In 2010, my husband The Gorilla directed and produced his third movie, his first in 3D, and the third installment of a franchise he created. That year, it broke the box office record for a fall movie opening (but lost the title in 2011).
This week we got to chatting about 3D movies and while film makers keep doing them. I also asked his executive producer to fill in some of the financial details.
HH: 3D has had quite a resurgence in the last few years. Why did you choose to do your last movie in 3D?
Because it was our third movie and you have to do your third movie in 3D. It’s a rule. But it was also a way to make our movie an event, add a new dimension and twist to it.
HH: How do you even make a movie 3D?
There are two ways to do it: either shoot it in 3D (using special cameras) or shoot it in 2D (regular) and then convert it. We shot our movie in 3D, but it’s done both ways.
We used two types of 3D cameras. One was a hand-held custom built rig and the other was a mounted rig that was too big to hold. We wanted the hand-held for our style of movie.
Each 3D camera is really two cameras. One is representing your left eye and one is representing your right eye. The average human eye is 2.5 inches apart pupil to pupil. So the camera lenses had to be 2.5 inches apart. The hand-held rigs had two smaller cameras on each rig. It looked like two flashlights. The mounted camera used a beam splitter. Since the camera was so much bigger, you couldn’t have the lenses 2.5 inches apart because the lenses themselves were too big. One camera shoots down into a angled mirror which allows you to cheat it.
HH: So did you have to have special camera men for this or can anyone do it?
Each camera had a stereographer attached. A sterographer is someone who is very trained - a specialist - and his job is to adjust the 3D for every shot. But then there was also a cameraman. Any cameraman could shoot because it shot like a regular camera, but you would have to have the stereographer there. We used our regular cameramen to shoot the movie.
HH: What’s the difference between shooting it in 3D vs. converting it?
Well, converting it is more expensive.
I think shot 3D looks better. Originally we were going to convert because that was a safer route for us, we didn’t want to change our film making process. But then we did some tests and we found the right 3D crew and it just looked so good.
HH: So 3D films are more expensive to make?
They are more expensive, but not across the board. You don’t pay an actor more to act in a 3D movie, for example. So some costs stay the same. But others go up, like equipment and added crew. The 3rd movie in our franchise cost about 15% more to do in 3D than it would have otherwise.
HH: And what about the theaters? How have they dealt with the influx of 3D movies?
Theaters had to upgrade in order to show 3D movies, which is why a 3D ticket costs more than a normal theater ticket. The glasses are part of that up cost. But there still aren’t a whole ton of 3D-capable movie theaters. If they didn’t upgrade before the economy tanked, they’re not going to upgrade now.
HH: Do you feel like it was worth it for your movie? Did it bring more people to the theater? Did it add to film?
For us, we were a natural to go 3D. People wanted to see the spectacle of what we did. Not all movies are right for 3D. Like there’s no reason to shoot a romantic comedy in 3D.
HH: What’s your favorite 3D shot in your movie?
We had a custom-built 3D phantom camera. A phantom camera shoots 1,000 frames a second, it’s super slow motion. Those 3D shots look spectacular. Everything was so slow-moving, you could really study the dimension of it. My favorite shots weren’t always the predictable ones like things shooting right towards your face, like how we shot the dildo bazooka. One of my favorite shots was when we had Ehren blindfolded and we were trying to get the donkey to kick him. The barn, the wide-shot, it just looked really cool.
HH: Remember when you shot the dildo bazooka scene in our back yard? Was I cool with that?
Yeah, you love that shit.
HH: Do I?
Yeah. You do.