Tom Gifford’s YouTube channel has just pushed past 40 million views proving that extreme 3D has massive appeal.
After suffering a freak tractor accident back in 2003 when a tree fell on him, Michigan based Tom Gifford was required to wear a supporting back brace for an entire summer. Not being very mobile meant he had a lot of time on his hands and decided to teach himself videography and photography. He now earns an income running the most popular 3D video channel on YouTube. If you have ever typed ‘3D’ into YouTube, you have probably watched one of Tom’s videos.
“People just want something that’s really quick and looks good in 3D. My videos are kind of like watching the best part of a 3D movie, that’s why I get all the views”. he says.
Tom's 2D to 3D conversion work
Tom tells 3D Focus that he is earning an income from his 3D YouTube videos which break every 3D rule in the book. Avoid negative parallax – broken. Be subtle with 3D – broken. Don’t use 3D for the sake of it – broken.
Tom’s videos feature a lot of dangerous looking objects being poked out of the screen, – a throwback to the fun 3D of the 1950’s or those 3D ‘Cinema 2000’ attractions at theme parks of the 80’s.
Tom’s videos are so extreme I sometimes get a physical numbness in-between my eyes when watching them. You will do well to cope with a few minutes but people keep coming back for more, defying every single critic of 3D who says “gimmicky 3D is not sustainable”.
Before YouTube launched a 3D tag in 2010, Tom would post his videos as red/cyan anaglyph sequences so they could be viewed on any device but the tag means his content can be watched in better quality on Smart TVs and glasses free devices like the LG Optimus. In fact, according to Tom, sales people have used his videos to showcase the 3D functionality of TVs and phones.
“People have messaged me saying the salesman at smart phone stores were using my videos to sell the HTC EVO 3D” he says.
He shares a message he received on Facebook: ''Ha yes it is very amazing in the LG LED 3D TV. In fact the salesman used your video to demonstrate the TV to me. The poking objects are very very close to our eyes. And those poking objects will magically follow us wherever we stand in front TV. This will definitely be the number one entertainment for my house guests for now! Thanks.''
Much of Tom’s production equipment is home-made, including his first 3D ‘rig’ which was constructed from a cereal box (pictured). His latest rig is more sophisticated, and therefore cost him an entire £40.
“I use two Sony HD Handycam cameras and I made a rig for it. I have got it down to where I fix the cameras to it and I will only need to make minor adjustments where it’s like a couple of pixels out. It usually costs thousands of dollars just to get a beamsplitter rig which doesn’t even include the cameras so but I made this whole set up for under $60.”
Whilst his short YouTube videos won’t win any awards for ‘Best Screenplay’, his refreshing fun, non-pretentious honest approach to 3D has not only entertained 40 million people worldwide, they caught the attention of Universal Studios. Last November, the studio giant asked Tom to produce a short 3D film to promote the release of Jurassic Park 3D, starring his cats Tony and Sheba.
“About a month before they released it they gave me the storyboard and went through the process to make it. It is definitely very different to my other videos and it really turned out good. It was a really fun project to do and was completed within three weeks because it was very short notice.”
Recently Gifford launched a 3D ASMR channel. For those of you who are not familiar with ASMR, it stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response and is a YouTube sensation. Hundreds if not thousands of ‘ASMRtists’ are inducing ‘chills’ by speaking or acting in certain very deliberate ways. You may have experienced this yourself, getting a tingling sensation in the back of your head when watching someone turn the pages of a newspaper. Increasingly ASMR video makers such as GentleWhispering use binaural microphones to enhance the ‘tingles’ or ‘chills’ felt by people watching them, as the audio moves around one’s head.
Tom’s ASMR ‘triggers’ are audio only rather than visual role-plays. Tom hopes natural sounds recorded by his 3D microphone (which he made himself of course!) on his second channel will offer the same effect as ASMR.
“I like the idea of just sound where you are figuring out what is happening around. I think that is a neat concept. I used to make 3D sound videos a lot but then I discovered they could be called ASMR. I always like making them because it sounds so real and if you apply it to a video it makes the video seem even more real."
Tom is also investigating the idea of making 4K content and has discovered a way of produce quasi 4K 3D content involving the hacking of his Panasonic cameras.
“I will release a 4K 3D video. It will just be in anaglyph 3D because YouTube does not support 3D 4K. My cameras are Panasonic GH2’s. They don’t take good photos but after hacking they beat the Canon Mark 3 and the RED EPIC for video although the EPIC has many more settings and slow motion features. But side by side, the GH2 is sharper and less noisy at high ISO.”
He continued: “They are normal cameras but they only film in 1080p but when you hack into the settings you can up the quality to 150mbs. It’s not 4K but it’s such high quality you can actually up-convert it to 4K. It almost looks like it was filmed in 4K because you can zoom in 400% there is zero grain. It’s really crisp and clear. I want to upload 4K but not many people have 4K screens and there is not much demand for it.”
Tom's most popular 3D YouTube video
So what’s the secret to Tom’s success and does he feel under pressure to think of fresh content for his thousands of subscribers?
“Sometimes I found it challenging to keep thinking of new videos to do but I really want to get into effects using tools like 3D Studio Max to create things you don’t see in real life.”
Tom’s videos could be dismissed as gimmicky, shallow and using 3D for the sake of it and that is absolutely what they are. In the same way Spiders 3D and King Kong 360 use 3D to entertain, amuse and shock for a short period of time.
Tom has always believed that 3D should be pushed to the max and Hollywood is now starting to catch up, moving away from the post Avatar conservative 3D, maybe not as extreme as Tom’s videos, but they certainly contain more 'thrill ride' moments to justify the 3D ticket premium. I own a 3D TV and when any guests ask to see some 3D clips, I chose to show a few extreme 3D moments from Final Destination 5 and Piranha 3DD, otherwise I always get the comment, "I want to see things coming out of the screen!"
People love it and it is for that reason that Tom’s videos have proven to be so popular.
Looking to the future Tom says he would like to be a Stereographer for TV shows or for movies. He has also been doing conversion for 3DTV.com but right now he is happy with his YouTube channel saying it is ‘pretty close to his dream job’.
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