Bettina who? Bettina Martin is the technical supervisor of 3D at 3ality Technica – a company that’s making it easier for filmmakers to get a handle on the new wave of 3D technology. Even though box office grosses on the latest batch of 3D movies aren’t what they were just a year ago there are big films in production right now using the technology. Namely, The Amazing Spider Man, Peter Jackson’s new Hobbit movie, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, and Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby. I talked to Bettina Martin last Monday about these projects, her role in 3ality Technica, and the shaky future of 3D at the theaters as we go forward.
Here’s how that went down:
JR: I read your dossier that they gave me and I think it’s really cool that you’re one of the few women in the 3D production side of this industry.
Bettina: Really? Thank you. It’s really cool… it’s not really that cool. Just kidding.
JR: You’re working with some pretty major people.
Bettina: Oh yes. It’s fun. I really appreciate my co-workers as well as all the productions I was on. And for me, five years ago I was not thinking that I would ever be doing this. So I’m still new on the set compared to my co-workers who have twenty years of experience.
JR: You’re the new kid.
Bettina: More or less yeah.
JR: What exactly is 3Ality Technica doing differently to attract people like Peter Jackson and Ridley Scott?
Bettina: The difference is basically that 3Ality Technica is offering 3D solutions. So if you want to do your production and you want to rent – we offer the solution. We work together with rental houses and we point you to that rental house. We’re not just offering you a 3D rig, and then sending you on your way and say “good luck” – it’s also the entire back end and everything. Because here at 3Ality Technica we feel that it’s really important that we’re creating 3D systems that are simple, easy to use, fast, and efficient so that filmmakers won’t really feel the difference between filming in 3D or 2D. We’re the only company that’s creating the entire 3D cloud.
JR: So now what would you say the difference between a good implementation of 3D and a bad one? What have you seen in movies that you liked, and thought was a great example of 3D being used – and then what’s an example where it wasn’t used so good?
Bettina: I can think of some great examples. A lot of the PIXAR animated movies – for example Up. But there are some movies out there that I’m definitely not interested in watching just because they’re tagged with 3D in the film trailer – not that I’m going to name them right now. (chuckles)
JR: That’s ok.
Bettina: Basically there are two things you can do wrong. First of all if you’re going for a lot of gimmick effect – which a lot of filmmakers are still doing. That can be too much. It can be waaaaaaay too much. You have to watch how much stuff you’re using and how you’re using it, because your eyes are constantly adjusting to the 3D. Which also counts for the edit. If you have a sequence with a lot of cuts – like an action movie – that can be really difficult to watch if the 3d is not really in harmony between the props. The second thing is that – and what I see that is happening quite often – is that the images are not in harmony. You’re talking about two images and they need to be in full harmony. Which means that they need to be matched. If there is, for example, a vertical offset, then the images are mismatched. Your eyes will strain to adjust to it and it’s uncomfortable.
JR: When you’re working with a guy like Peter Jackson – you guys are doing The Hobbit right?
Bettina: They’re using 3Ality Technica systems. I went down there for over a month, on three different trips, and trained them on how to use our technology.
JR: So they’re pretty much on their own now shooting the movie in 3D?
Bettina: Yes. Absolutely. They’ve been on their own for over a year now.
JR: So do you think that 3D is going to help The Hobbit find a bigger audience? Did it help Avatar become the number one movie in the world? Was Avatar going to make it anyway?
Bettina: I think it did help Avatar. If you watch Avatar in 2D after watching it in 3D it’s not going to be the same. This is what 3D is about. 3D is about adding another layer. 3D is about increasing the experience. Especially when you use it in an artistic way. Which filmmakers are just starting to do now. Up until now 3D’s just been used in action movies, but now 3D dramas are just starting to go into production which are using 3D to artistic effect. Which I think makes them a better, more deeper, more emotional, experience.
JR: I was wondering that too. When are dramas going to cross-over into 3D? Is it even financially viable for a drama to be in 3D? Can you name some new 3D titles that are specifically dramas?
