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3D Roars Back

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From Hollywood to Product Marketing

Continental's “Safely There”, a 3D high-definition ride film by Lightspeed Design.

Eye-popping 3D movies have caught the public's attention again, with viewers rushing to see everything from Hollywood's "Spy Kids 3-D" to James Cameron's IMAX documentary "Ghosts of the Abyss." The latest "Spy Kids" offering trounced the competition in its opening weekend, then went on to gross $96.9 million in only 24 days. IMAX, meanwhile, is betting on the future popularity of the genre by keeping its production pipeline well stocked with 3D offerings. Marketing companies are also catching on to the sizzle created by high-quality 3D films, as proven by the success of Continental's "Safely There" mobile exhibit and marketing campaign. A 3D high-definition film by Lightspeed Design Group is now crisscrossing the country in an 85-foot mobile exhibit, helping Continental create consumer awareness for Electronic Stability Control (ESC), along with additional automotive safety technologies. "Today's consumer audience is rightfully cynical and demanding. Disney and others have created a legitimate expectation of excellence in info/entertainment messaging. Continental's ESC exhibit will typically be only one of many competing attractions for the consumer in each of it's national tour markets," said Mike Adams, account executive for H.B. Stubbs Company in Warren, Michigan, charged with building out the tractor trailer exhibit. "We enthusiastically supported our client's preference for 3D with motion as a way to bring their messages effectively to a larger audience. It generates a buzz all unto itself."
© 2003 Lightspeed Design Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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he 37-ton trailer arrives on site with a variety of interactive exhibits and information kiosks showcasing Continental's ESC system, including a 3D Motion Simulator Theatre that combines a multi-axis hydraulic motion base with Lightspeed's highdefinition 3D film. The theater gives audiences a first-hand experience of the effectiveness of ESC in a life-threatening driving situation.

The company was also a firstplace winner at the International Electronic Cinema Festival, which honors achievements in digital television and cinema. "We've been refining 3D technology for ten years, working on everything from precision computer graphics to live action shots," said Lightspeed President Chris Ward. "We design in the effectiveness of our 3D all the way from the storyboard to the projection booth. This is a world apart from the way most people do it."

Filmed on location in California's Ventura County, a highly popular Hollywood film location and home to such television hits as M.A.S.H, the five-minute 3D film stars experienced network television actors.

The realism of the film is heightened by Lightspeed's proprietary 3D technology, which immerses viewers in an eyeopening 3D world that seems lifelike and natural. Images on the screen--including switches on the car's dashboard, a child's smiling face, and a truck swerving across rain-slicked pavement--appear close enough to touch.

Although 3D is often used as little more than a visual gimmick to hook audiences, viewers in Continental's theatre, in contrast, will see a high-quality production centered on story content. Lightspeed researched Continental's target audience, wrote the script and assembled an A-team of specialists to produce the character-driven movie. To create the film, Lightspeed drew on 11-years of production experience, including projects for such clients as Sony, Procter & Gamble, Nintendo and SeaWorld.

Lightspeed chose Karen Stanton to direct the film, based on Stanton's skill in bringing an emotional resonance to scripts.

"I see 3D as another tool you can use to reach the audience," said Stanton. "We wanted the audience to intimately understand a slightly out of control situation and to experience what happened. In that sense, it was a perfect use of the technology."

“The film's message”, said Lori Pavelich, Contintental's Supervisor, Marketing Communication, "is very subtle, in that we are not trying to scare the audience out of their seats, but we do want to make people realize how valuable ESC can be. That's why I think the 3D works so well with the film's story line--it brings a realism to the message that makes it more credible and believable."

Lightspeed's 3D filmmaking and projection techniques are costcompetitive with 2D film projects, making the technology accessible to a wide range of corporate productions. No matter how intense the buzz over special effects can become, however, Ward's philosophy is that the story must come first, the technology second. "We balance the media with the creativity of the story, and everybody comes out ahead."

Lightspeed brought on Paradise FX Corp.'s Max Penner as Director of Photography. Penner's company, skilled in all aspects of advanced 3D motion picture photography, used Sony CineAlta digital cameras guided by Lightspeed's innovative 3D visualization techniques. All in all, some 25 people participated in a two-day shoot that took place along a closed, semi-rural stretch of road.

