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Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

3D Comes to Dresden: Where to Next?

Two panels on 3D fundamentals and trends were among the highlights of the terrific program at the World Congress of Science and Factual Producers (WCSFP) in Dresden .

  • Following are our session notes and Takeaways
  • And don’t miss our earlier ground-breaking analysis of 3D Budgets from Hoff Productions (SF/NY)

Discovery 3D Channel
Sarah Hume
Vice President of Production Management
Discovery Communications (USA)

Sarah oversees production management systems and standards for all Discovery networks. She is currently involved in setting standards for 3D production.

3D Channel


  • Need 110 hours for launch
  • And 10 fresh hours monthly


  • Acquisition
    • Not much out there
  • Original
    • Discovery is ramping up
  • Versioning
    • Creating 3D versions of programs that are in development


  • Versioning a HD image into 3D
  • Discovery estimates that the acceptable limit is 15% of a 3D program’s total content

Cost Variance

  • Discovery expected +35% production cost premium versus HD
  • Actual cost impact is +65% 
    • Major line item variances are equipment, crew and post
    • But they also extend to items like Transport and Excess Baggage
  • Some high-volume shows may limit the cost variance to +65% versus HD
    • Example: ‘Feeding Time at the Zoo’
  • Pre-planning is the key
    • Discovery is developing workflows to shave costs and speed up the process
    • These learning tools are being shared with long-form non fiction producers to help them create 3D versions
  • Panasonic AG 3DA1
    • “Could not sustain production of an entire show”
    • Needs 3D monitor to see result

Joe Beirne
Postworks (NY)

  • 3D Post cost is 2-3X HD
  • Adds 50% more time to every cut to consider depth of field
  • Most programs are cut ‘single eye’ and miss both problems and potential of 3D media

Tommy Sassenberg
Story House Productions

  • Completing Rise of the Jellyfish
  • Compared three kits: Side-by-Side and Mirror rigs and One-piece camera (Panasonic)

Side-by-Side Rig

  • Bulky
  • Easy to slide camera to chosen interocular distance

‘Mirror’ Rig

  • A monster: 56 KG
    • Hard to control
    • Can’t hide
    • Light complications:
      • Mirror absorbs light, up to 3 F stops
      • And immaculate cleanliness
  • Crew: “blows up field cost to the point where project is not commercially feasible”
    • 3-person crew expands to 10
    • Highly-trained and costly people

Panasonic AG 3DA1

  • 1st portable, one-piece 3D camera to market
  • Affordable
  • Robust and small
  • Takes 30 minutes to set up
  • No close ups
  • Click here for Panasonic website

Anthony Geffen
Atlantic Productions (UK)

  • Atlantic is seeking front-runner advantage in 3D production
  • Producing Flying Monsters with David Attenborough
    • Commissioned by Sky 3D channel
    • Flying Monsters 3D will also be shown in IMAX and at other 3D cinemas
    • Mirror Rig:
      • 12 people to operate
      • Expects to trim crew to 8 in 2011 and 6 in 2012
      • Like a movie, and with comparable costs
      • 45-minutes to change lens

Walter Koehler
Natural History / Universum
ORF Austria

  • ORF produces 12-15 Blue Chip wildlife programs / year
    • Many are copros
  • Tested 3D
  • Editorial challenge:
    • 3D slows down rhythm of production and editing
    • ‘Gets boring’
  • Waiting for costs and risks to come down before committing to a 3D wildlife film

Human Factors
Chris Haws (Washington, DC)

  • Working on ‘Human Factors’ committee of the 3D@Home industry consortium
  • Chris highly recommends for breaking news and background
  • More from Chris Haws in a future post

Takeaways: Keep that Saddle in the Barn

  • In 3+/- hours of presentations, screenings  and discussion, our panel of producers and programmers went from ‘hot to trot’ to barely lukewarm
    • None of the 3D clips blew away the doubters or particularly bolstered the boosters
    • There are huge technical and editorial barriers to creating a satisfying 3D viewing experience for mass audiences
    • Add in the daunting production cost escalator, and 3D looks likely to roll out as a niche product for technical enthusiasts as well as viewers of certain content categories (e.g. Porn)
      • But Porn drove the initial ramp up of the home video market
      • We’ll keep careful track of 3D in future posts and links

Hats Off

  • To the producers/participants of “3D on Trial” for the most hilarious yet informative panel in memory


  1. I had to laugh when I saw this session on the schedule for the WCSFP. Four years ago in Manchester there was a very similar session called “HD in the Doc” in which HD was put on trial and found too costly, too cumbersome, and a whim of the broadcasters.

    And now look where we are. Would anyone seriously consider NOT shooting their project in HD at this point? Of course not.

    Producers are not in control when it comes to delivery standards so why fight it. Embrace the new technology and get on with it.

    Derek Anderson

  2. There’s a difference between HD uptake and 3D. Four years ago, HD was a much more finished technology. So much so that I was producing a 10-part 1080p series at the time. And it’s only now that we have any kind of HD saturation in the home. So let’s suppose a 10-year cycle is about normal for uptake of a new format. 3D has a way to go before reaching that level of maturity. 3D production is undeniably fiddly, slow and crew-heavy and is therefore currently unsuited to doc production apart from anything that can be staged (eg presenter-led history). Let Discovery and friends work out some sensible workflows, and all being well the technology will converge with that, and we’ll get something that is as flexible as we need for our day-to-day work.

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