The Real Wizard Behind the Curtain Part 1/2

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To start the week, 3DGuy.tv brings you an EXCLUSIVE first hand interview of Al Caudullo with the real wizard behind the curtain of Oz the Great and Powerful, Ed W. Marsh.

 

This is a two part series interview so make sure you come back tomorrow for the rest of the post! 🙂 Or better yet, subscribe to our daily newsletter (see homepage) to be one of the first to get notified whenever it’s up!

 

Happy reading everyone!

 

Oz The Great and Profitable, as it has now been anointed by the press, since hitting $80 million in its first week, is not only a box office success but a 3D bonanza as well. Disney has scored a much needed box office trophy with the story of how the Wizard became the Wizard. The $215 million Disney prequel premiered with biggest opening of 2013.

 

The story starts with an homage to the first Wizard of Oz movie in black & white and small screen. Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz. At first he thinks he’s hit the jackpot-fame and fortune are his for the taking. That all changes, however, when he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz), and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone’s been expecting. Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity-and even a bit of wizardry-Oscar transforms himself not only into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz but into a better man as well.

 

But, dear readers, ignore the Mouse behind the curtain as the real wizards are director Sam Raimi, producer Joe Roth, and writers David Lindsay-Abaire and Mitchell Kapner. The list of wizards on this magical adventure is a long one. We are going to concentrate on one wizard in particular, he is my favorite kind of wizard, the 3D kind.

 

Ed W. Marsh was the Stereoscopic Supervisor on Oz The Great and Powerful. Ed has also worked his 3D magic on Green Lantern and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Trader. The truth is that Ed’s 3D experience is much deeper than that.

 

Al Caudullo, the 3DGuy landed this exclusive interview with Mr. Marsh and came away with an in depth story about the movie and 3D itself.

 

 

First Ed, what exactly does a stereoscopic supervisor do on a movie?

Your first question is a biggie.   In short, though, a Stereo Supervisor’s job is to maintain the integrity of a production’s stereo experience from start to finish.   Start, however, can begin at many different phases.   I’ve only been lucky enough to be involved in pre-production on a few projects.  And I’ve also joined films after they’ve been in the post-production editorial phase for several months (for stereo conversion projects).  Finish, of course, is the same for all film productions; when the audience sits down to enjoy the work.  Maintaining stereo integrity can range from the purely technical, like working through how editorial will work with stereo material in as comfortable and inobtrusive manner as possible to the purely creative, like suggesting a specific kind of shot to the director or VFX supervisor.

 

One small concrete example I can give you comes from THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER.  There’s a scene where the valiant mouse, Reepicheep points his sword at Eustace and they had planned for the shot to be a perfectly centered POV with the sword tip coming right at camera.  They shot the film with some sense that they would be converting it for stereo so they tried to keep stereo “moments” in mind at least a little bit.  I explained that they should consider putting the camera slightly off axis because then we could read the sword in depth across it’s whole length.   You can’t get much stereo from a single point.   Stereo information comes from the relationship of objects to other objects and how those relationships change.   I know that sounds a little bit like Monty Python’s “Society for Putting Things on Top of Other Things,” but often that’s what you’re trying to do and encourage.  In the case of that shot they saw the difference immediately (the mouse and his sword were a CGI creation so auditioning the change was a relatively easy affair).

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When did you start working on the movie?

I came onto Oz about two weeks before the start of principle photography.
We shot Red Epics with Panavision lenses in Element Technica Atom rigs with 3ality SIPS to monitor our work.

 

 

How did you ever get started in 3D? What is your background?

My background in 3D:   I was raised by wolves…

Learned stereo working for James Cameron while he was working the bugs out of his and Vince Pace’s rigs on the documentary projects.   Was responsible (with others) for the editorial workflow that allowed Cameron to shoot HDCAM and release in Imax.   Lots of software and hardware tool cobbling, as you can imagine.   I do come at it from the perspective of post production more so than shooting.   Have supervised conversions.

I should mention that James Goldman was the 1st unit stereographer and we talked a lot about our approach and constantly fed back to each other via dailies review.   But I’m happy to say that his instincts were really well aligned with mine, which made my work that continued on into post production much more pleasant.

 

 

What was your personal favorite shot in the movie?

Favorite shot:   That’s a toughie.   🙂   How about a favorite scene:   I love what we were able to do with the scene in which Oz meets the China Girl.   In that tiny little house I purposely play Oz negative a bit which I feel gave those shots (ostensibly China Girl’s POV)  a “Land of the Giants” effect as he towers over the China Girl.   We also had slightly wider inter-ocular values on the shots of her which helped keep her diminutive by comparison.   Probably too subtle for anyone else to notice but I like it.

 

 

How integrated was the pre planning 3D storyboard and did you ever deviate from it? What methods were used? Did you use PreViz?

The Third Floor was the PreViz company on the show for quite a while before I came on, and they had prepared a very nice stereo edit of the Tornado sequence.  As shooting began however, the sequence changed a lot and PreViz was busy working on other sequences and we did no stereo PreViz work after the start of photography.  While everyone knew Oz was going to be a stereo movie, it can be hard to think about it in stereo when you can’t see it.   I’d say that the Art Department had depended heavily on Sam’s previous directorial efforts and, to some extent, the stylistic elements of the 1939 classic.

 

As a consequence, several shots were planned as lateral dollies or pans when the stereo choice would have probably had a stronger “Z” component, moving in towards or through environments.  So there was some reconsideration as the film progressed and we could see the results in stereo.   We had the greatest flexibility with the VFX shots and Scott Stokdyk, our VFX Supervisor, is a big fan of stereo and worked very hard to keep the Z axis present within the shots as they evolved.  That said, there are still some shots I would have liked to do differently.   There are a couple of pans that I feel strobe too much even in 2D but both the editor and the director were determined that those shots were the best way to tell the story.

 

Brian Eno quotes in my cml posting, “There are problem shots, to be sure, but I’m proud of what we as a team built overall.  Sometimes it’s not about making a perfect brick; it’s about creating the wall.   But overall I think we started with a really solid set of bricks and ultimately our DP Peter Demming and VFX Supervisor Scott Stokdyk made that possible.”

 

And you also have to keep in mind that the stereo experience is only one aspect of the film experience.   If you let the costume designers control the photography you might end up with a lot of beautiful slow motion shots of well-lit clothing.  If it’s not supporting the story then don’t let stereo get in the way.

 

 

You mentioned that you had an on set 3D monitor for Sam Raimi to view the stereo. What set did you use? How big? Did you use Active or Passive? Did you use specialty 3D glasses like the Active Eyes from Volfoni?

 

During the B&W scenes you very effectively used a good amount of negative parallax. The fire breathing man, the rope from the hot air balloon, the outstretched hand of the strongman. And of course the snowflakes coming outside the frame.

PART 2 OF THIS INTERVIEW tomorrow only here at www.3DGuy.tv.

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Missed the world premiere of Oz the Great and Powerful? Catch it here!



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