Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

3D versus 2D/HD: What’s the Impact on Budgets? Part 1 – Field Production

Last April, we asked Hoff Productions to explore 3D production costs:

Hoff Productions is a Real Screen Global 100 producer that has delivered hundreds of programs to leading U.S. channels:

Crime in 3D: A Case Study

We examined a hypothetical ‘Crime’ program

  • It was budgeted in 2D/HD at $325,000
  • We chose that cost level because it is close to the ‘Sweet Spot’ for many U.S. Factual channels

The Hoff team generously shared their analysis of their 3D production process

  • They looked for the line items where 3D makes the greatest cost impact versus 2D/HD budgets
  • Their findings helped you get a handle on evolving 3D processes and costs, and then track them across your own work plans

We recently returned to Hoff, asking:

  • What’s changed in the 3D production process since early 2010?
  • What has been the impact on the budget?

Today: Field Production

  • Next week: Graphics, Post, Deliverables & Wrap up


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Production Assumptions

  • One hour
  • 2D/HD budget: $325,000
  • Genre: Crime
  • CGI title and story elements: 5 minutes
  • Field: 2D/HD: 8-10 days
  • Post:
    • Offline: 2D/HD: 30 days
    • Online: 2D/HD: 5-6 days
  • Upconversion from 2D/HD to 3D: 10 minutes


  • “A 2D/HD crew is composed of a shooter and sound technician, and this project would require 8-10 shooting days
  • “ A 3D crew is composed of:
    • The DP/Shooter who is concerned with composition and camera movement, exposure and focus
    • Digital Imaging Technician /DIT/Engineer: There are enough engineering considerations during a 3D shoot to require engineering support for setup and maintenance of the camera and recorder
      • This position is absolutely required, though some experienced DP’s can work as DIT’s, depending on the project
      •  In our case the DIT makes sure the rig is right, the cameras are properly set up, and the recordings are good
    • The Sound Tech who functions as in a 2D shoot
    • Stereographer/Convergence Adjuster:  A fourth person, a stereographer, is always needed
      • The stereographer also participates in composing shots and camera moves
      • And sits at a monitor to adjust for convergence during the shooting.”
  • “Economies are emerging for some projects:
    • The Engineer may be phased out as Shooters gain expertise, and as cameras become more refined and field tested
    • An experienced Shooter might at some point eliminate the need for a Stereographer/ Convergence Adjuster
    • This will depend, however, on improvements in camera technology
    • The portable 3D cameras that have come to market have been disappointing for broadcast.  But there are many more options either being tested or coming soon
    • The consensus is that the 2-person 3D crew is coming, but the ETA is being deferred.”  
  • “A year ago, we said that 3D requires an extra half-day to double the time spent in the field versus 2D/HD:
    • Under difficult location conditions, Hoff’s experience was that we could only shoot one third as many daily setups in 3D as 2D/HD
    • Last year, we believed that 2.5X the field days for 2D/HD was the minimum required for a 3D program with the same production values as a 2D/HD project with a $325,000 budget.  The 3D budget would account for 20 shooting days
    • A year later, we see improvements due to the improved reliability of cameras, rigs and recording devices
    • We have also learned that preparation is paramount! Scouting is an absolute necessity for 3D
    • We are now experiencing a half as many daily setups in 3D versus 2D/HD.” 
  • “The cost of field crew and equipment was $6,500/day in 2010
    • Our June 2011 estimate is around $7,250.” 
  • Cost Comparison:
    • 2 person 2D/HD crew with equipment: $2-3,000 / day for 8 days: $20,000+/-
    • 3D crew with equipment: $7,250 / day for 16 days: $116,000+/-
  • 3D Premium for Field
    • $96,000 +/ 
    • And that’s a cost reduction of around $14,000 since April 2010


  • Graphics
  • Post: Offline / Online / Upconversion
  • Deliverables
  • Summing Up: What is the 3D Cost premium?



Sunnyside of the Doc
La Rochelle, France
June 21-24
3D Where is the Money?
For a year now, 3D has been on the rise. Initiatives are announced each week.
Is this new format the next El Dorado, despite the heavy technical constraints?  
Between public subsidies, industrial partnerships, TV copros and theatrical releases:
What is the path to successfully finance a 3D project?   
What is the cost premium for 3D vs HD?

Ghislaine Le Rhun-Gautier, head of 3D project, Orange (France)
John Cassy, Director, Sky 3D (UK)
Baptiste Heynemans CNC (NTP) (France)
Laurent Dondey, DP La Géode (France)
Modérateur: Peter Hamilton, DocumentaryTélé

Also: Trends in U.S. Television
What do U.S. broadcasters want? Who is getting the work? And how much do they pay?
Channels want series led by ‘big characters’. Reality keeps on rising. 
There is less demand for individual documentaries and limited series.
Meanwhile, HBO, PBS, OWN and a handful of U.S. channels commission documentaries.
What are their filters? And is the U.S. market open to international coproductions?
Steve Burns, Veteran U.S. programming executive
Peter Hamilton, DocumentaryTélé
Stephen Harris, A&E