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Film industry gets a whole new dimension

Companies focus on new technology to put better 3-D films in theaters.

July 29, 2009|By Zain Shauk

The latest generation of 3-D technology started out as a gimmicky gamble that others didn’t believe in, but has proven to be the key for some in the entertainment industry as others struggle to battle a dearth of local spending from major motion picture and television studios.

Pace Technologies and 3ality Digital, both based in Burbank, have benefited as industry giants look to make their products more attractive to penny-pinching consumers during the recession.

The companies develop camera rigs and digital production systems that have been used in almost every recent live-action 3-D film and television production.

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“We’re all kind of seeking the same goal, which is a higher level of entertainment so that people will come back and watch,” said Pace owner Vince Pace, who developed the new camera technology in 2001 with the help of director James Cameron.

Standing in front of a camera rig and adjusting the angles of the two lenses used to shoot 3-D images, Pace demonstrated how the advanced systems use computer equipment to converge on images of different distances, functioning like two eyes.

The result is an image that, when viewed with specially polarized 3-D glasses, offers the perception of depth, despite being projected onto a two-dimensional screen, Pace said.

The glasses are polarized so that each eye sees only the image meant for it, he said.

The 3-D footage — from movies like “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” sporting events, professional wrestling matches and music videos — give viewers the perception that they are in the middle of competition or a theatrical event, Pace said.

“When you walk away, you feel like you experienced it,” he said.

That wasn’t always the case with 3-D films, but recent technological advancements have allowed experts to make the experience more real, said Charlie Rose, an instructor specializing in camera technology and operations at the Los Angeles Film Institute.

“This is not Michael Jackson dancing,” said Rose, referring to a popular, but often blurry 3-D short called “Captain EO” that was previously at Disneyland.

New technology has allowed film makers to create and distribute films without fear that reels might become misaligned, ruining the viewing experience, said Philip Lelyveld, a manager for USC’s School of Cinematic Arts’ consumer 3-D experience project.

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