“Lightspeed's 3D technology made the audience feel they were actually sitting in the car with the characters, sharing in the conversation”, said Robert Mueller, Lightspeed's creative director and stereographer. "We calculate each 3D shot so that we can bring screen images into the personal space of the viewer-literally within their reach. This is not like watching television or movies, it changes the whole viewing experience." The 3D images were played back using inexpensive digital video projectors and Lightspeed's proprietary Windows-based software. The system is easy enough for the trailer staff to operate yet rugged enough to withstand a schedule that will bring the tour's message to an estimated 2.9 million people in a six month period. Although the 3D technology involved in the Continental film generates lots of sizzle at the entrance gate,

Electronic Stability Control Continental's Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system is designed to help drivers avoid crashes before they occur. ESC systems are on constant stand-by to assist drivers as critical situations arise. They sense when a driver is starting to lose control, then automatically apply the brakes to individual wheels to help keep the driver on the road and heading in the intended direction. In more elaborate systems, they reduce engine power as well. The systems have been used in Japan and Europe for almost a decade, and are available on some American cars today. Continental is a leading global supplier of quality automotive systems that get you safely there.

To reach Continental's targeted demographic--women in their 30’s and 40’s--Lightspeed eschewed the in-your-face effects common to most 3D productions. Instead, the rich, captivating 3D look of the film was combined with a content-driven story about two mothers having a "kitchen table" talk in the front seat of a car. The topic of conversation: how the driver recently avoided a nearly disastrous accident.

© 2003 Lightspeed Design Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Digital Stereoscopic Film Making

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ightspeed Design Group's stereoscopic motion pictures are unlike anything audiences have seen before. The films offer viewers the most natural and comfortable 3D experience yet developed, presented in a widescreen format that rivals 35 mm film when it comes to color and sharpness. How does Lightspeed do it? Unlike traditional stereoscopic filmmakers who rely on techniques invented in 1939, Lightspeed cut its artistic and technical teeth in the world of digital imagery, where the 3D experience has to be accurate enough to model molecules and diagram living tissue. To achieve those results, Lightspeed applies carefully developed techniques to every step of the production process-- from storyboard's to the projection booth. Here's how it's done: Camera Alignment is Key Lightspeed aligns the two cameras used to shoot 3D films exactly parallel to each other. This is contrary to the accepted convention of stereoscopic movie making, where filmmakers "toe in" cameras to converge their focus points on an object. Toeing in the cameras causes subtle distortions in the way images are captured on film. While the human brain will compensate for the distortions, viewers often leave theaters suffering from eyestrain and headaches. Eyestrain is a thing of the past when watching Lightspeed films, because the cameras capture images without distorting them.

Engineered for 3D Years of research and development went into refining a mathematical model that Lightspeed artists use to record a 3D scene on film and play it back in a theater. Working with a detailed set of equations, Lightspeed's stereographers can create a full range of 3D effects: flying insects that dart past your head, falling leaves that seem to land in your lap, even a huge whale barreling toward the audience from the depths of the ocean. The key is positioning each effect properly in "Z Space," the distance between the perceived object and the viewer's eyes. Traditional 3D stereographers divide Z Space into three large zones: in front of the screen, even with the screen, and behind the screen. Lightspeed, on the other hand, calculates the Z-space position with laboratory-like accuracy: if a director wants a baby's rattle to appear 18 inches in front of the viewer's eye's, Lightspeed designs the shot so the rattle appears exactly 18 inches away. The process even accounts for where the viewer is sitting in the theatre. Although these techniques were learned in the world of computergenerated imagery, Lightspeed is successfully applying them to live action filmmaking. When working a live shot, Lightspeed comes armed with a storyboard for each camera shot and a Palm Pilot loaded with 3D data.

3D scenes and layouts are planned at an early storyboard level.

3D scenes are mocked up within 3D Studio Max using Lightspeed's proprietary Stereo 3D pre-visualization world, including cuts and close-ups. (This project had 110 cuts)

Lightspeed Stereographer Bob Mueller reviewing stereo 3D setup.

3D High Definition ParaCam camera technology by Paradise FX, configured with Sony CineAlta digital cameras.

Live action footage being calibrated with the CG world.

