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Flying in Stereo 3D with IRIDAS SpeedGrade DI: Wim Wenders’ ‘Il Volo’

German filmmaker, Wim Wenders, has become renowned worldwide for his distinctive cinematography and earlier this year, he set his sights on elevating the immersive experience of his films by adding a new element; another dimension.

Wenders’ latest creation, “Il Volo” (The Flight), is a 27 minute short film shot in 3D that tells the story of a group of immigrants who arrived on boats at the coast of Calabria. Ben Gazarra stars as the mayor of a Calibrian village who sets out to integrate a group of Kurdish refugees into the dwindling population of his own people. Unlike the fantastical 3D action films of Hollywood today, Wenders set out to create a heightened reality through 3D techniques to create a truly immersive experience for his audiences.

To start, Wenders decided to shoot with two Vipers and two SI-2Ks, which required on-location services for both systems provided by Lilliwood and its Munich-based partner Greenpost.

Thomas Harbers, CEO of Greenpost, provides us an in-depth, unique behind the scenes glimpse of Wenders’ newest 3D masterpiece. What follows are excerpts from our conversation with Thomas, where he describes in detail the challenges on set, and the tools they used to overcome each obstacle as they explored new 3D territory:

We captured the Viper material using SONY SRW-1, and then ingested all material to two uncompressed Quicktime-movies per shot. The SI-2K magazines went straight into our SpeedGrade DI workstation, as SpeedGrade can work with the RAW files natively. Mixing these files with Quicktimes for dailies was a breeze as SpeedGrade can manage any mix of resolutions and practically every format within one project.

Being the DIT on this job, I usually would not care about what I see in the viewfinder; I could always set things clean and just worry about not clipping my highlights. But the DoP wanted to see “natural colors,” even for the preview. So we used SpeedGrade to create some nice .looks for our show that were used from the very beginning to simulate film stock and a basic style.

The challenge, however, was to match the 2 sets of cameras. We created looks to make the SI-2K-material look like the Viper material, and another to make the images on our Hyundai 3D LCD look like the Material from the HDCAM-SR played back on a JVC-Broadcast Monitor.

For prepping the Dailies we always used the same kind of procedure, going through a fixed list of steps:

Step 1: Getting l/r in sync
In theory you should never see any temporal offsets between left and right eye. In practice, SpeedGrade has a simple way of taking care of this task.

Step 2 Colorimetry Matching
No two camera sensors are exactly the same. The same goes for lenses. Even if you use a matched pair, you’ll still have different optical qualities. On top of that, shooting with a mirror rig always presents its own issues. On our P+S rig we had the left eye camera looking through the semitransparent mirror, and the right eye camera facing the mirror.

The differences in colorimetry and the subtle luma differences have to be matched in grading, which is quite easily done in Speedgrade: When you apply a grading to a clip, you can select if you want to have this grading applied to both eyes or only to left or right eye. When you have lenses that differ greatly in vignetting for example, you can even apply a mask to only one eye to straighten that out.

The 2010 release of SpeedGrade which we had available as an early Beta, does the colorimetry matching automatically – with very nice results on almost all kind of shots.

Step 3: Geometry Alignment
With a well calibrated rig, this task shouldn’t consume a lot of time. SpeedGrade 2010 does it automatically, even identifying vertical offset, rotation, focal length issues. As it creates a number readout, you can qualify the amount of trouble you create for further work in post. And you can still manipulate each value as everything is just metadata.

These tasks becomes tricky when you need to animate offset values. The mirror-rig from P+S is built with carbon fibre rods which are quite sturdy, but with one Viper camera weighing 5-7 kilos, those rods will bend. Maybe a small fraction of a degree, but that’s enough to give you a few lines of vertical offset in the distance.

As soon as there is a tilt during the shot, the bending of the rods will change over time, giving you different vertical offsets in the beginning and the end of the shot. With animated key frames in the Stereo Panel in SpeedGrade, this is easy to address.

Step 4: Convergence and Handovers
“Il Volo” was shot converged. Therefore we didn’t touch the convergence slider in SpeedGrade once for the dailies. As we got into post, that changed, of course. We used the animated convergence settings in SpeedGrade to create smooth changes along the Z-axis from shot to shot.

For this part in post, I didn’t even have to leave my office to work with the guys at Lilliwood in Bologna: SpeedGrade has remote review capabilities, and Lilliwood runs their own SpeedGrade DI system. We could run remote sessions to discuss the creative aspect of Depth Grading while I was in Munich and they were in their office in Bologna, changing parameters interactively from both ends.

If you ask me about what was most amazing throughout the eight days of shooting from a technicians perspective, it was working with the two SI-2K cameras. As we moved around a lot, sometimes there wasn’t enough time to get the workstation set up for prepping the material the same day. I used my notebook instead to have a quick look at the SI-2K-material. The notebook GPU does not give you full performance for realtime playback, but checking the stereo setup works great.

SpeedGrade DI 2010 is IRIDAS’ high-performance color grading and film finishing solution that also adds significant Stereo 3D features and new workflow improvements, including IRIDAS’ award-winning, 4th generation Stereo 3D toolset, DualStream NX. SpeedGrade DI supports all industry standard file formats directly, inclusing RAW files from all major digital cinema cameras and without transcoding.

For over a decade, IRIDAS has become world renowned for its innovations in the digital filmmaking industry, redefining the way artists view, manipulate, enhance and produce their digital creations. As the industry’s earliest pioneers of stereoscopic review solutions and real-time color grading and manipulation techniques, IRIDAS taps its legacy of engineering expertise to streamline production and post production workflows, from onset to finishing, and is making stereoscopic moviemaking an everyday reality. For more information, please visit