With 3D, cinema has changed forever.
Well, not really, but we are seeing a resurgence in 3D feature films and, for the first time, live 3D TV. The difference this time around is that 3D imaging and playback are no longer the preserve of large studios: The ability to capture and view 3D footage has been incorporated into consumer electronics.
Right now, capturing, editing, and creating high-quality 3D footage is still expensive on the whole, but costs are coming down fast. Several consumer-level 3D cameras are on the market, and their presence has driven software companies to create plug-ins and updates for nonlinear editing (NLE) systems.
Shooting 3D video
At the lower end of the market, you now have several options for shooting 3D video. These camcorders retail from $200 up to more than $1000 dollars, and most come with software that allows you to create your 3D film easily. Your options also vary as to whether you want a camcorder mostly designed for shooting 3D footage or a primarily 2D camcorder that allows you to shoot 3D as well.
For example, the Panasonic HDC-SDT750 ($1400) is a full HD consumer camcorder that has a detachable 3D lens, while the Sony Handycam HDR-TD10 ($1500) and JVC GS-TD1 ($1700) both have fixed dual lenses and glasses-free 3D screens. You don't need 3D glasses to see the 3D images while you're filming with the Sony and JVC camcorders, which is a huge bonus.
A popular professional 3D video camera for indie filmmakers at the moment is the Panasonic AG-3DA1. Priced at around $20,000, it certainly isn't the cheapest camera, but the results are impressive. It has two lenses and two sensors, it records in AVCHD at full HD, and it provides a dual HD-SDI output for 3D monitors.
The way cameras handle 3D varies from model to model. Some record a single file that contains the video from each channel, but the file formats differ based on each camcorder. The Panasonic AG-3DA1, in contrast, captures two separate video channels on two separate cards, so when you come to the edit, you bring in two separate channels of video. You can edit this video in any NLE system (such as Avid or Final Cut Pro), but you first need to install plug-ins that will allow you to layer the image and view it in 3D by outputting it to a 3D-capable monitor.
Options for editing 3D video
A popular stand-alone application for professionals is a program called Cineform Neo3D ($3000). The software takes the left and right channels of video information and combines it into one AVI or MOV video file, which makes the dual-channel video compatible with most video-editing programs. Once the conversion is done, you open the file with your NLE suite; active metadata allows for all kinds of adjustments within both channels of video. Cineform Neo3D files work with most popular professional video suites, including After Effects, Avid, Final Cut Pro, Media Composer, Premiere, and Vegas.
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