In our exclusive interview, 3D Mania co-founder and 3D production expert Laurent Baldoni says that while 3D TV has not been the global revoloution everyone was expecting, 3D television will succeed, especially after the London Olympics. He also reveals his disappointment that 3D commercials are still rare, why stereographers won't be replaced & why 3D filming rules can sometimes be broken.
Laurent Baldoni graduated with a Modern Languages Degree in 2000 which led him to spend a lot of time in Europe. After writing a short film and working as a Runner in France for several months, Laurent returned to London and worked as a runner for several large commercials companies, soon climbing up the ladder to become a First Assistant Director.
In pursuit of a Mediterranean lifestyle, Laurent moved to Spain and continued to work in the commercials sector. It is there he met his business partner Julian Crivelli, a highly experienced cameraman who had caught the 3D bug before the Avatar craze, shooting his own test footage and experimenting with 3D techniques.
In 2008, Laurent was planning to launch a production company, focusing on commercials but Julian saw an opportunity to create something different and unique, recognising the impact James Cameron’s Avatar would have. Gaining a head start, Julian and Laurent launched 3D Mania in the same year, a dedicated 3D production company specialising in a holistic approach to filming in the third dimension.
3D Focus: What were those early years like?
Laurent Baldoni: In 2008 we were convincing people to shoot 3D without actually making much money. It was a case of trying to create a buzz, getting people interested. Although there was little money in it, it was still good because we were out there shooting and practicing. The only way to learn and progress in 3D is to shoot shoot shoot, so for us it was an excellent way to be applying our skillset before so much work was available.
By December 2009 (and the release of Avatar) we had a body of work in our portfolio and we were in a position to take work off more established companies. 2010 was a big year for us and 2011 was even bigger.
Laurent Baldoni: From a very early stage we wanted to offer that complete package.
We can do absolutely everything – we are a fully-fledged production company. The two managing directors are a stereographer and a 3D producer so we can do the entire job such as finding locations and doing the casting. The advantage of 3D Mania is that the people in charge of every single detail of each job are 3D savvy.
To be honest, it can be quite a headache working with traditional 2D companies who don’t understand the logistics and the protocol of a 3D shoot. You do need to explain to them that you need adequate prep time. It’s improved now but in 2010 it was a different story. Someone said to me recently that it’s a machine that is very well oiled in 2D and they know exactly how it works so they find it difficult sometimes to come round to the fact that things need to be done a little bit differently. This can be frustrating for a producer, a director, or a D.O.P when their tried and tested ways of filming needs to be slightly adjusted.
We are also very international. It’s not just London. We can do anything anywhere in the world. As a producer I have shot in every single continent. If you have got a great idea why settle for grey London? Come to Spain and do it; it will be cheaper and you’ve got amazing locations!
3D Focus: Who are the people hiring your 3D production services?
Laurent Baldoni: There is a bit of archiving going on and I think more people should be doing that. Let’s face it – it has not been a big global boom. There was a mini boom in 2010 but then people realised that 3D could be a bit of a pain to shoot; it was quite expensive and a lot of people didn’t know what they were talking about. So we flourished because we were willing to accept the smaller jobs and we got a lot of return clients which one would expect if you do the job well.
3D Focus: Was it challenging to advise on 3D shoots when it was still a relatively new medium for others?
Laurent Baldoni: What can be frustrating is that, as a 3D consultant you are paid to manage a job; to guide crew and provide advice. Sometimes they don’t listen and complain that a certain 3D shot would be too time consuming without appreciating that it would ensure good quality 3D. I would sometimes feel like saying “Why am I here then?” You can’t do anything about that; you can only guide people if you are on set as a 3D consultant. Some in the 2D world don’t understand that not carefully preparing for it can cause tension on set; it’s simply not a ‘point and shoot’ format.
This goes back to us being a production company and preferring to take over a whole project. We are not megalomaniacs but it does ensure good quality 3D. We are aware of what guidelines need to be respected and as a team; we are pushing forward in the same direction so you don’t get that friction.
3D Focus: Have you established a simultaneous 2D and 3D shooting workflow?
Laurent Baldoni: Framing, shot selection and camera movement is completely different in 2D and 3D. In a perfect world you would shoot one way in 3D and another way for 2D. What we end up doing is meeting half way although it is generally more the side of 2D if there is a disagreement.
