Not Just Another Concert Movie: The Jonas Brothers Go 3D
Film editor Michael Tronick knows a thing or two about music-inspired films. He began his career as a music editor on films such as All That Jazz and A Chorus Line. Now he has added another dimension to his considerable resume - editing in 3D.
Now he has added another dimension to his considerable resume - 3D. His first 3D stereoscopic feature, 2008’s Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: The Best of Both Worlds Tour, was quickly followed by Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience, which combines 3D concert footage with 2D offstage sequences to give audiences a multi-faceted look at mega-star pop musicians Kevin, Joe, and Nick Jonas.
Avid has created the most seamless and effective 3D workflow I’ve seen.
Getting It Right in 3D
Tronick believes a 3D film’s impact can hinge on finding the right balance between 3D and 2D sequences. “One thing we learned from Hannah Montana was when you watch 3D all of the time you can become immersed in it as a viewer and get sort of used to it,” explains Tronick. “Viewers can get refreshed when they are watching sequences in 2D. So when you use 2D scenes, it makes the 3D scenes that much more effective.”
A sophisticated production setup enabled the filmmakers to re-create the energy, power, and sounds of a live Jonas Brothers concert for 3D audiences. Nine specially equipped HD cameras, including two onstage Steadicams, were used to capture 3D material to portray the intimacy and immediacy of the concert experience, while a combination of standard HD cameras were used to capture material for the 2D behind-the-scenes segments. A VENUE sound production system from Digidesign, a part of Avid, was used during the concerts to mix the music and sounds in the arena. Feeds from the VENUE environment were sent directly to five Pro Tools|HD systems at the concert hall for recording.
After shooting was complete, the post team relied on a complete Avid video, audio, and shared-storage workflow to create final content for digital 3D cinemas and IMAX theaters. The picture editing setup included two Media Composer Nitris DX systems and a Media Composer software-only workstation connected to an 8-terabyte Avid Unity MediaNetwork shared-storage solution. All 2D and 3D media was converted to the Avid DNxHD 36 format and delivered to the cutting room on hard drives, where the editing team cut the film in 2D. With the power of the Media Composer Nitris DX systems, the HD editing process was fast and smooth. “The Avid [systems] could run HD at the same speed as SD with no lag or delay,” says first assistant editor Aaron Brock.
The speed of working in HD was largely due to the efficiency of the Avid DNxHD 36 codec, which combines a small bandwidth rate with impressive visual clarity. This HD storage efficiency was crucial for handling the large volume of dailies that the editing team sorted through and shaped into structured sequences. With 20 songs in the film - and up to 36 camera angles per song - the Multicamera and Group Clipping options were essential. “If we didn’t have group clip, we’d still be cutting,” says Tronick.
Multiple Pro Tools|HD digital audio workstations were also used by supervising sound editor Rob Sephton and his sound team to handle sound and music editing and music mixing. The live recordings from the concert gave the sound team pristine material and complete control in creating a 3D soundscape that makes audience members feel as though they are in the center of a concert venue with all of the audio swirling around them. The easy interoperability between the digital audio and video tools helped the sound team quickly exchange sound files and picture references with the picture editors on an ongoing basis for a streamlined creative collaboration throughout post. “It’s a Pro Tools and Avid world,” says Sephton. “For what we do in a professional feature film environment, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Bringing 3D to the Cutting Room
While the cutting room was able to keep pace with the massive amounts of audio and video media in the 2D offline editing stage, frequent 3D conforms were still necessary for creative review. “We would do an online conform at the end of each rough cut of a song. There were 20 songs in the film, so we were essentially conforming constantly,” says Brock. “It was the only way we could get it done. We needed to see it in 3D sooner rather than later to know what was working.”
Now with the newly announced Media Composer v3.5 software - which offers filmmakers full 3D playback capabilities in the comfort of their own editing suites - this cumbersome and expensive online 3D conform process may be largely a thing of the past. Tronick and Brock saw a demo of this new Avid 3D workflow, projecting material from the Jonas Brothers film directly onto a consumer-quality 50-inch projection television. They were more than impressed with the quality of the images and eager to put the new system to work on their next 3D project.
The Avid direction for 3D is right on target.
“To be able to go into the Avid menu, click stereo, put the glasses on, and watch material in 3D right away would be invaluable,” says Tronick. “To see how the 2D material I am cutting would translate to 3D and be able to show it to the director on the spot and make changes would be so useful. Avid has created the most seamless and effective 3D workflow I’ve seen.”
The cost and time savings would also be considerable. Brock estimates that each online 3D conform currently requires several hours of time and thousands of dollars. “If we could use this new feature, it would save the studio an unbelievable amount of money. Instead of having the Pablo [online system] running for five months straight, we could just conform complete reels for full screenings like on a normal feature. It would be much more efficient than doing conforms on a daily basis,” he says.
Tronick was particularly impressed with Avid’s efforts to develop practical solutions for the growing 3D editing industry. “We were sitting in Burbank [at Avid’s offices] just one year ago and told of the possibility of playing back in the cutting room in 3D. The fact that this 3D capability is here now, just a year later, is amazing,” he says. “The Avid direction for 3D is right on target. Avid has always been able to listen to what is really going on in the cutting room and provide solutions for editors. This is a huge step.”
Photo credits: © Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.