3ality, who has retained founder Steve Schklair as chief executive. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The company’s 3-D cameras and equipment are being used in three high-profile feature film productions: “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “The Hobbit” and “Jack the Giant Killer.”
The company is also looking to the still largely untapped area of 3-D television for its continued growth.
“For TV to succeed, there has to be a lot of content. There’s got to be a variety of content,” said Schklair. “For all types of programming, the costs have to be lower and the content has to be more compelling.”
Of course, more people have to own 3-D-capable TV sets, too. As with most high-tech consumer products, sales are expected to pick up as prices come down. Many 3-D TVs now go for around $2,000, and are either less expensive or cost about the same as a similarly sized high-definition TV.
“The differential in price between normal TVs and 3-D TVs is becoming smaller and smaller,” said Pietro Macchiarella, research analyst for Dallas-based Parks Associates. “The differential in cost production is not that high. By 2014, we expect 80 percent of TVs sold in the U.S. to be 3-D capable.”
The IntelleCam version of the new software can eliminate the need at each rig for convergence pullers, technicians that handle the image separation of foreground and background.
“Will people be unhappy? Yes,” said 3ality’s Douglass. “But there is enough work in the pipeline that those people could very easily find other types of activities where they can be employed and contribute.”
Richard Clark, a 25-year member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 695, wonders if 3ality’s technology will really produce the cost savings that the company claims.
“My gut feeling is they are assigning to this more importance than it probably deserves,” Clark said.
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