Category Archives: Cinematography

Mind The Gap (aka 3DTango)

Karel Bata 3D Tango

A 3D short currently doing the festival circuit inspired by Zbigniew Rybczýnski’s 1980 Tango.
I saw Tango at the Annecy Animation Festival. He’d cleverly composited multiple layers to create the illusion of an impossible number of people in a room 4 x 4 metres – the standard flat size in urban Communist Poland. It was artsy Polish satire. The technique has since been seen in Ariston adverts and a Kylie Minogue video.


During my MA in Stereo 3D at Ravensbourne College, I took this idea into another dimension with 3D Tango (aka Mind The Gap). At one point there are 16 layers of green-screen image – each with a left and a right master.  That meant a lot of work. Post was in After Effects (which pushed my system to the limit!). I created the music in GarageBand.

Featuring Daisy Batova, Alfie Albert, and Helena Kuntz.

Click on any image for a closer view.

Karel Bata 3D Tango previz

PreViz created using FrameForge 3D

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Mind The Gap has so far screened at:

3DKIFF, Seoul, S. Korea, 28 October 2016
LA 3-D Movie Festival, Los Angeles, December 10 2016
3D Stereo MEDIA, Liege, 14 December 2016
SD&A San Francisco, 31 January 2017
3D-Co, Irvine, CA, USA, August 10 2017
The Stereoscopic Society, Coventry, October 2017
Art in Flux, Ugly Duck Studios, London, May 2018
Courant 3D, Angoulême, France, 10 October 2018




Crossing The Line

Crossing The Line

Why do people make this so complicated?

I’ve seen a lot of confusion over this and time wasted on set, so I thought I’d add a blog post. Let me stress though that this is solely my own views and other people will inevitably disagree. (But they are so wrong)

First, the ‘line’ is not a line. It is a plane that extends vertically between and beyond the characters. (Though if the camera is at a point where you are looking down you can generally disregard it).

Second, and this is the core of the matter: The ‘line’ goes between the subject of the current shot (who will be the audience’s focus of attention) and the object that this subject is looking at (which can be a person or thing). Simple as that.

The ‘line’ defines where we the audience (the ‘invisible guests’) are in relation to the drama we are watching, and is very important during editing. Editors usually strive to make a sequence fluid, and need to understand where the line actually is at the point of an edit.

Various factors can move this line around. We (the audience) can be physically carried through the ‘line’ via a camera move, or the subject of the shot may themselves move, or the subject’s eyeline (what they are looking at) may move dragging the line with it.

An example of the latter: Our hero is looking left while talking to someone. She hears something and looks over her shoulder thus dragging the line to the right. She can still be talking, but it’s her visual focus of attention that matters.

Stick with these ‘rules’ and you won’t go wrong. Here’s a couple of common misconceptions:

1 – (this one drives me nuts as I’ve heard it used by seasoned camera ops) Imagine a W.S. of a couple getting married and approaching the alter. You can hear them talking. The line, supposedly, is between the two, however if we cut we must stay the same side of their travel to the alter, thereby violating the theoretical line.
This is wrong. As long as we do not see the couple look at each other, the subject of the shot is ‘the couple’, and the object of their (somewhat passive) gaze is the alter. There is our line, and what we don’t cross. Interestingly, what we hear on the soundtrack is irrelevant.

2 – Our hero is looking left. Unnoticed by her, a door opens in the background revealing someone. Where is the line? Is it now between her and the door?
No, not if she is still looking left. But if the audience’s attention has shifted to the door at the point of the cut the subject has now changed and become whoever is walking through the door and we are now concerned with their eyeline.

This is important. The line can be shifting around all over the place, and it may not be between the two people talking at all.

But what happens when we cut to another character in the scene, who is outside of the current shot, and who is observing the previous shot’s subject? There’s a subject/object line there too, so the camera will be on one side of it before the cut, and should remain on that side after. If that’s not adhered to you will likely get a jump. Tip: if you’re shooting a dinner table scene get shots of people, saying nothing, looking between the other characters. They don’t have to do anything, but these cutaways will be invaluable during the edit, and are far better than the proverbial shot of the kitchen sink.

