STEREOKINO AND SCREENLIFE
In order to revive interest in stereokino and to promote the screenlife format in cinema theaters we tried to unite both formats.
To find out how these formats mutually enrich each other, it is necessary to analyze how the key features of stereokino are developing in split-screen form, which is one of the attributes of the screenlife format.
Stereokino (or 3D cinematograph) is one of the oldest cinematic formats, which originated before the colored cinema and is practically the same age as a sound film. In contrast to the color and sound, which are two permanent components of the motion picture, interest in stereokino was periodically reviving and fading, as it does today.
The newest format as screenlife became especially popular in the period of self-isolation of viewers during a pandemic.
In order to revive interest in stereokino and promote the screenlife format to cinema theaters, we combined both of them in a seven-minute video with the meaningful title "The Spell of the Curse". And we got an interesting result.
First of all, it should be noted that we did not use the screenlife in its original form, which is interpreted as a recording from the device screen. At the initial stage of the experiment were taken only its conditional, superficial features, such as a split-screen image, graphical screen icons, and characteristic sounds of switching on and off windows.
More complex features, such as a dynamic cursor, typing text, animation of control buttons, and other graphical attributes of human relationships in the network, were postponed until the next more difficult phase of the experiment. The browser in which the characters communicate is fairly conventional, with minimal graphic information, looks like Skype, but that is not this app.
Now we are going to analyze the significant features of stereokino and how they trend itself in the split screen form of screenlife in order to understand how the formats mutually enrich each other. Split screen, as one of the features of this format, became an incitement to conduct this experiment.
The first feature is the feeling of three-dimensionality of the object image (stereopsis) which is most expressively conveyed at close shooting distances.
The second feature of this experiment is that borders of the three dimensional image in stereokino is materializing into the window behind which the action unfolds. And when the object appears out of the window, it makes a strong emotional impression on the viewer. Therefore, namely the such appears out is often called the stereo effect.
The third, as a consequence of the second feature, is the interactivity of the character's communication directly with the camera which increases the emotionality of the viewer's perception. In addition, the director gets the ability to easily handle the ill-fated “shoulder shot”, so ineffective in stereokino. The listing of these three features trends to the potential of opportunities that allow to mutually enrich stereokino and a new format called by Russian producer and director Timur Bekmambetov “screenlife”.
In Russian stereokino there have been cases of reference to the split-screen form of the stereo image. In the comedy shot in 3D format called "The Best Film in 3D " (directed by Kirill Kuzin, cinematogrepher Ulugbek Khamraev, VFX Supervisor Viktor Lakisov), the first signs of a stereo-screenlife film are to be seen in the scene of remote booking of air tickets and hotels (Photo 1).
However, here is purposed the method of dividing the image into segments of a screen. In our case segments turn into the windows. The split-screen of 3D windows was used in two ways. In editing, these could be equivalent windows with a three-dimensional image (Photo 2), or a picture-in-picture technique was used (Photo 3).
Likewise, a 3D full-screen image was actively used with the inclusion of a window which was simulating display of a planar image (Photo 4). This combination in one screen is mutual enrichment and enhances the perception of images of different formats.
In the future, can be use the "artificial stereo window" technique, which allows to display objects not only out of the window, but also beyond its boundaries. What should we pay attention to when creating a screenlife stereokino?
The number of windows at the same moment being on the screen should correspond to the degree of distinguishability of the three-dimensionality of the images. For films intended for screening at a cinema theater and for those which can be viewed on personal devices, this number is going to be different.
In case we work with the picture-in-picture way, we should be controlled by the parallax of the borders of the integrated window. If the window is to be perceived in the plane of the screen, then parallax should be equal to zero, or not more than the value of the positive parallax which is the most distant point of background of the full screen (Photo 5).
Otherwise, the integrated window will cut through the background with the help of which the viewer perceives it.
The integrated window must be placed on an inactive, neutral part of the composition of the main window so as not to overlap with the character of the main window (Photo 6).
In stereokino if a person or an object is cut off by the frame borders, it does not appear behind the screen surface. The screen surface seems to push the partial person or object inside and limits its ability to appear outside towards the spectator. But there is a technique for overcoming such a squeezing action, when you deliberately retouch the borders of the frame with the light, make the edges of objects darker so that they merge with the borders of the window.
