Moving in Stereo
Issue: Volume: 26 Issue: 8 (August 2003)

Moving in Stereo

By adopting the latest digital filmmaking technologies, Spy Kids 3-D sets a new course for stereoscopic effects

A: I wanted to bring stereo 3D effects back to theaters. And I thought doing a sci-fi movie for kids and setting it in a video game would be a great way to do it. The first thing I did was get Chris Olivia, a lead artist at Troublemaker Digital, to work up some test shots using footage from Spy Kids 2. It was astounding. We had this rush of adrenaline. It worked so well that we ended up making 90 percent of the movie in stereo.

A: If you look at stereo 3D movies from the past, you see why they didn't work: The stories weren't very good, the stereoscopic effect was not very good, and it wasn't used as a crucial element in the story. So I think people just assumed that the idea wasn't a good one. What I wanted to do was form the movie around the experience of being immersed in a virtual world. When you and the main characters put on the glasses, you enter the world of the game.

A: Most people would say, House of Wax. But when I realized that, I knew we were home free. We all knew we could easily beat that, and be the best stereo movie ever made. That's one of the main reasons I wanted to do the movie. It's a genre we could redefine.

A: It was very difficult to do. In fact, now that I've made a movie using the latest in high-definition cameras and 3D digital equipment, I don't even know how filmmakers ever pulled it off before. They were shooting blind. They had to lock down the camera, set a convergence, then let it ride. It's just impossible to see what you're doing when shooting on film, but for stereo 3D that's critical. Film is obsolete. I'm hoping the industry wises up and lets it go the way of the eight-track tape where it belongs.

A: This movie could not have been made even a year ago, because this is all very new technology. We have HD monitors and a dual HD projector on the set. We can put on glasses and watch the stereo effect as we're shooting. And we can change the intraocular distance and monitor convergence on the spot. But, that said, it all starts with a moviemaker who really wants to go out and do something different, someone who is willing to learn the technology and use it in a creative way.

A: It was less expensive than if we were to shoot it on film. In fact, this movie had the same budget as the first two Spy Kids movies. So with careful planning, there were no extra costs, and the movie is bigger than the last two in every way.

A: I'd love to do another 3D movie, if for no other reason than to put to use the knowledge my crew and I have gained over the past year. As for others, it's up to those who are willing to go out and learn it and apply it in a way that makes it worthwhile to the audience. I certainly hope there are more.

A: The response has been even stronger than I thought it would be. I've been to theme parks where they have 10-minute 3D movies, and those always get big responses. But there's something really different about seeing a long narrative story set in the 3D world. You can invest more in the characters and in the world, and be transported beyond what a regular movie could ever hope to achieve. You are immersed in this game, and like some of the characters in the movie, you don't want to leave. ..

Robert Rodriguez is the director of Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over. For more information about the movie, see "Spying in Stereo."