But of course every rule can be broken. And should be. Check out what Kubrick does here:
And some interesting examples from Satashi Kon:

They do this for effect. Crossing the line for no good reason will just look sloppy or amateur.

Of important note is what the folks doing 3D sport have discovered.
In a 2D football game you have a ‘line’ running between the two goals, and you must strictly observe this or you will confuse the audience.
In a 3D game this applies to the WSs and CUs, but in wider shots with the camera down on the pitch you may cross this ‘line’ provided you leave enough geographical detail in shot, like the goal, to orient the audience. In 3D we get a much better sense of where we are, and are not as disturbed by jumps in space as 2D audiences are. We have yet to see this implemented creatively in 3D drama, and I’m looking forward to where that might lead.

Hope that helps…

“Later, in the restaurant…” – some notes on the making of a hi-speed 3D short.

Karel Bata - 'Later, in the restaurant...'

I shot Later, in the restaurant… using the Olympus iSpeed camera system while I was doing my MA in Stereo 3D at Ravensbourne College. I had met the Olympus guys at a Z Axis event I organised, and they offered to demo their rig and after give us some hands-on. I would have to live with a one-hour time slot…

Olympus iSpeed

The Olympus iSpeed 1000fps camera

The concept

This offered an unusual challenge – could I make a narrative sequence that in real time spanned only 3 seconds? I came up with two ideas:

 Later concept 1 Later concept 2

The dog would have been fun, but it may have been difficult to get a second take! The other setup offered some interesting narrative possibilities. In fact, as is often the case, things emerged in the editing. In this case an erotic undertow which, with the overt dominance / submissive element, implied a certain dynamic to the relationship that some folks may uncomfortably recognize…


Lighting was an issue. I knew we would be shooting at 500 – 1000 fps, and with regular lights running at 50Hz we would see flicker. The filament of a tungsten light, as it heats and cools, flickers at 100 times a second (twice for each cycle). Your eye won’t see this, but a camera running at 1000fps will. However the bigger the lamp the longer it takes for it to heat up and cool, so flicker is less pronounced. Generally a lamp of 10KW or more is regarded as ‘flicker free’ for high speed. There are other lighting solutions, like using constant voltage DC, but these are expensive or were impractical for us, and some don’t always behave as they should.

The Ravensbourne TV studio was equipped with 1K and 2K lamps – which were not of any use to us. But it did have a large three-phase outlet. We couldn’t afford 10Ks, but we could run three 5KW lamps off the three different phases. I had read (in CML – one of Geoff Boyle’s posts I think) that by doing so we’d effectively smooth out the flicker – the dips and troughs from each phase happen at different times and would largely cancel each other out. Smart idea, and that’s what we did.

Later lighting setup - Karel Bata

However, if you look carefully at the final video you can still see flicker in the drops of water when crossing black as they catch reflections from the different lights.

The Shoot

Having only an hour meant being very prepared. Actors, props etc had to be ready to go. I spent some time with Holly Wilcox rehearsing spitting and she picked it up quickly. Joe Steel was a hero – who else would volunteer to be spat at? My eternal gratitude to him.

The first shot was at 1000fps. I wanted a slow build up and reveal. After that I would have to pace it up, so later shots were at 750fps then 500.

Later concept 3

The IA was 1 to 1.5 inches. In retrospect, with having a black background I would have made it bigger. In fact, in post that’s what I did. We shot parallel – having no background meant we’d lose nothing in post doing HIT, and good geometry was prioritised. It also made post easier.

The lights were bounced off large sheets of poly set at ¾ from behind, with another two sheets in front to provide fill. It got very warm!

There were 3 set-ups and we did two takes of each. The cameras recorded data to a cycling internal RAM, much like a Phantom or FS700, and then compressed and downloaded to a 8-bit BMP image sequence. At high speeds we could only record to 720. We over-ran our one-hour schedule by 10 minutes!


