Exclusive: The challenge of shooting Spiders 3D

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Spiders 3D Stereoscopic Supervisor Phil Brown talks about delivering a quality 3D movie within 3.5 weeks and why the award winning horror is so unique.

review dividing line Exclusive: The challenge of shooting Spiders 3D

Spiders 3D is an upcoming 3D thriller film directed by Tibor Takacs. Produced by Nu Image, who’s label Millennium Films is also responsible for the upcoming horror Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D, the synopsis of Spiders 3D sounds like it could read from a B movie horror poster of the 1950s…

Following the crash of a derelict Soviet space station into a Manhattan subway tunnel, a new species of spider is discovered in the wreckage. But when the spiders mutate to gigantic proportions, an average NYC subway worker (Patrick Muldoon) is forced to step up in order to save his family and all of New York from the destructive giant spiders wreaking havoc throughout the city".

Spiders 3D Large Poster 475x701 Exclusive: The challenge of shooting Spiders 3D

Please note: Most of the Spiders 3D stills published here are from Bloody-Disgusting.com – a horror movie website.

JUST IN! – FIRST SPIDERS 3D TRAILER!

Spiders3DTrailer from Heather Wixson on Vimeo.

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Spiders 3D stars Patrick Muldoon, Christa Campbell (a producer on Texas), Jon Mack, William Hope and Sydney Sweeney. The film won both Best Native 3D Feature Film (non-animated), and Best Director, Tibor Takacs for this spider flick at the 3D Film Festival in LA last week. The feedback has so far been very good.

Filming began in November 2010 and the crew had to deliver a quality 3D movie featuring lots of action within a very tight schedule – a challenge for even a 2D movie.

The whole movie was shot at the Nu Boyana Studios in Bulgaria (as with several other Nu Image films) with some scenes filmed outside the studio in the underground system and Business area of Sofia. Filming in Bulgaria offers massively reduced production costs and tax rates, as well as pre-built city sets including New York City.

Phil Brown (also known as 3D Phil) was the Post Production Stereoscopic Supervisor and Stereographer on Spiders 3D. A 3D veteran having worked with the third dimension for over 25 years, his work includes theme park films, specialist animation projects, exhibition visitor centres and of course feature films.

Phil Brown speaks to 3D Focus in this exclusive interview…

Phil Brown Exclusive: The challenge of shooting Spiders 3D

3D Focus: Spiders 3D sounds very gimmicky. Is it?

Phil Brown: I think the film certainly harks back to the monster movies of the 1950’s. Some of Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion monster movies come to mind. It was a very exciting film to be involved with and you can expect a lot of fun.

3D Focus: Is there anything unique about Spiders 3D?

Phil Brown: Spiders 3D is going to be a feel good 3D movie. We have worked very hard to do it in a different style with lots of camera movement.

One of the main things the Director said to me right from the start was that he wanted the camera to be constantly moving, with quite long continuous shots where the camera starts at the end of a city street full of military personnel, moving through crowds and ending up on two actors doing a dialogue. One of the skillsets of a Stereographer is he must understand about movement. You don’t want edge discrepancies so we were constantly changing the IO and convergence settings within the take, up to seven or eight times as we were moving. We really had to be on the ball.

The whole film has a fabulous sense of movement and I think people will enjoy that. There is nothing really flat in there like Tron for instance. Most of the 3D is very enjoyable to look at and there’s quite a bit of out-of-the-screen stuff like giant spider claws!

Spiders 3D Screenshot 475x266 Exclusive: The challenge of shooting Spiders 3D

3D Focus: You mentioned “Tron” there. Many people commented that the movie was a wasted opportunity. Would you agree?

Phil Brown: Tron was a massive disappointment and I found out later to my horror that the producers had a chat with the DOP on that movie and that he felt they could do it without a Stereographer – that is exactly the result of what happens when you don’t get one involved. There almost needs to be a marriage between the Director and DOP because if they are not on-board to create a good 3D movie, you’ve had it. Fortunately on “Spiders 3D” both Tibor Takacs and Lorenzo Senatore (the DOP) were really knowledgeable. They fired a number of 3D questions at me before I was booked to make sure I knew what I was doing. This was great for me, not only because it was confirmation that they were enthusiastic but also it meant they knew quite a bit about 3D. Therefore for me, I felt a good 3D movie could be produced

3D Focus: Was it a difficult shoot?

Phil Brown: On a film I did in 2009 called “Eldorado” we used a PS Technics rig. It was massive and one of the first rigs in the UK at the time. When we started “Spiders 3D” in November 2010, PS Technics had released the Freestyler rig which we used with two Silicon Imaging 2K cameras. This was a lot smaller and lightweight and exactly what was required for the film. We only received it two days before we started the shoot!

Scott Connelly was the rig technician and he did a fantastic job in setting up the cameras very accurately. Between us we managed to get great footage and this was then sent straight over to America. They were blown away by the accuracy and quality of the 3D. In fact, I would say 99.9% of shots were almost good to go without post production to fix alignments or other errors. We put the Freestyler on all sorts of rigs and dollies, a Steadicam, and a Technocrane and it worked beautifully. The Steadicam work was arduous for Lorenzo because, although it was quite small, it was still heavy.

