Five Useful Tips For 3D Motion Picture Makers

First, to be honest I’ve given a lot of thought to giving up my multi perspective work for two perspective cinematography. Schlepping around a dozen or more cameras does get tiresome at times and the thought of only two… Naw, on second thought multi perspective is in my blood. But a little two camera work here and there makes for a nice diversion!

For those of you making 3D motion pictures, I have five tips for you to think about.

Tip One
Eye tracking research shows that for any given scene, your audience has a lot more to look at and notice in 3D than they do with 2D. Especially when you have a larger depth of field people scan the background looking for things. Camera movement will emphasize objects behind the main object of interest especially if they have some amount of dimensionality like cars or boxes or people. Therefore, don’t be in a hurry. Linger about three times longer for a given scene than you would when shooting 2D. Your audience will appreciate it. Fast cuts are very disconcerting for 3D audiences. It is like yanking away a toy from a child before they are done looking at it. It doesn’t make them happy!

Tip Two
Don’t shake the camera. Spatial reality is MUCH stronger with 3D than with 2D and if your visual world is shaking and your body (specifically your inner ear) isn’t, then your audience will get queasy and might even puke! Forget about those Star Trek scenes with camera shake in 3D — unless you really WANT to make your audience sick. If you MUST shake the camera, make it very quick and follow up with a scene with ZERO camera movement.

Tip Three
Glide the camera left to right if the shot goes from a higher perspective to a lower perspective and glide the camera right to left if shooting from a lower perspective to a higher perspective.  The brain responds better to clockwise motions, especially in 3D. A gliding motion adds motion parallax cues that heighten the 3D experience and help to offset conflicting 3D cues such as accommodation/vergence decoupling. (Don’t believe me? Ask any neuroscientist.)

Tip Four
Avoid crushed blacks and blown out whites. While artistic and cool when used for 2D work, you end up creating false context for 3D imagery. In the real world, our pupils change size to accommodate luminance changes. We don’t normally see crushed blacks or blown out whites and it wrecks havoc with maintaining binocular disparity and good vision fusion. It can be a great effect for 2D but it is not so great for 3D.

Tip Five
Keep your lenses CLEAN! Dust or moisture on one lens and not on the other lens or Dust on both lenses creates false binocular rivalry. This is a terrible thing to deal with in post and can ruin the whole shoot!  Have OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) when it comes to keeping your lenses in pristine condition. At times, the effect can go unnoticed initially. It is a danger that lurks in the shadows that can bite you in the rear end with a vengeance!

If you like these tips, or if you don’t like these tips, let me know! I’d love to hear from you in the comments.



Filed under 3D, binocular rivalry

8 responses to “Five Useful Tips For 3D Motion Picture Makers





  2. Cheval

    I find your tips pertinent. But regarding Tip 1, I’d say, better not make it absolute. It is valid for scenes with slow camera motion. But for relatively fast scenes, the viewer may not even have time to scrutinize around. So the rule may be loosened. All this is from my paper research; I have no field experience. Correct me if I am wrong. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

    • No rule is absolute. Most rules are meant to be broken – but are only successful if the person breaking the rule knows more than the rule-maker. My advice is to simply be sure you know more than the rule-maker and you’ll be fine ;^)

  3. John Lewis

    Some very useful info for filmmakers. I’m creating a cg stereoscopic film and I’m happy to see this info presented clearly and concisely. Thanks!

  4. Thanks for the tips! I’m just starting to experiment with GoPro’s 3D rig. The first problem I have noticed is that with a consumer camera like this is that you risk having Left and Right images having drastically different color balance. Because the camera has no manual adjustments you may have a lighting condition that causes one camera to auto adjust differently. I’ve noticed that it doesn’t destroy the stereoscopic effect but I can’t see it helping. Here’s my first clip in anaglyph shot outdoors/under water.

    I don’t own any 3D displays so I am stuck with the old Red/Blue anaglyph. Follow the YouTube link on that video to use YouTube’s 3D player which will allow you to display multiple formats, including a Red/Blue that is much better in quality since it is rendered on the fly.

    • Sorry, but I don’t do anaglyph – it is a format that should never have been invented in my humble opinion. I looked at your clip on YouTube with the cross-eye option and the views were wrong and I had to swap for correct stereo pair. — You are worried about color balance and your format is anaglyph? That actually caused me to chuckle. There are books that have been written about color balance and brain interpretation of color that go way above my pay grade. But it is important. Given that the color is compressed separately by each camera (and bet your bottom dollar color is one of the first things to go out the window in compressed video streams) you are guaranteed to have color issues. After Effects is really a good tool along with colorista to correct things (which you should do). Under water shots are interesting, but distortions are highly amplified and can be problematic. I’m not sure if that subject matter would be my first choice – but to each his own and I applaud experimentation!

      As to displays… just get two identical monitors and two first surface mirrors. Face each monitor towards themselves and place the mirrors in a V in the middle. Then look into the mirrors and align the two monitors. This works extremely well and if you already have two identical monitors is quite cheap. It even works with two similar monitors of the same size, just not as well and you need to mask the bezel of each monitor.

      Or, do as I do and simply learn how to view side by side monitors with crossed eyes. see: for instructions on how to do it.

      Keep experimenting!!! The best way to learn.

  5. Pingback: More on 3D Vision from Dr. Jim Sheedy and Maino’s Memos « The VisionHelp Blog

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