Entering key variables for each shot into the Palm Pilot quickly produces the camera settings needed to create the precise 3D effect called for in the storyboard, while still allowing a director to alter shots on the fly. Lightspeed's most recent production utilized 3D High Definition ParaCam camera technology by Paradise FX Corp., configured with Sony CineAlta digital cameras. Merging with the CG World Introducing computer generated images into live-action films has become fact-of-life for today's 2D filmmakers, but remains a daunting challenge to traditional stereographers. For Lightspeed, merging computer generated and live action worlds is no problem, because the company's software handles both the same way. When shooting live, for example, Lightspeed stereographers record the camera settings essential for creating each 3D shot. These settings are then imported to a digitally recreated sound stage, where computer artists apply the same stereo settings to digital images that will be inserted in the live frame. This allows digital props, special effects, logos and text to be seamlessly inserted into a 3D film. Perfecting Projection Technology The final key to success lies in Lightspeed’s DepthQ 3D Digital Cinema Technology. No matter how much care goes into the film making process, audiences will not experience a realistic 3D movie unless the projection technology is up to the task. Lightspeed has achieved

the finest 3D imagery possible using a relatively simple off-theshelf equipment configuration. A typical DepthQ 3D Digital Cinema is configured with two high quality DLP™ based video projectors, the DepthQ Digital Media Server and a silver screen. Lightspeed's proprietary software adds the final touch of perfection by combining the power of realtime 3D nVidia graphics (OpenGL) with Windows streaming video technology. Lightspeed algorithms fine-tune the streaming video to create the best possible 3D experience based on the dimensions of the theater where the film is being shown. Of course, a film's success is more than a matter of technology. At Lightspeed, 3D technology is not an end in itself, but a tool for telling more compelling stories. A natural and comfortable 3D experience changes the way viewers react to a film. "It's not like watching television or big screen movies, because your brain is involved in what it believes is a real, threedimensional world," says Lightspeed art director Robert Mueller. "We are primarily storytellers, and the 3D technology gives us the power to tell stories that touch people emotionally--in ways never before possible." Lightspeed Design Group 1611 116th NE Suite 112 Bellevue, WA 98004 Tel: 425.637.2818 Fax: 425.696.0115
info@LightspeedDesign.com

DepthQ Stereoscopic Media Server interface.

3D motion simulator trailer, projection system installed in a floating shock mounted assembly. (NEC projectors)

Continental promotional trailer at Seafair, Seattle WA 2003

© 2003 Lightspeed Design Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Project Credits
Client: Lori Pavelich.. Supervisor, Marketing Communication, Project Lead: Continental Teves Maria Vermeersch.. Continental Teves Phil Headley.. Product Specialist: Continental Teves Project management by: Mike Adams.. Account Executive, Lead: H.B. Stubbs Fred Ollison.. H.B. Stubbs Mobile logistics by: Cam Melangton.. Performance Marketing Group Produced by: Lightspeed Design Group Producer: Chris Ward and Jeff Rische.. Lightspeed Design Writing credits: Bob Mueller.. screen story: Lightspeed Design Directed by: Karen Stanton Visual effects by: Cory Simpson.. Visual Effects Supervisor: Lightspeed Design 3D stereoscopic design by: Bob Mueller.. Lightspeed Design Cinematography by: Max Penner.. Director of Photography: Paradise FX Corp. Production management: Tim Thomas.. Executive Producer: Paradise FX Corp. Visual effects and 3D compositing: Tina Norton Garrison.. digital 3D compositor: Lightspeed Technical director and resource management: Dan Lawrence.. Lightspeed Cast overview: Nellie Sciutto, mother/driver Marabina Jaimes, friend/passenger Christina Gillespie, little girl Nicole Gillespie, little girl Brandon Clark, young boy Peter Morris, teen son Sonia McDancer, precision driving Luke Hyerman, husband Michael Stein, voice-over talent Original music by: Steven Allen.. AM Music Productions Film editing by: Bob Mueller.. Lightspeed Design Casting by: Judy Landau.. Landau Casting Fifth Street Studios Sound post production: Bad Animals Seattle HD file transfer: Victory Studios Seattle Camera: Sony CineAlta High Definition 3D ParaCam camera system: Paradise FX Corp. Filming locations: Hidden Valley, California, USA Projection system engineering: Kirk Melby.. Technical Director: Lightspeed Projection: NEC Solutions America Digital film playback: DepthQ Stereoscopic Media Server: Michal Husak, Lightspeed

© 2003 Lightspeed Design Inc. All Rights Reserved.