Another challenge was having to imagine where the CGI elements would be, working out the best camera moves to make the shot 3D effective, how much empty space to allow for the creatures to be realistically placed and consideration of perspective and camera placement so that the final comp looks like a solid and realistic 3D shot.

Spiders 3D Still 475x267 Exclusive: The challenge of shooting Spiders 3D

Getting the effects house up to speed on rendering the stereo compositions correctly for 3D was challenging at times. I did all the supervising remotely from the UK, apart from two weeks in LA for final alignments. There are quite a few shots of spiders attacking humans and so getting the interaction of the CGI spiders around the real humans to look stereoscopically perfect was sometimes hard work.

3D Focus: What was your shooting schedule?

Phil Brown: The filming duration was 3.5 weeks. I personally didn’t think it was possible, but the planning and organisation was extreme and everything worked out like clockwork. The animation and post took many extra months of hard work. The first two days were a bit slow as they always are on 3D movies as we get up to speed. It was a bit frightening coming onto the show from the beginning with new equipment and only having two days to prep when normally we would have seven. However, after the first two days, we were averaging about 36 set ups a day.

3D Focus: Can audiences expect some extreme 3D sequences?

Phil Brown: I wouldn’t say “Spiders 3D” is an extreme 3D film. It’s a correctly composed and managed 3D movie. Where the effects have to be extreme they are done in a proper way using the correct lenses and optimum interoculcar and convergence settings.

Spiders 3D Still From Bloody Discusting 475x267 Exclusive: The challenge of shooting Spiders 3D

3D Focus: Would it not have been more practical to post-convert Spiders to 3D?

Phil Brown: As far as the conversion of 3D films, I think there is a real need for it, especially for the classics like “Titanic”, which could not have been filmed originally in 3D at that time. I think “Titanic” is a really great conversion;  it is a shame that a lot of the converted films aren’t up to that mark. Of course it costs a lot of money to do a good conversion but I am against producers shooting in 2D and converting it to 3D, spending months paying a team to rotoscope it when it can all be done mostly live with a three man crew and it’s all done by the time the shoot is finished.

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Obviously you have to consider the special effects but as a Stereoscopic Supervisor I had to be in close contact with the animation and effects house on “Spiders 3D” I do feel producers are wrongly influenced by the perceived post production difficulty (to combine scenes of live action with CG elements to 3D) but of course it’s not a difficulty at all if you know what you are doing! The effects house will now benefit from the experience of working on this movie and hopefully it will help them in their future 3D projects.

3D Focus: Will Spiders be watchable in 2D?

Phil Brown: The way I do my 3D means it is never going to be obvious in 2D film that a shot was a 3D gimmick because I do it in a comfortable, stylish way. I would be very disappointed if anybody went to see Spiders in 2D because my crew and I worked very hard on the 3D, after all it was planned as a 3D film and has 3D in the title so it should be seen in 3D.

I had an assistant Stereographer called James MacDonald who did some sterling work on it and Scott Connelly the rig technician was just genius. All three of us worked very hard to get the best 3D – the most comfortable with no nausea to make it as exciting as we could within the time budget that we had. Of course there were lots of things I would love to have done but the time was against us but I’m still very proud of the work we did on spiders 3D. It’s going to be an excellent 3D movie and I’m sure everybody will enjoy it at the cinema.

I think Spiders will be a fun film to watch in 3D, I hope that the way we have shot the film in 3D is good to look at, interesting and engaging, out of the screen effects are in there but hopefully done in a stylish way, so it should play Ok in 2D, But I will be very sad if anyone chooses the 2D version over the 3D as my team and I worked incredibly hard to bring you a 3D film that is quite a bit different than what you have seen before.

3D Focus: With 3D falling out of favour with family audiences, do you expect “Spiders 3D” marks a return to the shock era of 1980’s 3D that uses the format in a more honest way rather than as ‘storytelling tool’?

Phil Brown: I don’t think 3D should be limited to horror films and monster action type films. In fact, as far as action films go, I would have to be very careful in terms of the speed of action and pace of editing as this can be a problem with 3D. Some of the best 3D films I have seen were some of the old 1950s films. One was called “Kiss Me Kate” which was a musical and some of that was outstanding. A lot of 3D design went into that movie – lots of forced perspective such as stripes on floors for the staged dance routines which added to the 3D effect. I saw it at the BFI in London some years ago and it was probably one of the best experiences I have ever had in 3D.

Hitchcock’s  “Dial M For Murder” was a very effective 3D film which was mostly shot in one room. It will be released on 3D Blu-ray soon and thank goodness they are bringing these 3D classics back. Some were bad but most of them were very good. For some unknown reason they got it pretty much perfect considering the bulky equipment they were using without the benefit of modern digital 3D. How they did it, is a mystery to me.

There are gory moments in “Spiders 3D” so it will be of great interest to me if it will get an 18 certificate or something less, but it is a fun film and I hope you will go and see it.

For more information about Phil Brown you can visit his website or YouTube page.

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