John Knoll Talks Star Wars 3-D
JK: It's mostly being the arbiter of good taste. There's a lot of different ways to play stereo. How deep do you go with it? Where do you play convergence? Do you rack convergence? Do you do floating windows? How stylistic do you go on wide shots? Do you leave them realistic? Or do we need to see stereo even on a wide shot with nothing close to camera where you wouldn't really see much. A lot of those kinds of questions need to be answered and I'm trying to provide the answers that result in good-looking stereo that looks to the largest extent possible that it looks like it was shot in stereo; and not with the weird miniaturization or the cardy look or the warped spaces or the edge artifacts that we've seen in other stereo conversions.
JK: George and I talked a little bit about the character of stereo and there's a little bit of a different stylization of what you saw on Avatar and How to Train Your Dragon, for example. One of the things that Jim did throughout Avatar is a relatively fixed rule: for the most part, camera converges on subject. So that makes whoever you're focused on, whoever's speaking, whatever the subject of the shot is converged at the screen plane. And so if that person walks forward in the shot, we actually rack convergence with them so that they stay at the screen. And that worked pretty well for Jim; it's a convention that served him well. That's not the convention that, for example, DreamWorks and Pixar are doing on their stereo projects. What they tend to do is define a good use of volume for a given shot -- a lot of the DreamWorks seems to be about one-third forward, two-thirds back -- and that's fixed for the shot. So even for the character that's walking forward, we don't rack convergence with them. And we're going a little bit more toward that style than Jim's style.
BD: So, what's your plan?
JK: What we're doing that one-third forward, two-thirds back use of depth. We'll be using floating windows to maximize good, usable, depth dynamic range. And then, stylistically, I go fairly realistic with the stereo. I don't like hyper stereo and there are a lot of shots in the Star Wars pictures that are meant to be big vista spectacle. It's a big wide view of a city or a space battle, and there's nothing particularly close to camera. Shooting in stereo, you wouldn't get a lot of depth. So I'm not going to go hyper stereo on that because it has a really ugly artifact, in my view, of that miniaturization. You don't want to see that these ships are really closer than the star field and undermine all the effort that we tried to put in to make those scenes have vast scale. So I'm going to play all the wide shots more realistically and rely on the overall context of the sequence where you're right there with the characters, experiencing this with them. And there are loads and loads of action where we're in tighter and closer, and that's where the stereo shines.
BD: The prequels will certainly offer a different experience with all the CG.