Bettina: Right now one of the productions that are using 3Ality Technica systems is Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. Which is a very dramatic movie, and that’s exactly what they want to go for. How to tweek the 3D and draw the emotions out. I think it’s going to be one of the first stereoscopic where you can clearly see the 3D being used in an artistic, editorial area.
JR: Now, it seems like I just read an article on MSN that was saying that 3D was struggling right now at the box office. Do you think that there’s still a future in it if it’s done well? Here in America it seems like there’s a new 3D movie every other week – like Shark Night 3D or Piranha 2: 3D… you know what I mean? It just seems beat to death over here.
Bettina: You can definitely overuse the term 3D on a poster. They use it right now mostly to catch the eye. At the moment there is a lot of 3D out there – which is really great. It’s important to bring 3D to everybody. Our kids are growing up with Nintendo 3DS systems, and this is important because with this much quantity there will be quality eventually. Unfortunately this is not happening at the moment. You were speaking about Shark Night 3D – it’s not a movie I would particularly go for because I know they want to have the gimmick effect, they want to have the “wow” effect. And I’m not particularly interested in that if I can watch the movie Up at home on my 3D television where 3D is used beautifully. Which is what I think MSN is talking about – 3D is everywhere and sometimes the audience is uncomfortable because the implementation is terrible, and that’s got to change – for sure.
JR: I agree with you totally. 3D can add something to a good movie – but it can’t help a bad movie.
JR: What do you feel about theaters tacking on extra money for a 3D movie ticket, when most people are still on the fence about the technology? Do you think the price should drop?
Bettina: That’s a really difficult question actually, because if I know a movie’s in 3D…
JR: You’ll spring for it.
Bettina: I know that, for example, that this theater over by my friend’s house in Santa Monica is going to be just as good and well maintained as the big theater in Burbank. You have to maintain the 3D systems in these theaters. If it’s a digital system it’s most likely is still happening with two projectors, or a very expensive projector that runs at double the frame-rate – so the audience is paying a little bit for this technology. It’s not that much – but sometimes it can feel like it is too much.
JR: But I don’t think it would be for something like The Hobbit, or Ridley Scott’s Prometheus – I think people will spring for that because they want to see the best versions of those films on the big screen. But these other movies that are just clogging up the theaters…? I don’t know if it matters so much.
Bettina: I absolutely agree with that. Some movies I’m happy enough to just watch eventually movie on a plane…
JR: (chuckles) Yeah.
Bettina: Then there are those movies that I really need to see in the theater – so the audience is definitely becoming more picky. But also in the last few years when digital theaters started coming around it got more and more expensive – so a little bit extra on the price of a ticket is justified. Sometimes it’s too much. When they add more than three dollars to a ticket then I think that that’s too much. That’s just the theater chain trying to cash in and has nothing to do with the quality of the movie.
JR: I have one last question – and I know you can’t talk about it – but I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t ask you about The Hobbit…
JR: Is it looking good?
Bettina: Well I was there at the beginning of the shoot, so for me it was absolutely stunning. I can’t imagine it not being good. The pictures I’ve seen from the production are absolutely stunning. And it’s not just The Hobbit – there’s another movie being made at the moment in Russia called Stalingrad and that’s some of the most gorgeous film – you can’t imagine. And I’ve seen that in 3D. It has this “wow” factor where every hair on your buddy is standing on end and you get goosebumps… that is – thank god – happening more and more.
JR: Now Stalingrad… that’s about the Nazi invasion of Stalingrad?
JR: OK. Wow. That sounds kind of neat.
Bettina: It’s going to be absolutely fabulous. Especially a historical film using 3D this well.
JR: I think most of the audience is getting trained that 3D is just for comic book movies and monster movies and… you know, I never even thought of that. What would a Saving Private Ryan look like in 3D. That would be pretty amazing.
JR: And I think once you guys start leaking in to those genres then, yeah, there’s a future for this industry.
Bettina: Absolutely. I can’t wait for the day that there’s a 3D award – like the cinematographer award – at the Academy Awards. I want to see that happen.
Bettina Martin is the 3D technical supervisor at 3ality Technica. She hails from Munich Germany.