I recently had the opportunity to spend some time on the set of Step Up 3D, the latest in the popular Disney dance film franchise. The picture, scheduled for release in August 2010, is being shot entirely in 3D, with some of the footage originating on twin Phantom HD GOLD high-speed digital cameras.
I spent much of the last two weeks at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and at 25 Broadway in Manhattan working with Jeff Rios from PACE, suppliers of the Fusion 3D rigs for all the cameras used in the production. The PACE Fusion 3D rig mounts one camera vertically looking down at the reflected image off a partial mirror, with the other camera mounted horizontally looking through the partial mirror. Convergence is controlled with a motorized sled, which is very convenient.
Perfect synchronization is critical to successful 3D at high-speed. Each of the Phantom HD GOLD cameras was synchronized using IRIG military grade timecode, which is built into every Phantom HD and guarantees frame accuracy at any frame rate. Operating the two cameras in sync was relatively simple using the multiple camera control software from Vision Research.
One particular scene involved hundreds of extras and two dozen professional dancers under hundreds of 1K Dino lights dancing in half a foot of water. Dance and water have been part of film legend since Singin’ in the Rain and lend themselves to slow motion photography.
After shooting the scene at 500 frames per second, Director Jon Chu and Cinematographer Ken Seng joined much of the cast gathered around a monitor to watch the slow motion playback. Their jaws dropped. The dancing and the splashing were awesome, and the dancers were able to analyze their work in a way they hadn’t experienced before.
I believe that Phantom HD in 3D is really going to take off. The Phantom with CineMags is small and lightweight, which makes it practical to mount and maneuver in a 3D production situation. Super slow motion imagery from the Phantom is visually striking, and the 3D aspect just amplifies that.