May 31, 2011

The Opposite of DIY: Michael Bay and James Cameron Talk 3D Production on the $195 Million 'Transformers'

When a director like Michael Bay talks about his $195 million 3D blockbuster to-be (regardless of whether it's any good) Transformers: Dark of the Moon, you might think that very little of it would apply to indie pictures. But in the new era of large sensor digital cameras, the Sony F23 and F35 cameras Bay used are more similar to the new Sony F3 and FS100 than you'd think. When I watched F35 and F3 footage side by side, in fact, the F35 actually lost to the F3 in some tests (notably low-light). The Hollywood Reporter, in its reincarnation as a weekly publication, recently sat down with the duo of blockbuster directors to talk 3D, which, love or hate the technology, is a technology all filmmakers should be aware of -- whether you're indie or Hollywood.

Bay had himself called 3D a "gimmick" in the past but was convinced by James Cameron that the tech was finally to the point where it wouldn't be a hindrance to his shooting style -- yet he still found himself using the notoriously large Sony cameras. With compact cameras like the 5 lb RED EPIC being used on 3D films such as The Hobbit, however, 3D is getting smaller and cheaper by the month. And with films like Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams currently in theaters, 3D isn't just for blockbusters anymore. Here's video of the discussion between the two directors:

Regardless of your budget level, any filmmaker can certainly identify with this quote from Bay:

The first day was wonderful. We were shooting our [scenes on the] moon, and it was beautiful. It really fit very natural how we were shooting, and it was just great to sculpt with space. We got some great shots. I wake up the next morning, and I'm like: "I'm in love with 3D. This is a great experience." And my producer Ian Bryce calls me up. He says, "Mike, bad news. We lost the first day." I said, "What?" And he says, "Yeah, the hard drive is just gone."

Wait, seriously? They weren't making quintuple backups of the footage in real-time on a $195 million shoot? That's kind of shocking... Though I would assume that they revamped their data management for the second day. Read a transcript of the full interview below.

Link: Michael Bay Reveals James Cameron's Secret Role in the Making of 'Transformers' - THR

[via 2-pop]

Your Comment


Thor did better on 2D screens than on 3D screens

on Pirates 4, the difference is huge: on average, each 2D screen had 3 times more people than each 3D screen
(52% of the box office at 33% of the screens, with a 25% lower price, means 60% of the audience in 33% of the screens, means 3x more people per screen)

it seems the honeymoon is over, and now 3D will only work for very special films; maybe transformers 4 is one of them, but if Pirates 4 or Thor were not, anything I make won't be either

that is, until the theaters realize they're not getting back the money they spent on upgrading their screens to 3D, acknowledge the loss, and get rid of the price difference

June 1, 2011 at 1:13AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


it's pretty obvious that movies are for stupid people, movie reviews are for retards, and industry cross sections by a novice is for people with lots of time on their hands.. but.. i will never understand why people take so much meticulous care to espouse their ignorance of basic logic

June 2, 2011 at 2:20PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Anthony Alexander

care to explain what you mean?
as if I was an ignorant fool, please

June 3, 2011 at 1:24AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I'm of the mind that resolution is still king in the marketplace. Give me an 8K transfer projected onto an 80 foot IMAX screen over 3D any day.

June 1, 2011 at 1:40PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Having never worked with 3D, I find what Cameron said to be quite interesting:
"[3D is] just like audio: You can dial it in or dial it down.... If superfast kinetic cutting is the thing you want to be saying at that moment, you just dial back the 3D."
I think movies like Avatar, where 3D is being used to sculpturally immerse the viewer in a space, and is not at the mercy of cheep gimmicks, then you get something very powerful. (like Cave of Forgotten Dreams) I was blown away when Avatar first came out; not because it was a great film, but because the use of 3D space was so damn compelling. I had never been immersed by images in that way before and left wondering if that's how the folks in the Parisian cafe felt watching 'Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat' in 1895.
3D film-making should be approached differently than 2D film-making. I think the stats Samuel pointed out show that we viewers know the difference. It sounds like Michael Bay gets that when he talks about how shooting in 3D forced him to shoot more wide and cut slower. We'll see.... But I get how he would be pumped at the prospect of sculpting space!
Can't wait to see the footage from those base jumpers! Holy crap!

June 1, 2011 at 3:31PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I refuse to believe at this time that the outlandish expense [with FEW exceptions] of money, time, and tech, can justify the use of 3D in the field of video & movie production. It has an overall great loss of depth, detail, and other visual aspects over what we have spent the last twenty to fifty years in perfecting the viewing experience. And it is a gimmick, and an excuse to suck more money out of our audience without real cause.

In the long haul, filmmakers and producers need to remember the golden rule of any performing arts:
~ Just because you can use the new toy, does not mean you have to or should! ~

June 2, 2011 at 5:08PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Jon B

About 18 years ago a movie came out called Jurassic Park. It was a revolutionary film that sparks a new age of cinema. At first when Stephen Spielberg was in preproduction and was considering what type of effects he should use; he thought that using a combination of animatronics and stop motion would be the best way to make his dinosaurs come to life. But when he saw Computer generated animated creatures integrated to film for the first time he was sold on the tech. He knew that it was a risky and expensive move but he could tell at the time that it was the next evolutionary step in film making.
When the movie came out it was met with roaring success and critical praise. However many purists and film snobs lambasted it for being a gimmick or to expensive as a viable film making method. And for a while after Jurassic Park that was true. Most movies that attempted that level computer generated content were gimmicky, ugly, and insulting to the craft of film making.
It took a few years of garbage movies before we started seeing diamonds in the rough like Terminator 2, The Matrix, Apollo 13, Forrest Gump, The Lord of the Rings, 300, Spider-man(All of the Comic book movies that have come out in the last 10 years), and the list goes on. It took serious filmmakers who could see this not as a gimmick or a cheap selling point, but as a new and exciting way to express their imagination. In parallel this is where we are in the present with Digital and 3D technology.
Many of the movies I just mentioned are movies that have inspired some of us (myself included) to pursue the art of film making. And seeing as how many of us on this site see ourselves as aspiring film makers we should embrace this opportunity and dare to dream about what we could achieve with this technology given the proper conditions.
So now almost 20 years later not only has the integration of computer generated content become the norm for many films it has become much more cost effective. At this point a person can create a short or feature film with CG characters and set pieces on a shoe string budget. And given the advent of more education and better lower priced equipment I'm sure it will only be a matter of time until you see 3D films follow suit. And as we step into a new generation of film making (with Avatar leading the way) I'm sure we are going to see a ton of movies that are just awful pandering trash, but in the end we wont remember them. What we will remember will be the beautiful pieces of art and the diamonds in the rough.

June 3, 2011 at 2:51PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Matthew M

CG allowed people to get into their film some stuff that was not possible to get there before (like dinosaurs)
3D is completely different: it is a tool to tell your story from a different point of view

(plus: you got your dates totally wrong there: jurassic park is 1993, terminator 2 is 1991)

June 3, 2011 at 4:14PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I'm sorry I got the date wrong on terminator 2. But to counter your point there was tech that would allow people to get things into their movies like dinosaurs. Movies like star wars, robocop, and blade runner used puppetry, matte painting, and stop motion to make creatures and set pieces long before CG.
The point I was trying to make was that instead of trying to look at 3D like a trend why not look at it exactly the way you put it as a new way to "tell your story from a different point of view."

June 4, 2011 at 7:11AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Matthew M