Unfortunately something had gone wrong with the system, which everyone failed to spot. Playback from the cameras was OK, but the recorded BMP images were badly underexposed. We were gutted. Here’s a sample frame:

Original file quality 2

Our 8-bit system had effectively become 5-bit, with a lot of blocky noise lurking in the shadows.

This took a huge amount of effort to ‘fix’, as well as I could, in After Effects. Of great help were Red Giant’s Instant HD, Denoiser II, and Cosmo to resize and fix the noise, blockiness, and skin tones. To adjust the IA Revision’s Re:Flex Motion Morph worked really well. No dedicated 3D software was used.

I felt I needed more 3D. Warping a 3D image to decrease IA usually works reasonably well, but increasing IA often creates visible spatial distortions, especially in areas where objects occlude each other. Fortunately the subjects here were geometrically simple with a black background, and I’m very happy with the end result – I’d increased the IA by 50 to 80%. But still I can see some global flaws when viewing the whole image and switching between L and R, but you’d have to be really sharp-eyed to spot it in a cinema where you can only view a portion of the frame.

One criticism I’ve heard is that there’s still not much 3D. This is interesting. In the final video the amount of 3D is precisely what’s needed to achieve the correct degree of ’roundness’ in the subjects. Any more and they would appear stretched along the z axis. I think it’s because using a black background with only the foreground subjects visible means that the overall amount of 3D is limited. If I’d shot against green and put in a background later (as I did in a video here ) the image would contain more depth, and it would be perceived as deeper, but the depth of the subjects themselves would really be unchanged. This makes me wonder about audience expectations with 3D – is it that folks want or expect deep shots?

I’ve seen Later many times, and the 3D version really does add something. It separates out detail, especially with the water droplets, and adds a lot more life to the faces.

Here’s a glimpse of the AE workflow of just one shot. Some of those nodes are for dynamic masks to tweak areas that needed edge sharpening, softening, colour adjustment etc. Each shot needed a slightly different (and painstaking) approach.

After Effects Flowchart


Some problems with projection…

I did a test screening at the Brixton Ritzy cinema, which uses a RealD circular polarised system, and discovered two problems.

1 – With titles converged on the screen against black people told me the titles were 2D! An audience watching the film critically and seeing no 3D might initially think something had gone wrong. You don’t want this distraction. I fixed this by floating the titles slightly forwards.

2 – Ghosting. This is significant when using RealD. If the subject is placed behind the screen, as was the case in the first DCP I did, then the Left and Right images will be horizontally displaced on the screen plane when viewed with glasses off. When the viewer puts the glasses on each eye should only see one image and you get 3D. But the system is not perfect, so you will get a little cross-talk, and if there is a bright image against black then each eye will see a dim ghost of the other eye in the dark areas.

Take the image below. I had placed the eyes on the screen plane, with the cheek on the left slightly behind. The effect was not so much ghosting along this edge, but an apparent de-
focussing – the edge appeared to lack sharpness. But then, no one else seemed to see it.

Joe Angelo Steel

The cure was to re-converge the image and bring it forwards, so the high contrast edge causing the problem was on the screen plane and there was no double-imaging. For shots where the subject is moving I had to track the image depth and create dynamic convergence. With a black background and no visual cues to tell you, this is imperceptible.

Of note is that when the first (uncorrected) DCP was projected at Beyond3D in Karlsruche a Dolby 3D system was used. This has very little cross-talk so no ghosting was perceptible.

Later, in the restaurant… is now doing the 3D film festival circuit and I’m pleased to say getting an excellent reception.

The IMDB page is here:

Back In The Day: The Panavision PVAP

Samcinevision PVAP

This was a great piece of kit! I wonder if any are still working? It was built around one of the first portable PCs, running Windows 95, and would be connected to the video tap from a 35mm camera, provide variable speed playback, mix/overlay, keying, switching matrix, remove camera flicker, had some great edit functions, and even made the tea. Note the Zip Drive.

This was way before recording to computer memory was the norm, and I could see then that this was where the future lay. But of course – it would crash regularly. I would phone Panavision asking how to fix that. And the reply I’d get? “But that’s what computers do – crash.” Priceless.

Panavison PVAP 1
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Panavison PVAP 2
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