3D Focus: You are from a commercials background so why do you think there have been so few 3D commercials produced?
Laurent Baldoni: I am very disappointed that there are not more 3D commercials especially from a personal point of view because that’s my background. There really aren’t many being filmed but I don’t think its rocket science. 3D hasn’t taken off in the home as much as we expected it to. As more and more 3D channels appear there are going to be more and more 3D commercials wedged into those programs as it will generate so much money for the broadcaster.
We expected that to happen by the tail end of the last year and then we said it would be this year and now we are saying it won’t be till next year! Maybe the Olympics will be a big thing, especially in the UK. 3D TV will succeed but slower than we all thought. It’s all about business at the end of the day – if an agency doesn’t think it’s going to get a return on what they spend then they aren’t going to do it.
3D Focus: What about 3D music videos?
Laurent Baldoni: Well don’t forget a while ago there was quite a lot of money being put into music videos. Most music videos don’t have big budgets now unless it’s a decent star so it’s hard to whack more on to the budget to make it 3D when you are not really sure if many people are going to see it. How are you going to show that 3D music video to the masses? What is great now is YouTube 3D. You just need a little monitor and you can get fairly cheap 3D laptops.
3D Focus: What was your reaction to what James Cameron’s speech during IBC regarding the lack of need for stereographers in the future? And do integrated twin lens cameras have a place in professional 3D production?
Laurent Baldoni: There are lots of people saying that the industry is going to go more automated and that stereographers won’t be needed and that you can just use the twin lens cameras. I don’t think automation will replace a stereographers; I don’t think it can. A twin lens camera is obviously cheaper than an entire 3D rig but personally I don’t like the way it looks. 3D is all about achieving roundness and achieving a look that takes you into a picture and makes you feel like you are a part of that action. That’s not just about mathematics; it’s about the ‘feel’ and having the experience to know what works. Like a D.O.P will know what lens to use in the 2D world, a stereographer like my business partner Julian will instinctively know the best way to create a certain feeling and roundness from scene to scene and no calculator can tell you that. It’s down to the scope, the style and the flavor of the stereographer.
The twin lens cameras can do a job for a certain situation but only to a certain extent. I would not base my project around that type of camera. The quality is simply not good enough but for certain scenes and certain jobs they are fine. I would never knock twin lens or conversion as they are all tools as far as I’m concerned.
3D Focus: Talking of conversion, do you think ever increasingly sophisticated conversion could be a threat to your business?
Laurent Baldoni: I fully respect that 2D to 3D conversion is getting better and I have seen some very good stuff. Obviously from a personal point of view and being a bit of a purist, I hope it doesn’t replace 3D because I don’t think it can. I don’t think it is in the essence of 3D in terms of the filmmaking process. Obviously in terms of bums on seats, there are going to be loads of converted films released. Having said that, James Cameron showed Titanic 3D which was very good but James Cameron has got all the money and time in the world.
I am not an expert on conversion because we don’t really do that. We have used it on occasion for specific shots so I can’t sit here and say ‘conversion is ridiculous’. I’ve seen Cameron do some amazing stuff and I’ve seen some other stuff that’s very bad but then again I’ve seen stuff that’s shot by a stereographer that’s very bad as well!
3D Focus: Have we reached a point whether there are some clear ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ for filming in 3D?
Laurent Baldoni: A lot of the rules that people impose about shooting in 3D are not always true. Don’t believe everything! Try it yourself. For example, you read that flares don’t work in 3D but I can tell you flares can work. We did a music video and we had these glaring flares and they looked great! Just be wary about all these rules because they are not all true. You need to actually shoot, see and look and if it works it works!
3D Focus: Do you want and expect 3D to become ubiquitous?
Laurent Baldoni: In a purely selfish business kind of way, half joking but half not, of course I would like it to be ubiquitous. Do I expect it to happen? I expect 3D to be popular and to be right up there in the next five years.
I don’t expect 3D to take over 2D nor do I think it should. I think 3D is a style; it’s a format. People still shoot in black and white and that’s a style. What I don’t want is 3D to become a gimmick where people are shooting a completely 2D script and storyboard in 3D – I don’t think it’s being respectful to the format.
FREE WEEKLY 3D NEWS BULLETIN – SUBSCRIBEFollow @3dfocuslive