How to make your own 3D film
It’s true – you can make a 3D film at home with two cameras, a bit of metal and some computer knowhow. Tom Huddleston shows you how to make your own ‘Avatar’ in five easy stages
It’s more ‘Blue Peter’ than ‘Blade Runner’: you’ll need two similar camcorders, a computer, a length of metal, an old washing-up bottle and some sticky-back plastic… Okay, maybe not the last two, but making a 3D film is so simple it’s amazing that everyone isn’t doing it. In advance of Britain’s first 3D film festival – organised by Short & Sweet at the Barbican this Friday evening – I met up with the festival’s technical director, 3D enthusiast Jordan Crute, to learn the basics of home-made stereoscopy…
1 The camerasThe cameras you use can be cheap, they can be old, they can be falling to bits… as long as they have roughly the same specifications, they can shoot 3D. ‘I got started because I realised you could make 3D movies inexpensively,’ enthuses Crute. ‘Video cameras are dropping in price. One of the most appealing things about 3D is that there are different strata of complexity, and the price you pay for equipment varies accordingly.’
2 The rigYour two cameras will be replicating the actions of the human eye, so they’ll need to be spaced roughly that same distance apart, and fixed firmly to a bar so they don’t swing out of synch. Jordan uses an old adjustable flash bar made for a stills camera, but any sturdy, grippable object should work. ‘There are proper 3D slide bars which you can buy,’ Jordan advises. ‘Or you can drill holes in a piece of metal. I just popped into a camera shop to see what they had that I could jerry rig. The flash bar is perfect because it adjusts laterally.’
3 ShootingThere are some rules to keep in mind when shooting 3D. Objects in the middle distance will come out best: once something gets too close to the cameras they’ll lose their synchronised lock and the image will split in two, and objects too far away will look flat. Because the DIY system is intended for use with the old-style red and green glasses, bright colours tend to fade out. ‘My advice is to do a lot of little experiments,’ says Jordan. ‘Every rig is going to be a bit different, so the best thing to do is just go out and experiment.’
4 Post-productionNow the fun part’s over, you’ll need to do the hard work of getting your images to work in 3D: it’s not simply a question of dumping them into a computer and hoping for the best. The most popular software is StereoMovie Maker, a free downloadable programme which combines your left and right camera recordings into a single green-and-red tinted image. You’ll then need to tinker extensively to get the images to line up perfectly. ‘The cameras can be slightly off,’ Jordan admits, ‘and no two cameras will be exactly alike, so you have to clean it up in the software. But the auto functions in StereoMovie Maker do an amazing job.’
5 Showing the worldNow you’ve made your 3D film, what are you going to do with it? YouTube has 3D facilities, so that’s a start. But all over the world 3D societies and festivals, such as this Friday’s event at the Barbican, are springing up. ‘The 3D community is small and active,’ says Jordan. ‘People are always talking online, so you can work out who’s making a film, who’s finished a film, which festivals are looking for stuff. You can post videos, and people will look at them and give you advice.’ There’s even a group called the Stereoscopic Society who meet monthly in London to discuss their adventures in the third dimension. So who needs ‘Avatar’? DIY 3D is the future, and it’s happening right now.
You can view some of the 3D footage Tom filmed here.
Short and Sweet 3D is at the Barbican on Fri July 16.
Author: Tom Huddleston
Director Tom Hooper and his cast tell us how they turned the super-musical into movie blockbuster.
The Time Out film team weighs in on the nominees for the 2013 Academy Awards
Get ready for the big guns… Spielberg, Tarantino and Bigelow
Daniel Craig’s 007 comeback, a genius indie romcom and all the mysteries behind ‘The Shining’ unravelled.
The results of our study on the state of films and filmgoing in 2012.
Read 'Time Out film debate 2012 highlights'
'The Hobbit' actor tells us why he wouldn't have a pint with Bilbo Baggins.
Dave Calhoun speaks to the director of 'Skyfall' about the latest film in the Bond franchise.
The genre-hopping director tells us how he invented a new genre with 'Life of Pi'
The twice Palme d'Or-winning director discusses 'Amour'.
Read our interview with Michael Haneke
The Danish director talks about his powerful new drama 'The Hunt'.
Read our interview with Thomas Vinterberg'
Time Out looks back at the impact of the 'Twilight' saga.
Discover what 'Twilight' has done for us
Time Out heads to the Lake District to visit director Ben Wheatley on set.
Read about our visit to the 'Sightseers' set
The director talks about 'Frankenweenie', which he describes as 'the ultimate memory piece'.
Read our interview with Tim burton
Our pick of the best films showing over the festive period.
Read 'The top ten Christmas films of 2012'
Mean Girls? Dirty Dancing? Tell us your favourite film guilty pleasure.
Read 'Film guilty pleasures'
What will Disney do to 'Star Wars'?
Read about the new 'Star Wars' trilogy
Ten young actors come of age on the silver screen.
Read 'When teen stars turn serious'
From Connery to Craig, we revisit all 22 Bond films.
Read '50 years of James Bond'
The director talks Scientology and working with Joaquin Phoenix.
Read the interview
Ten funny horror movies which went spectacularly off the rails.
Read 'Hilarious horror films'
The director talks psychopaths and theatre – 'my least favourite artform'.
Read the interview
We round-up the five best horror movies of Autumn 2012.
Read about this Autumn's best horror movies
Time Out visits Istanbul to see the latest Bond movie being made.
Read 'On the set of Skyfall'
Does Skyfall refresh or rehash the James Bond franchise?
The British director explains why 'Ginger and Rosa' is her most mainstream film yet.
'I’m almost as in demand as Brad Pitt’