3D has mainly been the reserve of big budget film and live events but comedy duo David Beeler and Tom Konkle aim to reverse that with their award winning show Safety Geeks 3D, voted Best 3D Television Comedy at the 3D Film Festival in Los Angeles earlier this year.
Chronicling the heroic adventures of an 'elite' band of safety experts – in 3D – the series has received some notoriety in the comedy sphere, both as an episodic adventure and one of the first feature length 3D comedy productions intended for intelligent audiences (Silly comedy for intelligent people is the moto!)
After eight months of hard graft, online stars and creators David Beeler and Tom Konkle have released the feature length version of Safety Geeks: SVI 3D on 3D Blu-ray through distributors Yabazam as well as on the online Yabazam 3D store.
Through producing Safety Geeks, Tom and Dave created Lumen Actus, a full service production company that offers VFX consultation. They offer a turnkey solution for productions to integrate visual FX and 3D work from inception to pre-viz, on-set advice and post production. They use proprietary software developed for their productions to offer 2D to 3D conversion for studios including, recently, Paramount and Fremantle. It's also a full 3D production company, completing Safety Geeks : SVI 3D and is raising finance for the forthcoming release Rescue U, to be shot in native stereo 3D.
DAVE BEELER AND TOM KONKLE
Dave still has a following in the UK after training as an actor in London and living and working there for ten years. His British accent on Safety Geeks still fools many observers. Tom had moved to L.A in 1998 after working as an actor and performed graduate work as a Director for UCLA, after struggling towards getting a feature together in the early 90s. Tom decided to go back into acting full time and it wasn't until getting together with Dave in 1999 that he put his aspirations to write and direct back on centre stage. With what Tom calls a "refreshing lack of flakiness" the two joined forces to produce comedy for the stage, before eventually taking it to screen.
3D Focus: What was your reason for transforming Safety Geeks to 3D?
TOM: The genesis of it was that we wanted to do an Adult Swim or Family Guy type of show. The reason Safety Geeks is now a 3D show, is every single shot in the show is composited – over 3700 composites in fact and so, by its nature, it's already in levels. It was shot in levels so we were able to find a distributor who was able to cover the negative costs of a 2D show and that company was called Koldcast. They wanted 11 mini episodes that we could rejoin into one master episode. That was our plan because Dave and I had written it as an hour long television show. In a way it was 2.5D already because we were building 3D backgrounds and compositing in 3D.
DAVE: That's right. We saw a demo on a 3D laptop from someone at Digital Dynamic Depth (DDD) which had an arm called Yabazam. This guy was walking around with a laptop and he said "oh, you've got to look at this new laptop". As we were watching this demo I leaned over to Tom and said "could you imagine Safety Geeks in 3D?" and he said "that would be cool". As we left we met the gentlemen who owned the laptop who was the head of the distribution arm of DDD. We were introduced as guys making content and doing funny stuff and we asked if he would ever be interested in comedy in 3D. He was very keen. Two days later we're sitting in his office in Santa Monica. That's what led it – a chance meeting. And at that time we later found out there was no one else distributing comedy in 3D in the way that we were doing it online.
TOM:That's the genesis of Lumen Actus in that it's not a conversion show. There is no rotoscoping involved and we did re-photograph it in the virtual studio. We came up with a process that made the original green screen plates into dimensionalised, virtualised versions of what we shot. We then completely rebuilt and remastered the show from scratch, shot by shot, creating 3D by separation, volume and the convergence that we needed. We did the show shooting with up to 6 virtual cameras at a time, so it became a 3D show and I think it's unique because any other show where you are on a proper set you would have been doing the traditional 2D to 3D conversion – this was a layered show anyway. It was a very difficult task but certainly a shorter distance in terms of results as all the elements are in a separate plane as in native 3D.
3D Focus: What does 3D bring to the comedy genre?
DAVE: 3D is a tool like music, colour and pacing. So bringing in another tool, the Z axis, literally gives you another dimension to play with. And because comedy, especially physical comedy, is all about spacial relationships we're really excited to explore that with 3D. We did it to a great degree with Safety Geeks. But moving forward we're raising the money to shoot a feature film that we want to get started this summer called RESCUE U which will be shot in native 3D. The concept of playing with some of the slapstick elements that will be in this film such as some chase sequences, are very exciting. I did this thing with the academy last week and people were talking about it being a new language that people are beginning to explore and build a vocabulary around it. So for us, with that idea in mind, we're able to ask what we could do with this new tool. How can we help create part of the language of 3D as it applies to comedy? We think that's a really interesting and exciting thing to be playing with in these early days of 3D. Again, 3D has been around forever, but this new iteration of digital technology makes it work in a way that it didn't before.
TOM: As one of the creators of the show I actually prefer the 3D version, in fact I cannot watch the 2D version. I went out and bought a 3D laptop so I could actually just watch it in 3D. And I think in this case it makes it the other-worldly show I always wished it had been – if that makes any sense. In 2D it has very flat backgrounds. Until it gets to 3D you really don't feel like you're looking through this window at this strange world where the characters are mad and the physics is crazy; adding that 3D gives it the surreal Gilliam-esque quality that we wanted but could only achieve to a certain degree by composting. I actually prefer the 3D version of it and I think there is something to be said for comedy that immerses you in it in the same way that black and white made me feel like I was looking in a dream world and it separates you a little bit. This world draws you in, in the way that the impact of a head butt or seeing someone go around a corner in Safety Geeks to me, is much more interesting to watch in this 3D medium than it would be as a standard 2D show.
A 2D show can be a bit flat when you're doing green screening or compositing but this, the dimensionalised quality of it, has depth and it feels like you're in that warehouse, destroying things a lot more than the original two dimensional delivery of the show.
To me there's no such thing as a 3D script. It's quite unnatural to ask if something should be done in 3D. It is like asking if something should be in colour. So yeah, it's going to be in 3D and certainly the more we get to play I want to up my game as a director and figure out ways to do things. Like there were tricks in Bloodville where they were up on stage trying to figure out ways of thumping someone on the head and utterly convincing you it was real. It would be fun to get back to staging scenes instead of relying on quick cuts. It would be fun to stage scenes where you create comedy using the movements of the character and find ways to change comedy around the 3D and make it immediate, like watching a live show.
When Dave and I would do our slow motion slapstick it would get huge laughs because people were watching the magic trick live. I think if it's good 3D then it's a fun way of watching it. I've fallen in love with the 3D version and now I feel like there's something missing when I watch the 2D version.
THE OFFICIAL SAFETY GEEKS: SVI 3D TRAILER
Select your preferred 3D viewing option from the 3D icon. You might need to select "swap left and right" to view it correctly.
Safety Geeks: SVI Season One 3D is available now from Yazabam
You can read an exclusive interview with Jay Wiskerchen, Content Manager of DDD, the company behind Yazabam, here.
For lots more information about Safety Geeks: SVI 3D and Dave and Tom's other projects such as Invention With Brian Forbes and Archaeology of Comedy, visit their official website.
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