Preferably, that size of a character in a frame and the compositional space in which the character is placed should be the same as in nearby windows located next to each other. This will allow the viewer to watch the scene more comfortably.
It is necessary to create frame mise-en-scenes extended along the optical axis in order to be able to carry out intra-frame editing (Photo 7).
When choosing the angle of view of the lens and the distance to the character, one needs to keep in mind that the perspective distortion of the portrait will be more pronounced in the 3D image than in the usual one.
It is usually brighter outside the window than in front of the window. Therefore, if one wants to emphasize the protrusion of the character's head out of the window, then one needs to darken his protrusion point. But there are exceptions when a character protrudes from the darkness outside the window space into the pre-screen light. In both cases, when creating the effect of object protrusion, one needs to try to have different levels of lighting as much as possible.
What distinguished our filming process from the classic screen-life process, when the actors filmed themselves with a smartphone or literally record video from the monitor? Despite the fact that we had an HTC EVO 3D smartphone at our disposal, which is able to record a video in stereo format and in 720p resolution, we decided to shoot with a Sony HXR-NX3D1P 3D camera (Photo 8), which allowed us to control the stereo parameters.
The operator built the composition of the frame according to the particularities of the compositional constructions in stereokino. Then the monitor was turned towards the actor. In this way an imitation of the character's communication through a personal device took place. An on the raster autostereoscopic camera monitor made it possible to observe a 3D image without glasses. The actor saw himself so to speak in a window and made sure that his head and arms were not cut off the borders of this window. The actor could independently use an intra-frame editing – changing the size of his own, moving away or approaching the window – and experience how much his or her face or hands come forward from the screen to the viewer. Only individual scenes, where the smartphone display appears, were actually filmed on the phone by the actor him- or herself.
Of course, there is no need to talk about any online editing. The footage served only as a preparation for the subsequent editing according to the scenario plan, where the split-screen score was clearly assigned in advance, which was combined with a full-screen image of one of the characters. However, already during the editing period, we decided to insert into such full-screen images not only the display of the smartphone monitor, but also the partner's reduced windows with a three-dimensional image, which looked even more enchanting than the two neighboring windows. The convenience of working with a Sony 3D camera is that the files of the captured scenes appear as a package in which two angles for the left and right eyes are recorded at once. If you load it into a regular editor or player, the image will be played as a flat one corresponding to the left view. Therefore, editing can be done in the "Adobe Premier" editor, as any conventional film is edited, but, of course, one should take into account that the version will be stereoscopic. We prepared a template that imitated a certain conditional browser with the appearance of characters' icons and their names. After the film editing is approved, it is necessary to unpack each file of the filmed scenes in the editor "Sony Vegas" and replace the files of the left view in the duplicated project with the resulting files of the right angle. After this, having placed the project of the left view over the project of the right view in the mixed mode of images of two angles, one needs to analyze their parallaxes and, if necessary, make adjustments in each file by shifting the images of the left view over the right.
From the received projects of two angles in the same editor "Adobe Premier" one pastes a stereopair, which can be played back on devices with 3D mode support (photo 9).
These can be HTC EVO 3D Smartphone, Samsung or Sharp laptops, Acer and Philips monitors, 3D Smart TVs LG, Sony, Philips Samsung. The IVI.RU Internet platform supports broadcasting of content in 3D format. In the same editor, DPX files are rendered to create a 3D DCP 2K package, which will be required for a cinema display. In Russia, 80% of cinemas have the ability to show films in stereo-3D format.
Head of the 3D Digital Department
“Cinema and Photo Research Institute” (NIKFI)
branch office Gorky Film Studio
Department of Film Studies, faculty of screenwriting,
All-Russian State Institute of Cinematography named after S. A. Gerasimov
1) Melkumov A. "3D cinema, theory and practice of stereo production", publisher VGIK (All Russian State Institute of Cinematography) 2013
2) Andreeva M. "New screen civilization called "Screenlife", WTC Magazine (“World of technique of cinema”) ¹ 2, 2020