The Advanced Art of Stop-Motion Animation: Digital Cinematography: Part 2
Finally, going from these rather advanced methods and large-scale rigs back to the very simple, filmmaker Patrick Boivin creates many of his tracking camera moves simply by attaching his camera to a miniature train track and pushing it along (Figure 4.26). His short stop-motion films, which have become a big sensation on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/PatrickBoivin), such as Bboy Joker and Iron Man vs. Bruce Lee, also use a lot of dynamic camera moves that mimic a handheld quality. Patrick explains how he does this in stop-motion:
I do a lot on set with a classic photo camera tripod. There is a crank on the side that allows me to raise the head gradually. I also work with a digital camera with a much higher resolution than what I need at the final, so I can easily crop and move inside the image in post-production.
As these various examples show, no matter what tools or resources you have, a little creativity can go a long way when it comes to achieving the effects you want.
One of the biggest emerging technologies in filmmaking today is stereoscopic photography and projection. The term “stereoscopic” is a more technical term for what most people simply know as “3D.” The idea of projecting movies in 3D is nothing new. It had been experimented with since the beginning of film, but it first became popular in the 1950s. The way it worked was by rigging up two projectors, each running a duplicate print of the same film, synchronized exactly to the same frame. The projectors’ images were shown through a polarized filter and lined up in such a way that both images were spaced slightly apart on the screen, creating a small overlap between them. When viewers put on the special 3D glasses (Figure 4.27), they re-polarize the overlapping images to create the illusion of depth and actions popping out from the flat screen. The overlapping images were an attempt to mimic the fact that when we are looking at an image, our right and left eyes see the image from a slightly different perspective. (If you stop reading for a moment and look at any object close to you, first close your left eye, and then close your right eye. You will notice that the object shifts a little bit. These are the two views seen by each of your eyes, and your brain puts these images together to recognize the depth of what you see.)
3D movies in the 1950s came about mostly as a gimmick to increase declining movie attendance. Once television came along, people moved towards getting their entertainment and news from the comfort of home, rather than going to the movies. Seeing movies in 3D made the theater experience more of an event, something you couldn’t get from television. Most of the 3D movies were horror films like House of Wax and Creature from the Black Lagoon, with cheap thrills and chills to heighten the horrific effect. Because of limited projection technology and audiences complaining of headaches, the trend didn’t last very long, so movies went back to being projected normally. 3D movies emerged again for a while in the 1980s, when the availability of cable television and video rentals kept audiences at home rather than in the theaters. Once again, the trend died off until large-screen home theaters (and the practice of downloading movies onto computers and phones) became another threat to the movie-going experience. Today, many films (animated films in particular) are marketed and projected in 3D and 3D IMAX to bring people back to cinemas for a unique experience. Whether this is just another passing gimmick has yet to be seen, but the phenomenal success of James Cameron’s Avatar and the development of 3D televisions could mean that 3D is here to stay.
For the latest crop of animated films, their theatrical projection may be presented in 3D, but the films themselves are not typically made that way originally. Like the films before them, they are made with one camera and simply re-formatted for 3D projection. In 2006, Walt Disney Pictures re-issued The Nightmare Before Christmas to theaters in 3D by creating a digital copy of each frame for the overlapping image. The 3D formatting was done by a team of artists and technicians at Industrial Light & Magic, some of whom had worked on the original film. The original puppets were scanned into the computer and the sets re-created in a virtual 3D environment of featureless geometries for each scene of the film. Then each frame of the original film was digitally projected onto the geometry, the camera moved over slightly, and the frame re-photographed. This image would be shown as the right-eye image, while the left-eye image was the original version of the film. Viewing Nightmare in 3D in a properly equipped theater allowed for the detail of the hand-crafted sets and puppets to come forward in a way that brought more attention to their actual third dimensions.